The Upper Mississippi Valley is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the United States. The wide valley, with its wooded and rock-face bluffs rising above the river can be seen at the numerous overlooks along Highway 61 in Minnesota and Highway 35 in Wisconsin.
Red Wing has two vistas that offer incredible views – Sorin’s Bluff and Barn Bluff – one easily accessible by vehicle, and the other requiring a strenuous hike. To find Sorin’s Bluff, take Highway 61 to 7th Street. Follow 7th Street west for a half-mile to the entrance. For Barn Bluff, follow 7th Street further west to Bluff Street, turn right and go two blocks to 5th Street. Turn right on 5th and follow the road under Highway 63/61 to a small parking area. You’ll need to hike from there!
Frontenac State Park offers unparalleled views of Lake Pepin and the limestone bluff faces across the river in Wisconsin. The main park road takes visitors to the main overlook 430 feet above the river.
Wabasha is located another 25 miles down Highway 61. At the junction of Highway 61 and 60, turn right on Highway 60 and go up the hill for about one mile before pulling off the road. This spot offers a panoramic view of the river valley.
The vista with the highest elevation (575’) in this area is Garvin Heights in Winona. Driving downriver on Highway 61, turn right at Huff Street, and follow Garvin Heights Road (which becomes High Road) to the parking area.
Alma offers two city properties with 500-foot high views of the river and valley. Buena Vista Park can be driven to by turning off Highway 35 onto County Road E near the south end of town and follow signs to the parking lot. The overlook is a short walk across the picnic area and features a great view of Alma, the river valley, and Lock and Dam #4.
Mossy Hollow, also in Alma, has a vista that’s only accessible on foot. Follow Highway 35 to the south end of town, turn onto Cemetery/Mossy Hollow Road, and follow signs to the parking area.
Maiden Rock Bluff is located in Wisconsin between Stockholm and Maiden Rock. Enjoy raptor sightings, including the rare Peregrine falcon. To get to Maiden Rock Bluff, start at the junction of Highway 35 and County Road J in Stockholm. From there, head north on County Road J for about three-quarters of a mile, turn northwest on County Road E for one mile, and then west on Long Lane for 7/10 of a mile.
Back Roads Scenic Driving
The two major highways that parallel the Mississippi River are well known scenic byways and both are designated as Great River Roadways by their respective states. But Mississippi Valley Partners communities offer much more to visitors looking for a scenic drive.
17 designated and mapped scenic drives for those looking for ruggedly scenic rural country. For maps:
Maiden Rock – www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/scenic/rusticroad51.htm.
Pepin – Pepin County Development Office, P.O. Box 39, Durand, Wisconsin 54736 or call 888-672-5709.
Alma – Wings Over Alma, 118 No. Main St., 608-685-3303.
Winona – Visit Winona, 160 Johnson St., Winona, Minnesota 55987. 800-657-4972.
Lake City – Lake City Tourism Bureau, 101 Center St. W., Lake City, Minnesota 55041. 877-525-3248.
The Flood Run and More
In 2010 the spring and fall Flood Runs raised a total of $45,000 for the Gillette Children’s Specialty Health Care. The run has grown and gone thru many changes as one of the oldest and larger runs in America. Through the years, many people avoided the traffic of Hastings MN. and Red Wing MN. by riding down Wisconsin 35. At hwy. 10 you can go left into Prescott or right to hwy. 61 and down the nostalgia Minnesota side where you get the morning sun and discounts. Cross the river at Prescott, Red Wing, Wabasha or Winona. Visit www.floodrun.org. Motorcycle riding around the Lake Pepin area anytime is a beautiful, winding trail made for viewing pleasure.