Year-round recreation is at its best in Prairie du Chien. The city’s Parks & Recreation Department oversees a number of well-maintained park sites and facilities throughout the community, which invite visitors to participate in active recreation or find respite through the beautiful surroundings. Just beyond the city limits are two great state parks, on either side of the Mississippi River, each considered to be a jewel in their respective state park systems. Moreover, two magnificent national facilities are also located on our doorstep: Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.
The largest of the city park facilities is the 300-acre La Riviere Farm Park on the south edge of Prairie du Chien. La Riviere includes six miles of marked hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails, restored native prairies and a historic barn that can be reserved for large indoor gatherings. The park further includes more than 50 miles of horse trails, which may be traversed to adjoining horse-friendly sites. Guests to La Riviere Park can enjoy serene nature hikes, bird watching, picnicking, hike-in camping and no-fee horse camping, which is one of the largest in the Midwest.
St. Feriole Island spans approximately 240 acres along the Mississippi River on the west side of Prairie du Chien. St. Feriole Island is separated from the mainland by a slough originally named the Marais de St. Feriole. This area was home to the French-Canadian fur trade village from which modern Prairie du Chien sprang; it is rich in Wisconsin history, but also prone to Mississippi River floods. Beginning in the mid-1970s, homes and businesses were relocated to flood-safe portions of the city leaving a spectacular recreational retreat richly steeped in history. Located on St. Feriole Island today is the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, St. Feriole Island Gardens, the Prairie du Chien Marina, Trail of Presidents Trees, a three-diamond baseball complex and a newly installed 18-hole disc golf course. Along the west side of the island is the scenic four-acre Lawler Park with two large picnic pavilions; playground equipment; public boat ramps; and a landscaped river walk with flowerbeds, benches and a series of interpretive markers detailing the history of the island. Also located on the island is the 25-acre Villa Louis Historic Site. With so much great history and wide open spaces, St. Feriole Island is a premier venue for numerous special events held throughout the year.
Small neighborhood parks are located throughout the city providing easy access by foot, bicycle or automobile. The parks & recreation department also operates the Charles Wacouta Aquatic Park – an outdoor municipal swimming pool complex along with the adjacent Fort Fun Playground and the newly added Skateboard Park. When the summer swimming season ends, the recreation scene shifts to Hoffman Hall Recreation Center, once part of a residential private school complex. The recreation center is equipped with an indoor Olympic-sized pool, a full-sized gymnasium, a group fitness room and four outdoor, lighted tennis courts. The center is available for rentals and is host to many sporting and special events. The newly renovated Washington Street Park includes an accessible fishing dock, canoe/kayak launch and bike trail, as well as the Outdoor Recreation Center that offers rentals for canoes, kayaks, bikes and fish poles.
Recreational opportunities in Prairie du Chien extend to many other sites ranging from privately owned fitness centers to golf courses, ball fields and marinas. Bear Foot Bay is an indoor water park located within the Country Inn and Suites. Prairie Fun Land offers something for everyone; Go-Karts, Miniature Golf, Driving Range, Water Wars and Arcade Fun. Prairie Fun Land can also host birthday parties, class or family reunions or any group event. Two golf courses, the 18-hole Prairie du Chien Country Club and the 9-hole Barnyard Golf course, combine to offer great golfing views and challenges to golfers of all skill levels.
From wooded bluffs and hidden coulees to the historic waters of the mighty Mississippi River, the Prairie du Chien area offers unparalleled opportunities to enjoy and explore the great outdoors. For bird enthusiasts the Mississippi River serves as a migration corridor for water fowl as well as for raptors, shorebirds, and neo-tropical migratory songbirds. In the spring and summer the river provides important nesting habitat for many species. In the colder months the area serves as wintering ground for northern bird populations in addition to year-round residents. Bald Eagle watching during the cold winter months is a popular activity as these magnificent birds search for food in the isolated pockets of open water.
Sportsmen hunt for deer, ducks, turkey and small game, and anglers take advantage of prime fishing in the Mississippi River and its bountiful backwaters. The Wisconsin and Kickapoo Rivers are found nearby for additional fishing, canoeing, boating and other recreational pursuits. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge in the Prairie du Chien area provides world-class stewardship of our treasured river eco-systems, which in turn yields outstanding fishing, hunting, boating, camping and wildlife watching experiences throughout the year.
Wyalusing State Park is situated a scant 10 miles south of Prairie du Chien on the rugged bluff land surrounding the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. The 2,628-acre park is a jewel in the crown of the Wisconsin State Parks system with scenic overlooks of both rivers, plenty of sites for camping, Depression-era park shelters and miles upon miles of trails that offer great hiking throughout the year. Wyalusing further presents great naturalist programming, an observatory with star-gazing opportunities, and a seasonal concession offering camper supplies and canoe and kayak rentals.
Photographers, as well as nature and history enthusiasts, are drawn to the rugged beauty and fascinating history of Pikes Peak State Park, one of Iowa’s most striking public facilities, three miles south of the U.S. Highway 18 bridge. Situated atop the highest bluff along the Mississippi River, it is named for Lt. Zebulon Pike who explored the region in 1805-06. Today the park is elegantly appointed with a cantilevered overlook providing an unparalleled view of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers at the point where Marquette and Jolliet first saw the fabled Mississippi in 1673. It further boasts a wooden walkway leading to a picturesque waterfall, 77 campsites, picnic areas, shelters, hiking and nature trails and much more.
Three miles north of the U.S. 18 Highway Bridge, on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, is Effigy Mounds National Monument, a sacred Native Indian site preserved and interpreted by the National Park Service. The monument embraces more than 2,500 acres of land with 200-plus ancient Indian mounds. Thirty-one of these mounds have been fashioned in the shape of birds and mammals. It is from these effigies that the monument takes its name. A visitor center provides educational exhibits, orientation and information about the monument along with a museum store offering topical books and related educational material. Films, lectures, exhibits and related programs are presented throughout the year along with more than 14 miles of interpreted hiking trails linking the evocative mounds with spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley.