100 Years, 100 Miles Celebrating with Soerens: Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi also turns 100!
Highlights: Wyalusing State Park, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin River, Mississippi River
This is just some of what you have to look forward to when you head west to Wyalusing.
Soerens Ford is celebrating 100 Years in 2017, a Century of Nice. That’s a long history!
I’m Eric Paulsen, and along with playing Milwaukee’s Greatest Hits for you on 95.7 BIG FM every day from 10-3 and co-hosting the TV show Discover Wisconsin, I love to explore Wisconsin’s fascinating history. Did you know Wisconsin created the first numbered road system in the world? That happened 100 years ago, too. I even built a road trip website, StateTrunkTour.com, around it. So we’ve teamed up!
This time, Soerens sent me out in a racy, sporty Ford Focus RS-7, which among other things offers a “Drift Mode,” to give you an idea of what this thing can do. I hadn’t driven a stick in way too long, and this thing has pep, pick-up, and power like nothing I’ve driven lately. So I was quite excited to run it across the state all the way west to the Mississippi River, where a beautiful state park named Wyalusing is also celebrating 100 years of nice.
Wyalusing State Park occupies the southern and eastern banks of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, where the Wisconsin flows into the Mississippi. It was established in 1917, making it not only 100 years old this year like Soerens Ford but also one of the oldest state parks in Wisconsin - and the country, for that matter.
This area of Wisconsin, known as the “Driftless Region” because the glaciers that flattened much of the state thousands of years ago went around this area, features some of the most rugged topography in the Midwest. The bluffs, valleys, coulees, and hollows make for some of the most beautiful landscapes and views you’ll find. Wyalusing State Park is in the midst of this amazing terrain.
Part of the view east, upriver on the Wisconsin below... way below.
The park offers expansive views from nearly 600 feet above the junction of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, sometimes to points 20-30 miles distant. The city of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin is visible to the north just a few miles away, as is McGregor, Iowa across the Mississippi. Pikes Peak State Park on the Iowa side essentially serves as Wyalusing’s cross-state counterpart, and yes it was named after the same guy who Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named after: a guy named Zebulon Pike, an early explorer who clearly knew how to leave his name on things. A key piece of Wisconsin history lies in the fact that Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to paddle down the Wisconsin River (via the Fox River and Lake Michigan, no less), past the site of Wyalusing and into the Mississippi River back in 1673… which helped to eventually give rise to the early settlement that became today’s Prairie du Chien.
Wyalusing State Park not only offers beautiful overlooks, but 2,700 acres of recreation, relaxation, and history. Ancient Native American burial mounds are located throughout the park, as is a memorial to the passenger pigeon - a once-plentiful bird that became extinct by 1912. Explorers and fun-seekers can check out 14 miles of hiking trails which run on high and low ground throughout the park; they also have access to a few caves and several very scenic overlooks. There are also two mountain biking trails, a boat launch on the Mississippi, picnic areas and playgrounds, and areas for fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing. Campgrounds are plentiful and the Bluff Top Concession Stand offers refreshments, supplies, ice, firewood, even kayak and canoe rentals during the summer and early fall seasons. For star gazers, you can enjoy the natural view outdoors or get even closer at the Huser Astronomy Center, which opened in 2003 and offers free programs for the public.
Today’s Visitor Center greets you at the park’s entrance, where you pay your entry fee and can get information. The original park office lies further in and today offers some park history, including early work by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to further develop the park during its second decade in operation.
Any tour of Wyalusing is bound to delight your senses, teach you some history, wrap you in nature, and serve as a wonderful getaway road trip. And in 2017, just like Soerens Ford, they celebrate 100 years!
From the Milwaukee area, just follow U.S. 18 west all the way to County C just before the Wisconsin River crossing in Grant County. I-94, of course, can get that first hour done faster and you can hook up with U.S. 18 in Madison for the drive west from there.
See the video above for more. If you want to experience the Ford Focus RS 7 (which I thoroughly explored the engine capabilities of), find out more about it here.
Click here for a map to Wyalusing, using Soerens Ford in Brookfield as the starting point.
For more on these towns, attractions, road trips and more, check out StateTrunkTour.com, an ongoing exploration of Wisconsin’s highways around the state. They’re celebrating 100 years, just like Soerens Ford!
Wisconsin has some fascinating history. For 100 years, Soerens Ford has been a nice part of that history. We’ll be taking for historic and fun road trips in Ford cars and trucks all summer and into fall, check back here for more!