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Day One: The Great River Road Tour

The confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.
The confluence of
the Wisconsin and
Mississippi rivers.

Start your heritage tour in Prairie du Chien, where Highway 18 meets the Mississippi River. Tour Villa Louis, an 1870s Victorian mansion built by the family of fur trader Hercules Dousman, who established a fortune through land speculation, railroads and other frontier investments. Owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Villa Louis celebrated its 50th anniversary as a historic site in 2002. Hailed by critics as one of America's most authentically furnished and decorated Victorian homes, Villa Louis unveiled the second stage of a major interior restoration that has returned the mansion to its brilliant and breathtaking 1890s heyday.

Take Highway 18 just three miles south to Wyalusing State Park, which offers bluff-top panoramas of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. It was here, on June 17, 1673, that two French explorers — fur trader Louis Jolliet and missionary Father Jacques Marquette — entered the Mississippi River from the Wisconsin. That expedition, which began a month earlier in the Straits of Mackinac, marked the first time European explorers had discovered the Fox-Wisconsin waterway traversing Wisconsin to the Mississippi.

Take in the historic and scenic vista with a picnic lunch, then head north along Wisconsin's Great River Road (Highway 35), designated a National Scenic Byway. Enjoy this enchanting drive along the Mississippi, offering incredible panoramic views of the river with stops in quaint towns that dot the picturesque route. Day one draws to a close 60 miles north in the beautiful river city of La Crosse, where you can enjoy dinner followed by a moonlit stroll along the river. Spend the night at one of the many fine local hotels or bed and breakfast inns.

Expand your place in history

Society members at the History Lover level receive:

  • Free site admission
  • 10-percent discount on store items

Become a member today!



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