Find your point of beginning
Three major river valleys – the Mississippi on the west, the Wisconsin to the south, and the Kickapoo through the center –knit the region into an assortment of lofty ridges and low-lying valleys. Climb to the ridge overlooking two river valleys and soak in the panorama. Descend into the secluded Kickapoo River Valley and follow the slow meanderings of the “crookedest river in the world.” Travel the Great River Road along the Mississippi River, voted the most scenic road in America.
This diversity of terrain invites a variety of outdoor activities. Use this page to find your point of beginning. And along the way you’ll experience the rural farmlands and small-town hospitality that gives Crawford County its relaxing ambiance. Enjoy!
Use the links below to explore the diversity of outdoor recreational options available in the Driftless Development area.
Crawford County offers the hiker a variety of trails and terrain, each with its own perspective. Hike the ridges and discover a birds-eye view of river valleys stretching to the horizon. Hike the valleys and find secluded trails that wander through unspoiled country.
For those preferring developed trails, begin with the state parks. Wyalusing State Park offers 14 miles of trails, including Turkey Hollow Trail, ideal for wildlife observation. Right across the Mississippi River in Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park presents a stunning view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. Effigy Mounds National Monument offers 14 miles of developed trails meandering throughout the 2500-acre park, which is home to hundreds of preserved Indian burial mounds.
For the more adventuresome, Crawford County contains six Natural Areas maintained by the DNR. The areas provide preservation and enjoyment of pristine native prairies and wildlife species, accessible by undeveloped footpaths.
For bicyclists, Crawford County truly has the best of both worlds: varied terrain and unsurpassed scenery. The bike route system on the map utilizes “roads as routes” – a combination of lesser-traveled county and township roads. The route system works equally well for touring, offering motorists and motorcyclists an off-the-beaten-path guide to rural Crawford County.
The central corridor of the route system follows the Kickapoo River Valley, a rolling ride that takes you through some of the most scenic stretches in the Midwest. Branching from the Central Corridor are several “loops” that take you into more challenging terrain and exceptional scenery; into the heart of the landscape that makes Crawford County so special. Small towns and friendly people greet you along the way.
Enjoy a memorable ride amid the Driftless topography of Southwest Wisconsin, an experience that will surly merit another visit and another route.
The rugged land of Crawford County is bordered by three rivers, offering outdoor recreation enthusiasts a virtual playground of boating possibilities. From power boating on the Mighty Mississippi to canoeing and kayaking on the Wisconsin and Kickapoo Rivers, having fun in Crawford County begins on the water.
Several boat landings along Crawford County’s Great River Road provide access to the Mississippi, a paradise for pleasure boating and world-class fishing. The main channel and sloughs are perfect for cruising, tubing, and water skiing, while the backwaters offer serenity and frequent observations of wildlife.
The Wisconsin River has long been known as a haven for canoeists and kayakers. The stretch along Crawford County is replete with plenty of sandbars for overnight camping. And the Kickapoo River, known as “the crookedest river in the world,” meanders aimlessly through sun-drenched farm fields, shaded woodlots, and densely forested wildlife areas that comprise Crawford County’s midsection.
Whether casting a lure from the seat of a bass boat, or casting a fly from your hip waders, Crawford County offers some of the best fishing in the world.
The Mississippi River is renowned for bass and walleye fishing, presenting challenges for the recreational fisher looking to land a prize worthy of a photo. Several boat landings between Prairie du Chien and De Soto provide access, while bait shops provide the lure. And for those without a boat, or just looking for a new experience, try the fishing barges located below the lock and dams in Lynxville and Genoa.
The Driftless Area also boasts world-class fly fishing. Streams feeding the Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Kickapoo Rivers are full of brook and brown trout, just waiting for that perfectly cast fly. Anglers are encouraged to contact knowledgeable guides who know the lay of the land, where to access private land, and what lures are working.
“Camping with a view” might best describe Crawford County’s variety of outdoor lodging opportunities. Whether setting up in Wyalusing State Park overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers; or staking your tent along the Kickapoo River, the best view awaits just outside your tent flap.
The Mississippi Valley provides several campsites in addition to Wyalusing Park; private campgrounds in Prairie du Chien and Lynxville, and public campgrounds like Blackhawk Park near De Soto, the site of the 1832 Battle of Bad Axe. They all provide easy access to the river and stunning views of the Mighty Mississippi.
Several communities along the Kickapoo River provide village campsites, including Soldiers Grove, Gays Mills, Steuben, and Wauzeka. These campsites hug the banks of the Kickapoo and are perfect for launching canoes or kayaks. And they serve as the starting point for exploring the Kickapoo Valley, one of the most picturesque settings in the Midwest.
Blessed with three major rivers that provide waterfowl habitat, Crawford County offers bird watchers an abundance of viewing opportunities. Crawford County borders the Mississippi River Flyway, a major migratory route for songbirds and waterfowl that rivals the busiest airports for takeoffs and landings.
Several observation areas along the river provide ideal locations for viewing and photography. The National Audubon Society lists 10 locations, including two “hotspots,” along the Great River Road that are home to dozens of species. And frequent Bald Eagle sightings add excitement to any bird watcher’s day.
Inland, the Kickapoo River Valley provides a haven for signature species such as the Sandhill Crane and the Great Blue Heron. The Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail lists the Kickapoo River State Wildlife Area near Wauzeka and the Hogback Prairie State Nature Area by Steuben as prime bird watching areas.