Reviews of the top Campgrounds for RVs along the Mississippi Great River Road Scenic Byway from Dubuque, Iowa to Prescott, WI
With the resurgence of interest in RVing, it has become difficult to find open campground sites suitable for RVs. In this post I review the best campgrounds along the Wisconsin and Iowa sides of the Mississippi Great River Road.
Dubuque, Iowa Campgrounds
The Wisconsin Great River Road begins as you leave East Dubuque on IL 35 heading North. The closest campground for River Road travelers and RVers we recommend is two miles west across the bridge in Dubuque, Iowa.
If you are interested in visiting the city of Dubuque and its attractions and staying overnight the city offers a 97 unit campground along the Mississippi River. It is a modern campground with showers, electric & water hookups, and a dumping station. The only reservation we have about the campground is the sites are grass sites and do to its location along the river you can have a wet campsite under some conditions. It is located just north of the Greyhound Park and Casino (where on occasion we have boondocked when all the sites in the city park were full).
There are several good Iowa County Park camping options within 20 miles of Dubuque.
Wisconsin Campgrounds North of Dubuque
From Dubuque, the Wisconsin Great River Road follows US Hwy 61 North until Tennyson. Then it travels south on Wisconsin Hwy 133 to Potosi, Wisconsin where there is one of our favorite campgrounds along the Mississippi – Grant River Recreation Area.#GrantRiver
Grant River Corps of Engineering Recreation Area – Potosi, WI
Even when our intent is to spend time enjoying the attractions that Dubuque offers, we often cross the river into Wisconsin to Potosi for overnight camping at the Grant River Corps of Engineering Park – see our detailed review and more information (about 20 miles from Dubuque). Grant River is an outstanding park with paved roads, level paved or amply graveled camp sites, substantial picnic tables, nicely spaced, semi-wooded and well maintained. A bonus of staying at Grant River is a short drive or bike ride to the Potosi Brewery for great food and draft beer.
After Potosi, the Great River Road continues on Wisconsin 133 until Cassville. Our next recommended campground is about a mile North on County W.
Nelson Dewey State Park – Cassville, WI
Located about 20 miles north of Potosi, Nelson Dewey Park is on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. It used to be 100% tent camping but in recent years the Wisconsin DNR has been adding electric service to sites suitable for RVs. Of the 48 sites, 16 offer electric service. Some of the RV sites are sloping or limited to shorter RVs. In general they have nice privacy screening from adjacent sites. The park has some decent hiking trails, historic Indian Mounds, and some nice overlooks of the Mississippi River. During busy camping periods you have a better chance of finding a site here than other state parks along the Great River Road.
Across the highway from Nelson Dewey is another interesting attraction: Stonefield Historic Village, a Wisconsin State Historical Society park.
One of the reasons Nelson Dewey park is less crowded is North of here the River Road Scenic Byway runs a good deal away from river on a collection of winding state and county highways, which some travelers try to avoid.
Leaving Cassville, you take highway 133 North until you intersect with County A where you go west to the town of Bagley. North of Bagley take County X which runs along or close to the river.
Boulder Creek Campground – Bagley, WI
Boulder Creek is a fairly new campground with modern restroom facilities and electric and water hookups. The sites are grass covered but mostly level. Rates are reasonable. Most private campgrounds along the Great River Road are largely occupied by seasonal campers with very few sites available for the traveling RVer. Boulder Creek is an exception and an option should you find no vacancies available either South or North of here.
A few miles North of Bagley on County X is the entrance to another attractive Great River Road State Park: Wyalusing.
Wyalusing State Park – Bagley, WI
North of Bagley off County X on the way to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin is Wyalusing State Park, like Nelson Dewey located on a high bluff above the river. The park has some outstanding hiking trails and mountain bike trails, RV dump station, scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River, and a camp store. Wyalusing has 109 campsites with 38 having electric hookups for RVs. Some of RV sites will be a tight fit for larger units and some will require leveling. The sites are grassy and semi-wooded. Located high on the bluff I’d expect them to be less “buggy” than sites you’d find closer to the river. Roads and trails lead down to the river front with boat, canoe, and kayak launches and picnic areas.
Wyalusing is a popular State park so plan on making reservations during popular camping periods. We were there recently mid-week and all but a few of the electric sites were taken (and this was during the covid-19 limited service restrictions which may have deterred some campers).
Leaving Wyalusing, the Great River Road proceeds North to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. While there are some campgrounds in Prairie Du Chien, we have not included them in our recommended campgrounds because we’ve found these parks to be heavily occupied by seasonal campsite units and are not oriented to serve the traveling RVer. Instead our preference is to cross the bridge at Prairie Du Chien to McGregor, Iowa for Pikes Peak State Park.
Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor, Iowa
Although we are profiling best campgrounds along the Wisconsin side of the Great River Road, crossing the river at Prairie Du Chien to McGregor isn’t that far out of your way. And McGregor is a neat historic river town worth visiting. High on a bluff above McGregor and about 2 miles south of town is Pikes Peak State Park.
Because it is less well-known than Wyalusing, we’ve often found vacancies here when Wyalusing was filled. Plus we like walking around the neat shops and stores in nearby McGregor. We also like the hiking trails and nature center at Effigy Mounds National Monument 7 miles north of the park.
Like Wyalusing, Pikes Peak has some outstanding scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River. It also has several decent hiking trails, one of which goes by a pretty little waterfall. Most of the sites are semi-wooded, paved and fairly level. About 50 sites have electric hookups. There is an RV dump station and fresh water hydrant. There’s a modern washroom with showers. Also a park picnic shelter and park store in the main picnic area. The camping rates are quite reasonable. Previously the park was 100% first-come-first served. But recently they’ve added reservations, but they still keep a few sites available only as drive up non-reservable sites.
See our full Review of Pikes Peak Park and Campground with pictures and descriptions of things to see and do.
Returning to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin Hwy 35 North becomes the Great River Road. There will be a few fish-camp campgrounds with primarily seasonal sites along this route, which we don’t recommend for the scenic traveler. Our next recommended campground is a little North of De Soto, Wisconsin.
Blackhawk Corps of Engineering Park, De Soto, Wisconsin
We love US Army Corps of Engineering Parks due to their meticulous well-engineered layout and attention to proper maintenance. Length of stay is limited to 14 days, so you don’t have seasonal campsites filling most of the available sites as you do with many private campgrounds along the Mississippi.
The Blackhawk Corps Recreation Area is typical of the high standards of Army Corps of Engineering parks. It is a few miles north of DeSoto along Highway 35 (the Wisconsin Great River Road), with some excellent RV facilities for overnight travelers and some decent day use facilities as well: fishing, canoeing, boating, and swimming. The older section has a gravel drive and level campsites with mature trees and sites adequately spaced. There are toilets in this units washroom but no showers. The Shower building is in the new camping section which has a paved drive, spacious level sites, and a modern washroom with showers. All 73 sites have electric service. Water hydrants for communal use are spaced throughout the area. There is a dump station near the entrance. If you can find a site here, it is one of the best RV camping values along the Mississippi River. There is a third campground area that has no electricity is primarily for tents. But some will accommodate RVs if you don’t want any utilities.
If you can’t find a site at Blackhawk, you may have better luck at Goose Island County Park, South of La Crosse.
Goose Island Campground, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Goose Island is a LaCrosse County Park and is one of the largest RV campgrounds along the Upper Mississippi River (over 300 campsites). The older sections of the park tend to have grass-covered camp sites and are not always level. But the newer sections have paved roads, paved campsite pads, and more open spaces with a sprinkling of mature trees throughout. Some sites offer full utilities (water, electricity, and sewer). There are two dump stations in the park. Three Bathhouse/showers are strategically located throughout the camping area. The camp store offers free wi-fi. The fees are reasonable from $20 to $32 depending on the type of electric and water service you need. https://www.lacrossecounty.org/facilities/campgrounds.asp
Leaving LaCrosse, Wisconsin Hwy 35 travels north to Trempealeau, Wisconsin where there two recommended sites, of which one is a favorite overnight boondocking spot.
Visitor Center Park, Trempealeau, Wisconsin
While not a campground, the Corps of Engineers visitor center, observation deck, and park at Lock & Dam #6 in Trempealeau is one our favorite overnight stops when we are traveling and just need a nice, safe place for an overnight stay. The visitor center/observation deck has a set of washrooms that are kept clean. We always enjoy watching the ships come through the locks. A peaceful and pleasant park, often with some nice breezes off the water. Only caveat is you will hear a few trains come through during the night.
If you want to eat out, it’s a pleasant walk to the Trempealeau Hotel from the park.
RV campers. Don’t abuse this welcome boondocking spot by setting up camp for a day or longer. That could inspire the Corps to post no overnight parking signs.
Perrot State Park, Trempealeau, Wisconsin
Popular for their excellent hiking trails and canoe/kayak waterways, Perrot like other Wisconsin State Parks has added more electric service recently to what once was only tent camping. The sites are wooded with good privacy screening from adjacent sites. Some of the RV sites will be a tight fit for a larger unit and some will require leveling. There are 102 campsites, over 60 of them have electrical service.
The park is adjacent to the Wisconsin Great River State Biking Trail so it is a popular campsite for bikers and there is a good deal of paved roads within the park suitable for biking.
Canoeing and kayaking is available in the protected Trempealeau Bay part of which is in the National Wildlife Refuge so your chances of seeing wildlife and a variety of wild plants are good. Among the several miles of hiking trails are ones that climb the steep bluffs in the park and offer outstanding views of the Mississippi River valley.
Rieck’s Lake Park, Alma Wisconsin
Rieck’s Lake Campground is located a few miles North of Alma along Highway 35 (Great River Road). The park road is paved and some of the campsites are paved. The sites offer electric service, are mostly level and partially shaded, offering a view of the lake. The lake is a backwater formed at the mouth of the Buffalo River as it empties into the Mississippi. It is on a migrating bird flyway and is known for a spring and fall stop-over of Tundra Swans, as well as other waterfowl. There are washrooms (not always well maintained) in the park but no showers. 2020 Rates were $20/night. There are no advance reservations, which can be a good thing if you are traveling during busy times and haven’t made advance reservations elsewhere.
Lake Pepin Campground, Pepin, Wisconsin
When we stopped by Lake Pepin Campground we got the impression it was a seasonal campground with no vacant spots for traveling campers. We later discovered the campground was larger than we realized (200 units) and they also serve daily and short-term campers. The reviews of the campground from Great River Road travelers are generally positive and the rates appear quite reasonable. They are a short distance from Pepin’s arts and hospitality district. While the park has a website, reservations need to be made by phone (715.442.2012). Due to the small number of non-seasonal spaces, we recommend calling ahead for reservations.
Stockholm Village Park & Campground, Stockholm, Wisconsin
The riverside park in Stockholm offers 25 RV campsites with electric service, although high water may reduce that number. The sites are offered first-come, first-serve, no reservations are available. Some sites are grass covered, some are gravel. The park roads are paved. They also offer weekly and monthly camping rates (but maximum stay is 30 days) so some of the sites may be filled with longer-stay campers. 2020 daily rates were $24. There’s also a boat ramp, a fishing pier, and a small swimming beach. Semi-modern washrooms, but no showers. Walking distance to the attractive, quaint downtown area.
Maiden Rock Village Park & Campground, Maiden Rock, Wisconsin
Maiden Rock’s riverside park also offers camping for tents and RVs. Some of the RV sites have 50 amp service. The sites are grass covered and a mixture of open and semi-shaded campsites. No modern washrooms, just porta-potties. Like Stockholm’s campground, no reservations, first-come, first-served. 2020 fees are $25 for sites with electric service, $15 for sites without electric service. The village of Maiden Rock is tiny, with a few services for the touring public. Not as “arsty” as Stockholm or Pepin. Here’s a website with some things to see and do around Maiden Rock.
Bay City Village Park & Campground, Bay City, WI
Bay City’s campground offers 41 RV sites with full hookups and 8 additional sites with only electric and water. Most sites offer some shade, some are along the riverfront, others are in a wooded area. The campground offers seasonal rates and it appears many of the sites are occupied by seasonal trailers. The available sites for those touring the Great River Road are mostly level and in the more open area near the water. Some of the sites are quite small which can be an advantage if you have a smaller rig. There’s a boat launch, sandy swimming beach, a fish cleaning station, and an RV pull-through dump site. A new modern bath/shower building was recently added. The campground takes reservations by phone ((715) 594-3229) as well as drive-in day-of site reservations with the camp host. If you expect to stay there on a weekend, reservations are strongly recommended. 2020 Rates are $35 for sites with hookups and $20 per night for tent sites.
Continuing North of Bay City on Hwy 35, the Wisconsin Great River Road travels to Prescott, Wisconsin. It is there that the St. Croix River joins the Mississippi and it becomes the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. So the Wisconsin Great River Road ends here. There are no decent campgrounds between Bay City and Prescott. itself. However if you cross the bridge at Prescott into Minnesota you can continue to travel North on the St. Croix River Scenic Byway. About 2 miles is the entrance to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park.
St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park & Campground, Hasting, Minnesota
A Washington County Park, St. Croix Bluffs is a very picturesque 580 acre park with a modern, well-planned campground. It’s high bluffs and wooded terrain offer some interesting hiking trails as well as scenic overlooks of the St. Croix River. There’s a boat launch and swimming beach. The Washroom/Shower buildings are modern and well-maintained. Likewise the entire park shows evidence of attention to caretaking. The roads within the park are paved and the RV campsites are level. There’s a total of 73 campsites of which 62 have electric service and some with water. There’s a RV dump station within the park. 2020 campsite rates range from $23 (non-electric sites) to $37 (50 amp sites with water). There’s also a $7 per day park permit fee. There is an online Reservation system and I believe you can also register in person at the Park Office. More information here on the Parks website.
Going North along the St. Croix National and Scenic River
While the Mississippi River flows through Northern Minnesota from its source at Lake Itaska (see our post on Visiting the Headwaters of the Mississippi at Itaska State Park), much of what is designated as the Great River Road doesn’t actually flow along the river. So in our opinion the more scenic drive is traveling North along the St. Croix Scenic Byway until Taylor Falls, MN and St. Croix, Wisconsin where the St. Croix Falls National Interstate Park offers camping, hiking, and outstanding scenic attractions. In future articles we plan to profile interesting things to see and do, as well as camping, along this route.
More Great River Road Travel Links
- Maps and Directory of Travel Articles Great River Road Scenic Byway
- Traveling the Great River Road Byway from McGregor to LaCrosse
- The loop on both sides of the River between Winona and Red Wing is a popular fall color drive.