Reviews of the top Campgrounds for RVs along the Wisconsin Great River Road Scenic Byway from Dubuque to Trempealeau WI
In general when traveling the National Scenic Byway of the Upper Mississippi Great River Road, In the stretch north of Dubuque, we most often travel on the Wisconsin side vs. Iowa or Minnesota.
Dubuque, Iowa Campgrounds
The Wisconsin Great River Road begins as you leave East Dubuque on IL 35 heading North. The closest recommended campground for River Road travelers and RVers is two miles west 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
The Wisconsin Great River Road follows US Hwy 61 North until Tennyson. Then it travels south on Wisconsin Hwy 133 to Potosi, Wisconsin.
Grant River Corps of Engineering Recreation Area – Potosi, WI
When staying overnight in the Dubuque area, we often cross the river into Wisconsin to Potosi and stay at the Grant River Corps of Engineering Park – see our review (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.
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 the park 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. You take highway 133 North of Cassville 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.
So we again cross the Great River to McGregor, Iowa for the nearest best campsite.
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 more extensive 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.
Going North of Trempealeau on the Great River Road National Scenic Drive
North of Trempealeau, it is a toss-up as to which is the most attractive Scenic Byway to travel: the Wisconsin Great River Road or the Minnesota Great River Road. The loop on both sides of the River between Winona and Red Wing is a popular fall color drive. In future articles we will cover our recommended campgrounds along these routes.