Nearly every park, beach, trail, scenic overlook and wetland along the Wisconsin Great River Road provides an opportunity for seeing birds. The river attracts thousands of migrating birds as well as numerous nesting birds.
Below are some of the best birding hotspots along the Wisconsin Great River Road.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
A large portion of the Wisconsin Great River Road runs through our along this 260-mile refuge.
Wyalusing State Park
Located just two miles south of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, the park is perhaps the best place in Wisconsin for Kentucky, Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers. Other populations include Prothonotary Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, Henslow’s Sparrows, Wild Turkeys, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles. Stop at the park office for a vehicle admission sticker (required), current birding information, and directions to the Passenger Pigeon Monument.
Lower Chippewa River Wetlands
The bottomland forests and wetlands around Nelson provide outstanding birdwatching opportunities. You’ll find birdwatching all along Highway 35/Wisconsin Great River Road as well as along Highway 25 and up through the bluffs.
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
This 6,200-acre preserve just north of Trempealeau offers a four-mile wildlife driving tour, an interpretive center, and an observation deck. A diverse habitat shelters 29 warbler species and 100 bird species at the height of migration. In prairie and woodland habitat, watch for Grasshopper, Lark, Savannah Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Cuckoos, Sandhill Cranes, Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Northern Shrike, Pileated Woodpeckers, American Woodcocks, Northern Harriers, Hawks, Accipiters and Owls. In open water and slough areas watch for Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Tundra Swans, White Pelicans, Forster’s Terns, Sora and Virginia Rails and Cormorants, as well as Mergansers and Dabblers in spring and fall. Maps of the refuge are available at the interpretive center and at kiosks in the refuge.
St. Feriole Island
Located in Prairie du Chien, St. Feriole Island offers 240 acres of history, natural beauty and great birding. The forests and intermittently flooded prairies teem with wildlife. St. Feriole Island and the nearby Welcome Center are great places to see Bald Eagles throughout the year.
Buena Vista Park
Perched on a bluff 500 feet above the Mississippi at Alma, Buena Vista Park is one of the best public viewing areas in Wisconsin for migrating raptors. Watch for Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcons and Broad-winged Hawks (Aug-Sept). In fall, watch for Merlins, American Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Coopers Hawks. Open water below Lock and Dam #4 makes this a great spot in the winter for watching Bald Eagles fishing in the river. The park also harbors Scarlet Tanagers, Wood Thrushes, Hairy Woodpeckers and Ruffed Grouse.
Merrick State Park
Blue heron, egrets, kingfishers and more await the birder at this state park located on the Mississippi River. Birdwatching opportunities are available throughout the 322-acre park.
Riecks Lake Park
Just two miles north of Alma, this park is the best spot on the Mississippi River to get up-close views of migrating waterfowl in the fall. Take a short drive up Hwy. 37 along the Buffalo River to see wintering Golden Eagles.
Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center at Freedom Park
Located in Prescott, the center is situated near the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, making it an ideal place to view bald eagles and other raptors. You’ll find mounted telescopes for great river views. The center also hosts occasional presentations by The Raptor Center from the nearby Twin Cities.