Birding in La Crosse, WI

La Crosse County and the surrounding areas are home to some of the best birdwatching locales in the Upper Midwest. From Bald Eagles, Tundra Swans, and Great Egrets on down to bluebirds, warblers, and sparrows, the area hosts a wide range of species sure to satisfy birders of every stripe. Fall is an especially active time of year, with several migrating species spending time in the region, so be sure to visit these places to catch a glimpse of your favorite visiting birds.

Goose Island County Park

This popular campground and park, located just three miles south of La Crosse, is open year-round and is a great place to spot raptors, waterfowl, and songbirds, including the Prothonotary Warbler.

Norskedalen Heritage & Nature Center

With over 400 acres of forests, meadows, and ravines, this beloved historical and cultural site attracts many species of birds, including the Black-billed Cuckoo and White-eyed Vireo.

Myrick Park, Hixon Forest, and Riverside Park

The five-mile trail running from Riverside Park in downtown La Crosse through the river marshes and into Hixon Forest and the bluffs offers some of the area’s very best birding opportunities. Observe Great Egrets and terns from the marsh’s floating platforms, look for Pileated Woodpeckers in the forested hillsides, and spy soaring raptors from the lookout atop Grandad Bluff.

Van Loon State Wildlife Area & McGilvray Bridges

The 4,000-acre Van Loon State Wildlife Area, located north of Onalaska off Hwy 53, is home to six historic arch truss bridges built in the late 19th century. While the Black River Bottomlands are often impassable in spring and early summer due to high water, the fall is a great time to hike the path across all six bridges, offering opportunities to see all of the region’s native woodpecker species, as well as Bald Eagle, Red-Shouldered Hawks, and Indigo Bunting.

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge

Covering over 260 miles of river and 200,000 acres of land, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge is one of the nation’s largest wildlife refuges. The La Crosse District boasts one of the area’s biggest birding attractions, receiving regular yearly visits from migrating Tundra Swans (more info here), plus over 250 other species of raptor, songbird, and waterfowl.


Wildlife Refuge A photo posted by La Crosse Area CVB (@explorelacrosse) on

Great River State Trail

A 24-mile railbed trail running alongside the Mississippi River from Onalaska to Marshland, the Great River State Trail passes through the Mississippi River Bottomlands, Perrot State Park, and the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge, and features such species as Bobwhite Quail, Sandhill Crane, and Alder Flycatchers.

One bird watcher took a spring ride along the Great River State Trail and was not at all disappointed by the wealth of bird species she saw. The Great River State Trail is along the Mississippi Flyway an important migratory route for birds. Check out what she had to say about her trip here.