La Crosse is known by locals as the place where three rivers meet…
The superstar of these three rivers is the Mississippi, first made famous by Mark Twain and his novel, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
La Crosse has a population of just more than 50,000 people, and is considered one of the main stopping points for travelers on the Upper Mississippi. Its historic downtown boasts a big city atmosphere with boutique shopping, a focus on the arts and numerous small pubs and eating establishments – all walking distance from the river’s edge.
Pleasure boating is a popular pastime on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, and there are four public boat launches that allow boaters to put in and cruise as much as they’d like. Use caution when boating near the city’s midsection on the Fourth of July weekend, as river traffic can be heavy during the community’s annual Riverfest celebration, which is staged at Riverside Park right alongside the Mississippi River.
Just north of Riverside Park is the Mississippi’s confluence with the La Crosse River, the smallest of La Crosse’s three intersecting rivers. Not deep enough for motorboats, the La Crosse is a wildlife haven for birdwatchers in canoes who don’t mind portaging when the river is low. A bike/walking trail meanders through the area and connects to Myrick Park in the city center – even joining up with the state’s trail system, which can take bikers to Trempealeau, Sparta and beyond.
The Black and Mississippi Rivers merge farther north past the downtown highway bridge near Veteran’s Point Marina. Boating on the Black River will take you to Catgut Marina and its two on-site restaurants: Castaway’s on the Island and Tom Sawyer’s. Other nearby marinas include Black’s Cove and North Bay Marina, which features Huck Finn’s, a restaurant with large window “walls” and great views of the outdoors.
2017 has renewed discussions for a city docking facility to be built at Riverside Park sometime in the future. This would allow boaters to dock and walk to its many delicious upscale eating establishments including The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern, the Freighthouse, Piggy’s Restaurant and Blues Lounge and the Restaurant at the Charmant Hotel. Until then, boaters who want to dock and eat are limited to the Pettibone Boat Club across the Mississippi, or at spots along the Black River.
If you’re looking to get on the water but don’t have a speedboat, renting a canoe, kayak or paddleboard is another option. Schafer’s River Rentals rents equipment on nearby Lake Onalaska; and Island Outdoors rents on the Black River.
Or maybe you want to enjoy the water without having to do any of the work? The La Crosse Queen, which is docked in Riverside Park, offers sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises and even a pizza cruise for those who prefer to relax while on the water. Additional big boats, including the Julia Belle Swain and American Queen, also grace our shores from time-to-time.
La Crosse rivers can even be enjoyed in the winter — ice fishing for bluegills, crappies, Northern pike and bass is common; and cross country skis and other outdoor gear is available for rent locally, too.
And don’t forget to visit our rivers amidst the beauty of the autumn leaves and locally grown apples. In nearby La Crescent, Minn., Leidel’s Apples has been in the family for six generations, and has plenty of Honey Crisp, Fireside and other varieties for sale. Van Lin Orchards allows you to pick your own apples, and Hoch Orchards and Gardens has unique varieties not seen other places.
Check out some rockin’ festivals on the river…
June 30 – July 4, 2017
Great entertainers and river activities are highlighted during this event. Also a food fair, beverage tent, Venetian parade, children’s activities and many athletic events are featured. FIREWORKS!
Great River Folk Festival
August 25-27, 2017
Numerous artists and craftsmen from the Midwest, folk music, traditional crafts, dancing, storytelling and ethnic food.
La Crescent Applefest
September 14 – 17, 2017
La Crescent, MN. This annual event celebrates La Crescent’s apple industry. Orchard tours, arts & crafts, flea market, Applefest pageant, Sunday parade and much more.
September 28 – October 1, 2017
Come join the Midwest’s largest German Fall Festival at the Downtown La Crosse Oktoberfest Grounds. Popular for its beer gardens, but also featuring many other family-friendly activities. This celebration includes the Maple Leaf and Torch Light parades, arts & crafts, a bicycle tour, music, sporting events and lots of tasty food.