Taking a Wisconsin river boat cruise is just what you might need. There’s something about a river cruise that can relax and invigorate you at the same time. There’s so much to see and experience, including a sense of stepping back in time, while floating down a mighty river. In the United States it doesn’t get much mightier than the Mississippi, and embarking on your journey from Wisconsin will give you a new perspective on this iconic waterway.
Begin your Mississippi River journey from ports in La Crosse or Prairie du Chien for spectacular views and a history lesson or two.
What to expect
These guided and interactive Wisconsin Mississippi River cruises take you into the region’s Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, where you will see various inhabitants of Wisconsin’s watery ecosystem. The 261-mile refuge was established in 1924 and includes 240,000 acres of islands, marshes and waterways. Living here are bald eagles, great blue herons, neo-tropical songbirds, mink, hundreds of fish and plant species and much more. During Wildlife Cruises, you will discover all the wetlands have to offer. Specialty cruises that focus on specific wildlife or seasonal migrations are also available, as well as guest speaker series. Group tours and private charter cruises are also available.
Prairie du Chien
This port is the oldest settlement on Wisconsin’s Upper Mississippi River, and was traversed by the explorers Marquette and Joliet during their 1673 expedition of this region. Sights on this cruise include Effigy Mounds National Monument, consisting of more than 200 Native American symbolic mounds, and Pike’s Peak Bluff and State Park. You’ll also explore scenic backwater channels teeming with wildlife, including beaver lodges, bald eagle nests, turtle homes, otter runs, bird habitats and more. Wildlife naturalists and knowledgeable captains will describe the sights to you.
This once-busy steamboat port used to boast fur trading, sawmills and boat building, and embarking on a river cruise from this port offers a unique journey into a scenic, backwater wildlife refuge. Venture into little-seen wetlands and side channels and view bald eagles nests, beaver lodges and lotus fields. For a memorable excursion, take a Sunset Wildlife Cruise and enjoy the peace of the river in the quiet evening hours. Cruises are narrated by wildlife naturalists and licensed captains who offer their expertise and guidance during these calming cruises.
You will cruise the Mississippi River aboard Mississippi Explorer Vessels, which are uniquely designed to access the river’s side channels and backwater sloughs. These seven boats are inspected and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard and follow strict safety standards. The vessels come in various sizes and are enclosed to protect from the elements, except for one that is open-air. All boats have open sun decks for you to enjoy the fresh air. Amenities are varied and differ from boat to boat, and include carpeting and padded seating, music systems, restrooms, viewing windows, service bars, heating and air-conditioning. You will be cruising in comfort!
Tickets for the Mississippi River cruises can be purchased online. This is the fastest method and best way to guarantee seats. You can also purchase tickets at the Prairie due Chien and La Crosse ports 30 minutes prior to departure time. Cruises are two hours long and tickets are $19.99 for adults and $14.99 for children ages 4 to 11. Children ages 3 and under are free.
Cruises will depart even on rainy days, which can make for a peaceful expedition due to the lack of river traffic. Cruises will be canceled in the event of dangerous weather conditions, however. Also, there’s no need to worry about pesky mosquitoes, which like to stay in the tall grasses and plants at the river’s edge. Since you won’t be disembarking, they won’t be an issue.
You are allowed to bring food and beverages on board, including alcoholic drinks. Please drink in moderation; captains have the right to refuse service to visibly intoxicated patrons. You are encourages to bring binoculars, cameras, sunscreen and sunglasses. You’ll want to be sure to capture memories of your cruise!
No smoking or pets are allowed.
Wherever you decide to embark from and no matter the season, a Mississippi River cruise will be a memorable and treasured experience. Enjoy exploring Wisconsin’s section of America’s mighty river!