This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.
Perched on a bluff above the Mississippi River in Prescott, Wis., the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center in Freedom Park gives visitors an eagle’s eye view of the surrounding area.
“A lot of people who stop here are drawn by the scenery, the vistas,” said Jessica Bierbrauer, former executive director of Friends of Freedom Park, the nonprofit organization that manages the park and visitor center owned by the city.
(Editor's note: Bierbrauer resigned from the position earlier this year, after this story was written. She was replaced by Israel Haas)
“We have the two rivers coming together very near here,” Bierbrauer said, referring to the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, “and we have a lot of wildlife. It is a great spot for watching sunsets. It is a nice vantage point.”
Many people stop at the Great River Road Visitor Center for birdwatching. “It is a critical migration pathway,” Bierbrauer said. “We see song birds, eagles, and trumpeter swans.”
Displays inside the visitor center show the development of cargo shipping and the logging industry on the Mississippi River. One case shows how fishermen collected mussels from the river bottom for use in button manufacturing, and how that business affected the population of mussels and related aquatic life.
The visitor center is a popular stopping point for people driving the Great River Road, a system of highways that follow the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from its beginnings at Lake Itasca in Minnesota through 10 states to the Gulf of Mexico.
Bierbrauer said the Mississippi River Parkway Commission has published a map of the Great River Road. The visitor center also provides dozens of pamphlets and fliers on restaurants, markets, museums, interpretive centers, and other helpful sites along the way.
Helping develop a sense of land stewardship is important to Bierbrauer. “I want to help people see why this place is special,” she said.
“Stewards come in all shapes and sizes and all walks of life,” she noted. “With all the current divides in our society, people see conservation differently, and that is not bad. Conservation looks different to different people. We are all working to protect our open spaces.”
If you go...
Name: Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center
Address: 200 Monroe St., Prescott, Wis.
Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 12-5. Fall, Winter, and Spring Tues.-Sat 10-5 and Sun. 12-5. Open weekends only in Dec.-Jan.