Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Between Lodi and Prairie du Chien, in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin, you'll happen upon Scenic Byway 60 winding along the curves of the Wisconsin River. To properly enjoy this scenic road trip, you'll have to put away your electronic devices, stop looking at your watch and turn off the GPS. Put on your favorite music, roll down the windows and let your hair blow in the breeze. Hopefully you're lucky enough to be the passenger on this drive so you can enjoy the views without having to concentrate on driving. But even drivers will appreciate the gentle curves gradually leading you up hills and back down into valleys as you keep the speedometer at a steady 55 miles per hour, only slowing as you pass through the quaint towns or to stop at local shops, restaurants and attractions.

To me, there is nothing better than taking a road trip with my dog and the weather cooperated perfectly. Charlie was pleased to have the sun roof open on this trip so she could drink in the smells of the river and fields as we cruised down the highway. She LOVES cows and I made sure to alert her when we were nearing another field so she could return their lazy gaze. Many farmers were baling sweet smelling hay in their freshly cut fields, churning out golden cubes in long rows.

Before you cross the bridge over the Wisconsin River to Prairie du Sac, take a quick detour down Hwy. 188 to the Wollersheim Winery. The historic buildings built by Europeans in the 1850's along with the vineyards situated on the slopes overlooking the Wisconsin River will inspire a relaxed frame of mind for the rest of your road trip. Stock up on some delicious wine while you're there to enjoy when you get home!

The farm fields occasionally give way to riverfront and the low water level reveals a multitude of sandbars full of campers, boaters and swimmers. People were out in droves taking advantage of these warm dog days of summer before school starts.

I'm always in awe of this driftless landscape:  On one side of the road, mounds of wooded hills rise out of the rolling meadows; on the other side lie marshy lowlands and sandbars of the Wisconsin River; and in between these beauties are waves of farm fields lined with ancient oaks keeping the different crops separated from each other.

We turned down Cassell Rd. to get a better view of the bluffs along this stretch of highway just before arriving in Spring Green. There was a grassy parking area with trails leading out into public lands where Charlie and I stretched our legs while taking pictures of the amazing bluffs.

I wanted to continue westward on this Scenic Byway, but we turned off Highway 60 at Spring Green and headed South on Hwy 23, toward family and our ultimate destination:  Platteville. Between Spring Green and Dodgeville, there are several stops you should consider making.

The first one that you'll encounter as you head south is Taliesin and the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. Just before you cross the bridge over the Wisconsin River to this architectural landmark, there's a park along the shoreline where you can take a break and go swimming if the weather is agreeable. On this particular weekend, the park was full of people enjoying the water and even dogs frolicking along the sandbar beaches and fetching frisbees in the sand. Although it was a busy weekend, it didn't feel crowded.

Next, you'll pass The House on the Rock. It's REALLY hard to describe this place and definitely something you'd have to see for yourself anyway. I actually took my 11-year-old niece there back in June and we spent almost the whole day exploring the collections. Make sure to pull over at the Scenic Overlook before you get to The House on the Rock; there's a view of the Infinity Room from across the valley that can be seen from the Overlook on both the northbound and southbound sides of the highway. When Charlie and I first arrived at this spot, I wasn't quite sure what we were supposed to see; after I took the photo below we turned to head back up the trail and I caught a glimpse of the Infinity Room and knew exactly what I was looking at! It was like finding a secret!

Self portrait of me and Charlie at the Scenic Overlook.

The Infinity Room is way off in the distance on the bluff.

Zoomed in on the Infinity Room from the Scenic Overlook.

View of the Infinity Room from the Northbound Scenic Overlook (bridge connects both sides of the Overlook)

View of Highway 23 from bridge at Scenic Overlook.
After The House on the Rock, as you approach Dodgeville, you'll discover Governor Dodge State Park. I've previously reported on this beautiful (and dog friendly!) park, but you'll want to plan ample time to explore it because there is too much to see in one day.

This upcoming Labor Day Weekend is a perfect time for a scenic road trip. The countryside is brimming with sights to see, a new treasure to behold around every curve. Even if you just go for a drive with no destination and don't make any stops at all, your mind will be full of all the beautiful images of the scenery along the way, and that is priceless. Get out there and find a scenic drive this weekend... you might be surprised at what you find and you'll definitely come away with a deeper appreciation for your part of the world!