Boating on the Mississippi River is a special experience, whether you’re cruising the river on a pleasure excursion, perching on the seat of a bass boat in a side channel, or piloting a rented houseboat on a vacation adventure. Vernon and Crawford Counties have the Mississippi as their western boundaries, and offer access to the river from a number of locations. Boat landings can be found in nearly every river town and many places in between. Many of these landings are hard-surface.

Take a trip downriver.

Along the river in northern Vernon County, Stoddard River Park offers a boat landing and a fishing pier. Heading south, you’ll come to Genoa, and Lock and Dam #8 just to its south. The Mississippi’s lock and dam system, built in the 1930s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, can be thought of as a “stairway for boats,” regulating water levels for ease of navigation. Over 2,000 small pleasure boats and hundreds of barges “lock through” annually. The pool above the dam is ideal for all types of water recreation, and a lookout platform allows visitors to view the lock in action. Three miles north of De Soto is Blackhawk Park, the largest public use facility in Pool 9. Here you can find launching and docking facilities, boat rentals, fishing supplies, and camping. The fishing between Lock and Dams #8 and #9 is some of the best in the Upper Mississippi River area.

Lake Winneshiek, near Ferryville, is over 6,000 acres of open water and part of the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife RefugeLock and Dam #9, located near Lynxville, restrains this immense acreage of water and is the largest Federally-managed facility on the river. Over 6,000 boats and barges lock through annually. Both Ferryville and Gordon’s Bay (a little farther south) provide boat landings. At the southern end of Crawford County, Prairie du Chien has six boat landings: Cedar Street Landing, St. Feriole Slough Landing, Prairie du Chien Marina, Villa Louis Landing, Lawler Park, and Campion Landing.

If you don’t want to do the driving, but still want to experience the river, Prairie du Chien’s riverfront is also the one of the boarding sites for the Mississippi Explorer. These cruises highlight the wildlife and ecology of the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Take a picnic, spot wildlife, and learn about the river in comfortable surroundings.

How about a floating hotel room? Houseboat rentals are available from private companies in Lansing, Iowa (just across the river from Ferryville) and McGregor, Iowa (just across the river from Prairie du Chien). Take your family or your fishing buddies out for a day, a weekend, or a week.

Last, but important. Please remember—clean boats, clean water. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has great advice on the control of invasive aquatic species.