Sep 11, 2015
West Coast Of Wisconsin
It is our pleasure to introduce you to the “West Coast of Wisconsin,” a 15-mile stretch on the eastern shore of Lake Pepin. The lake is the largest within the Mississippi River, and runs alongside the historic towns of Bay City, Maiden Rock, Stockholm, and Pepin. This stunning drive was voted by the Huffington Post as the, “prettiest drive in America.” This path of the Mississippi is one of the continent’s major flyways, through which over 300 species of birds travel. Fifty percent of the world’s canvasback ducks and twenty percent of the eastern tundra swans use this flyway. The area is home to hundreds of bald eagles and over 110 species of fish. It boasts a vibrant art scene, distinctive shops and galleries, superb dining, lodging and vineyards, dramatic landscapes, and unforgettable views. Outdoor year-round activities abound. Inland, there are hidden gems to discover. So, whether you are in a boat or on foot, on a bike or in snowshoes, shopping or just here to relax, welcome to Wisconsin’s West Coast. Let’s explore.
Lake Pepin is 21-miles long and covers 25,000 acres. It averages 1.7 miles across, with a surface area of 40 square miles. The lake is a result of a backup of water caused by the sedimentary deposits of the Chippewa River, which flows into the Mississippi just south of the town of Pepin. At the northernmost point of the lake is Bay City. The lake has little or discernable current and with 400 ft. bluffs surrounding it, it makes an absolutely breathtaking place to spend a day on the water.
Lake Pepin offers great fishing opportunities. There are over 80 varieties of game fish in the lake and surrounding backwaters. There is big river fishing in the main channel, which is home to a variety of species. There are panfish, bluegill, crappie, white, small and largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. If you love hooking catfish, Lake Pepin is a great destination. The backwater fishing is incredible. There are also two Class 1 trout streams, which flow into the lake. Winter fishing is also excellent. If you want to fish on the ice or open water, the best fishing can be found at either end of the lake. Whether you like bobber fishing, jigging, trolling, or casting, trophy size fish are there for the taking. Lake Pepin is truly a fisherman’s dream.
If birds are your fancy, you have come to the right spot. Lake Pepin is the Mecca for bird watching in North America. The National Audubon Society classifies it as an important birding area (IBA). It is home to hundreds of eagles, falcons and a variety of hawks. Tundra swans migrate through Lake Pepin on their way to New Jersey or South Carolina, where they spend winters, and return in the spring on the way back to their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska. Open-water layout hunting for late season divers is an experience all hunters must try, and the geese, mallard and canvasback hunting are tops in the nation.
The unique geological topography causes a constant breeze. The winds descend through the valley creating an ever-changing wind pattern. That and the gorgeous views, make Lake Pepin one of the top five sailing lakes in the world. Yes, in the world.
Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area
The Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area is a small portion of the largest river delta, and biggest intact floodplain forest, in the Midwest. The delta is where the Chippewa River flows into the Mississippi just south of Pepin. The Bottoms captures the transition of the typical flood plain forest of the south (consisting of sugar maples, river birch and ash) to the oak dominated forested areas in the north. Tiffany Bottoms offers a unique experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Motor vehicles are allowed in marked parking areas only. Trails are not marked, but hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are allowed. Offering primitive camping only, there are no permanent campsites. This is the place for hunters and fishermen who enjoy a remote natural setting. The forest provides food and shelter for deer, turkey, ruffed grouse and squirrel. It is also home to plenty of furbearers like raccoon, muskrat, beaver and otter. The beaver and otter are protected. The remote fishing in the backwaters and channels is remarkable. The backwaters and channels feature the popular game fish of panfish, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and channel cats.
One does not have to hunt or fish to enjoy the Tiffany Bottoms. Canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are incredible experiences; the backwater canopies give the feeling of being in the jungles of the rainforests. Words cannot do it justice; one must experience the beauty to appreciate it. Hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing through remote forests are jaw-dropping experiences. You may stumble upon a number of endangered species like the massassga rattlesnake, the red shoulder hawk or the great egret. The waters are also home to three endangered fish: the crystal darter, the river red-horse and the blue sucker. The Tiffany Bottoms is truly a bucket list destination for any avid outdoors person.
Pine Creek and the Rush River are Class 1 trout streams, and direct tributaries that flow into Lake Pepin. They support native brown trout, and it is not uncommon to land a 20 lb. fish. Pools, riffles and flat runs hold insects for fish food. The waters are cold, clean and trout plentiful. If you fly-fish, these two streams are a must to visit. Pine Creek flows through the Pine Creek Nature Preserve, a 230-acre public preserve that makes fishing “The Pine” a unique experience. One can fish for trout while being surrounded by what is considered one of the best bird watching spots in the area.
Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area
One of the most noteworthy cliff formations is Maiden Rock Bluff. Named so, because of a young Dakota Indian maiden who leapt to her death after she was denied the right to marry the man she loved. The bluff extends for almost a mile and stands 400 feet above Lake Pepin. It is said to be the “best view of the Mississippi in a four state area.” The cliff is one of only six places on the Mississippi, which is a nesting site of peregrine falcons in a natural habitat. Maiden Rock Bluff also provides habitat and hunting perches for other raptors, such as the gyrfalcon, golden and bald eagles and turkey vultures. The bluff is an environment suitable for cliff dwelling plants like hairbell slender lip ferns and red cedars that are over 250 years old. The narrow band of prairie adjacent to the bluff provides habitat for rare species of plants, such as the cliff goldenrod, dragon wormwood and prairie sagebrush. This natural area, with its 1.5-mile trail, is ideal for hiking or snowshoeing.
The Four River Communities of The West Coast
Founded in the 1880’s, its train depot was the express stop between Chicago and St. Paul. Being the northernmost point of Lake Pepin, it has spectacular views of the lake and the Mississippi River. The village park offers an excellent place to camp and the fishing is great both summer and winter. You can buy bait and gear in town. Bay City is the home of the original Conlin log house, donated to the Pierce County Historical Association and moved to Bay City in 1998. The River Bluff Historical Center, a renovated church located next to the Conlin house, is a must see. While here, enjoy a fabulous dinner featuring house-smoked meats, fresh fish and sides prepared with locally raised ingredients, or choose ice cream and light fare nearby. One can spend hours browsing antiques or learning to kayak and handle a stand-up paddle board.
This quiet historic river town came into existence when a piece of property known as Rattlesnake Hollow was purchased in 1854. It has a population of approximately 130 residents, and is the home of artists and craftsmen, families and singles, and small businesses – among them a noteworthy bakery, a couple of fun biker bars, unique shops and artisan studios. Farmland, creeks and gullies surround the community overlooking beautiful Lake Pepin. Camping is available and there is a boat launch with a dock. The sights and natural beauty make Maiden Rock a unique place to visit.
Established in 1856 by a Swedish immigrant, it is a charming community known for its vibrant cultural scene. According to Living Best in the Midwest 2010, it is one of “the best small town getaways.” The road sign as one enters the village boasts a population of 66, but don’t be deceived. Stockholm offers a lot of bang despite its small size. From fine art, culinary arts and performing arts, to unique shops and great lodging, this town is a one-stop wonder. Nearby, there are wineries and cideries, craft and learning centers, and working farmsteads, all offering unique experiences. It is home to the Stockholm Art Fair, held on the third Saturday in July (this year was the 42nd), which draws up to 10,000 visitors. The wooded campground is one of the most sought after camping spots along the lake. It has a boat launch and long stone levy for fishing or watching the sunset. While you are here, do not miss out on the nationally acclaimed pie.
Pepin is the southernmost town on Lake Pepin. It was founded in the 1850s and is the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is home to an award winning winery and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. It has a number of shops, which offer handcrafted works created by local artists. It also boasts some widely renowned dining options. Pepin is unique because of the views along the lakefront. It offers a public boat landing and beach, sailing excursions, guided fishing and a 150-slot marina. There is lodging (B&B, motel), as well as full service camping, available. The village is an ideal destination for people who are drawn to the water for either boating or fishing. Everyone enjoys the time they spend in Pepin.