Buffalo County Attractions
Enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the Midwest in Buffalo County! Untouched by glaciers, Buffalo Country's breathtaking landscape was created by forces thousands of years before the glaciers carved the land to the east. Bounded by three rivers, the Trempealeau. the Chippewa and the Mississippi, Buffalo County is rich in history, recreational opportunities, natural resources and scenic beauty. Steep limestone bluffs rise several hundred feet from the river valley. Broad inland plains, gentle hills, picturesque farmlands and quaint communities complete the scene.
Traveling Buffalo County roads with no specific destination can be an adventure in itself. Many of the county's roads were Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indian pony trails that became 19th century stagecoach routes. These steep, narrow, rollercoaster paths, called "dugways" are unique to Buffalo County. Venture through and you will find century-old churches, migrating swans, bald eagles, llamas, buffaloes (of course), five-generation farms, a cheese factory that has here since the 1850's, and masterful wood carvings by an internationally recognized folk artist. There's a collection of toy pedal cars unmatched anywhere, the largest floating fishing pier and the only floating barroom on the Mississippi River. The piercing sound of a steam calliope announcing the arrival of one of the Steamboat Queens can be heard, as well as the gentle mooing of grazing dairy cattle, the slapping splash of a lunker bass on the line, rustling leaves, and the almost imperceptible snorting of an unseen whitetail deer in the forest.
Trappers, hunters and fishing enthusiasts enjoy Buffalo County's abundant fish, fowl, large game and fur bearing mammal populations. Its rivers, sloughs, lakes and streams serve up good size catches of northern pike, bluegills, crappies, walleye, bass, trout and catfish. Put your boat in the water at one of fifteen public boat launching ramps, or try your luck from the piers floating on the Mississippi just below the dams where the fish are big and plenty. On the waters, in the bottomlands and forests, hunters will find Whitetail Deer, Squirrel, Fox, Ruffed Grouse, Rabbit, Woodcock, Bobwhite Quail, Pheasant, Hungarian Partridge, Snowshoe Hare, Wild Turkeys, Ducks and Geese; and trappers will find large Muskrat, Mink, and Beaver populations.
Bring your own or rent a boat, canoe, pontoon boat or houseboat to fish, party, or float through the breathtakingly beautiful and lively Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. Rentals are available by the day, or for a week or more (there is a lot to see and do on the river.) Area parks and trails offer a variety of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATVing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling with plenty to see, hear, and enjoy along the way.
Buffalo County's Mississippi River coast was settled in the early 19th century by merchants and adventurers who came to trade with the natives, service riverboats and harvest the forest. Here, where the river is woven into the tapestry of everyday life, elegant turn-of-the century homes still cling to the bluffs' edge, charming shops occupy 100 year-old storefronts, 19th century hotels, saloons, banks and restaurants accommodate 21st century needs with old-fashioned hospitality.
In Buffalo County, visitors will find farm communities with names that reflect their founders' Old World origins, including Czechville, Modena, Urne, and Praag. Other area place names, like Garden Valley and Cream, reflect the richness of the land and agricultural heritage they established here.
Buffalo County communities celebrate the seasons with a variety of festivals, fishing contests, auto races (on ice), horse-pulling contests, riding competitions, a rodeo, an antique tractor ploughing contest, dance and polka festivals, trap shooting competitions, village, town and church feeds and festivals, a summertime softball festival, two wintertime ice fishing contests; and, an 85-mile garage sale that's more fun than the ordinary.
Wherever you go in Buffalo County, you'll find treasure-laden antique shops, art galleries and unique gift boutiques offering one-of-a-kind, whimsical and exquisite conversation pieces, including the works of internationally recognized artists and crafters.
Buffalo County produces and serves the best of foods -- freshly caught seafood, locally raised and processed steaks and chops, newly churned ice cream, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products straight from area cheese and milk producers, pies and baked goods hot from the oven. Visit any small town cafe (there's only one "fast food" place in the whole county) and you'll find friendly banter and better-than-home cooked meals with desserts to die for, and the kind of neighborly service that calls diners back for more.
Travelers can choose from a variety of accommodations in Buffalo County, including sleeping under the stars in one of hundreds of campsites, an historic 19th century hotel, a luxurious Victorian Bed and Breakfast Inn, a modern full-service motel or housekeeping cottage big enough for two families.
Buffalo County promises an adventure that can't be missed, as well as plenty to do and spectacular scenery that will always be remembered!
MUSEUMS AND HISTORICAL SITES
Fountain City Museum
The Fountain City Museum has one of the best collections of prehistoric Native American artifacts and arrowheads in the state.
Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum
State Hwy, 35, Fountain City
This historic site, fully restored and donated to the Town of Milton in 1994 by the Kohler Foundation, features more than 40 sculptures created by the late Herman Rusch, who was a farmer, fiddler and self-taught artist. The gardens are enclosed in a 267-ft arched fence and are open daily year 'round. Tour guides are available through the Fountain City Historical Society.
608-685-3330 / 608-685-4975
In Alma, visitors will find charming, historic waterfront shops and elegant turn-of-the-20th-century homes clinging to the bluffs' edge along the city's only two parallel streets, where every house has a view of the river and glorious sunsets. Almost the entire downtown is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as just about every building is over 100 years old. Many were here when Mark Twain passed this way.
505 2nd St., So., Alma
The Alma Area Museum houses memories and artifacts that reflect hundreds of years of life in and around this spot on the mighty Mississippi River including a one-room school house display, Gesell photo exhibit and more. The museum is open Sundays, May through October and Mark Twain Days (Labor Day) weekend.
One-Room School and Rural Life Museum
The museum and one-room schoolhouse, located at the Tourist Park and operated by the local historical society, are open Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.
Historic Brick Bank
Gilmanton's 19th century brick bank building is an architectural landmark. There are also several other well-preserved historic buildings to be seen here.
PARKS AND NATURE CENTERS
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
Mississippi River, Onalaska
With more than three million people annually who come to fish, boat, hike, birdwatch, hunt, sightsee or just relax, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is one of the country's largest and most visited refuges! Established in 1924, the 200,000-acre, 260-mile-long Upper Mississippi refuge features more than 265 bird species, 57 species of mammals, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 100 species of fish. No wonder this refuge is a nature-lovers wonderland! Special attractions along the La Crosse county shore of the river include boat and canoe rentals, the Long Lake and Goose Island canoe trails, with observation points at major pull-offs denoted by interpretive refuge signs. Displays of refuge wildlife are found at the US Fish and Wildlife Service visitors center, located at 555 Lester Ave. in Onalaska. Open Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Merrick State Park
Great River Rd., Fountain City
Just north of Fountain City, Merrick State Park offers campsites, electricity, a dumping station, handicapped accessible picnic and camping areas, a nature center, hiking trails, swimming, canoeing, boating, fishing, and cross-country ski trails.
Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area
State Hwys. 25 and 35, Nelson
The Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area offers 12,500 acres of rustic walking trails and 14 public boat-launching ramps. It is well known for its hunting, fishing, trapping, nature photography, berry picking and primitive camping.
Goose Lake Memorial Park
Enjoy a picnic, swim in the heated pool and watch hundreds of Canadian Geese as they settle-in, feed, swim and chatter about the rest of the trip to the north in spring, and the south in fall.
Buena Vista Park
From the observation platform in Buena Vista Park, 500 ft. above the City of Alma, viewers can see, photograph, and record the river, bluffs and valleys that stretch out for miles below.
Rieck's Lake Park
State Hwy.35, Alma
From walking paths that stretch along the banks, and the observation platform reaching out over the water, wildlife enthusiasts year-round can see and hear hundreds of different birds, frogs, and animals playing, foraging, home-building and raising their offspring in and around the shoreline of Rieck's Lake. In fall, just as autumn's blazing colors are fading to a rich brown, the bottomlands become a temporary home for thousands of brilliant white-winged migrating Tundra Swans. During peak swan-viewing times, the observation platform is staffed with interpretive guides. For up-to-the-minute information about swan activity, call Swan Watch 608-685-4249.
Foelsch Riverside Nature Park
Foelsch Riverside Nature Park, Buffalo City's newest park, is a 10-acre stretch of woodland along the Mississippi River that includes walking trails for a close-up view of the creatures that flitter, fly, hop, crawl, run, nest and inhabit this shoreland area.
Buffalo River State Trail
The Buffalo River State Trail extends from Fairchild in Trempealeau County to Mondovi, near the northern boundary of Buffalo County. The trail is open to hikers, ATVers, cross-country skiers, hunters (in season) and snowmobilers. Special passes are required for mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Buffalo County Snowmobile Trails
Buffalo County is crisscrossed by a network of more than one hundred miles of well-groomed snowmobile trails, over majestic forested hills, rivers and streams, and through quiet valleys and across gently rolling farmland.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Rock In The House
440 No. Shore Dr., Fountain City
In 1995, a 55-ton boulder came to rest in the middle of a waterbed in the bedroom of this home in Fountain City. Nearly a century before, in 1902, a huge boulder landed in almost the same place. The most recent boulder still rests where it crash-landed.
Lock and Dam 5A
Observe pleasure boats, barges, tows, and, on special occasions, a classic paddlewheel boat, line-up, wait their turn, maneuver into the lock, rise or fall as the gates open to fill or flush the locks, and continue on their way.
Lock and Dam No. 4
Watch locking activity close-up from the observation tower at Lock and Dam No.4 located on the Mississippi River in mid-town Alma.
SPECIAL THINGS TO DO
State Hwy.37, Alma-Mondovi
You don't need a tour map to find the area's most spectacular scenic drive. Just follow State Hwy. 37 as it meanders along the freewheeling Buffalo River between Alma and Mondovi. Early French exploration maps designated this river as "Le Beouf" or "the beef" after the many buffalo they found here. To many locals, it's still "The Beef." Beef or Buffalo, this river valley is a "must see" part of the county, spring, winter, summer or fall.
Great River Road
From Bluff Siding to Nelson, the Buffalo County portion of the Great River Road travels along the Mighty Mississippi, beneath towering bluffs, through picturesque and historic riverside cities, towns and villages, over bottomlands and islands, across lakes, past locks and dams, scenic overlooks and observation platforms. Stop to shop, eat, visit or play at one of the many historic riverside establishments along the way. In Fountain City, take a detour to the only floating barroom on the Mississippi. In Alma, water-taxi over to the Great Alma Fishing Float, the largest floating pier on the Mississippi, complete with restrooms, cafe, bait and tackle shop, located just 300 ft. below Lock and Dam No. 4. In Nelson, enjoy the sights and tastes of the cheese factory.