The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.


At the sleepy hamlet of Trempealeau (pop. 1,435), the GRR would have you zigzag right through town, but detour a block down toward the river’s edge to find the Historic Trempealeau Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon (608/534-6898, $44-130), sole survivor of an 1888 downtown fire—maybe that’s why the whole joint is smoke-free. The hotel dining room offers a surprisingly eclectic menu, from steak and seafood to Tex-Mex and vegetarian dishes; just head for the neon sign reading Delicious Food. The rooms are nice (and cheap!). The hotel also sponsors an excellent annual outdoor music series beginning with a Reggae Fest the second weekend of May and featuring bands you’ve heard of throughout the summer (Steppenwolf and Asleep at the Wheel have appeared more than a few times). There are nearby areas to rent canoes and bicycles to hardy souls desiring to try either the Long Lake Canoe Trail or the 100 miles of paved bikeways that pass through town.

Just south of Trempealeau, the GRR crosses US-53. Consider taking this Interstate-wannabe into La Crosse to avoid the uninteresting 12 miles of stop-and-go traffic through Holmen and Onalaska, La Crosse’s northern abutters.



Historic Trempealeau Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon (150 Main St.)

Long Lake Canoe Trail