Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Road Trip Day 5; Great River Bluffs State Park and Campground on the Mississippi River, MN

It was day number 5 of our camping trip through northern Michigan, but that meant it was time to start driving west and head for home. We had one more night to camp somewhere and chose to camp along the Mississippi River in Minnesota at the Great River Bluffs State Park. This park was about 8 hours from our campsite in the Upper Peninsula, but due to the time change, we gained an hour of daylight making it to the campground at 6:30pm on Friday night.
The ranger was very pleasant and allowed us to drive through the campground before paying to choose our site and make sure this was where we wanted to stay.   I wish she would have mentioned the mosquitoes, however, and little did we know that our great campsite was going to turn into a painful experience. 

Getting there; Approximately 20 miles southeast of Winona at the junction of U.S. Highway 61 and Interstate 90. Park entrance is accessed off of County Road 3. Coming from the west or southeast via I-90, take exit 266 and follow park signs. Coming from Winona, south on Hwy 61 (just past mile marker 15), take a right on County Road 3 for 4 miles to the park entrance. 
The entrance fee is $5 for a car, plus an additional $16 for the campsite. This campground has no electricity at the sites, but does have a regular bathroom with showers.  For entertainment take a walk on some of the hiking trails; there is also birdwatching, viewing the fall colors, and more in the park.
Campground sites are secluded in the outer ring of the campground, we chose site number 3, next to a small meadow and under less trees in hopes of avoiding some mosquitoes. The only sites that were not very secluded were 32, 34, 36, and 38; which were in the inner ring of the campground, but they would be great for groups of people camping together.   Check out the website here

The Journey; I was worried many of the sites would already be taken after arriving at 6:30 on a Friday evening, but fortunately there were about 6 sites left. Many were already reserved, even though several people did not show up to claim their reserved spots. The ranger gave us the still available site numbers and we drove the 8 minutes down a dirt road to the campground. I hoped all of the good sites weren’t taken at this late hour, especially after the very close and crowded Fayette State Park the prior evening, but all of the campsites were secluded with maximum privacy.   Nearly every site has woods surrounding it; some of the inner sites were located close to each other, but all sites had trees separating it from the next site. It was by far the most secluded campground from other campers this far along our journey.

We chose our site and Josh unloaded the tent for me to set up while he went up to pay for the site. It was about one second after he left that I realized mosquitoes were going to be a major problem, and he had taken the bug spray in the car with him to pay for the site!  It took him nearly 30 minutes to return, I had the tent set up and had swatted numerous mosquitoes which were having a feeding frenzy with the dogs and I.  This was, by far, the worst mosquito experience I have ever had, even after growing up on a lake, in Michigan all of my life.  Even when Josh returned with our mosquito spray which was used up immediately the bugs didn’t quit and we felt pretty miserable until the sun went down. One piece of advice, do not come here if you don’t have bug spray; drive the distance from the campground to the store and buy some, it’s very worth the time!  
The mosquitoes made our experience un-enjoyable even though it was a nice evening with a beautiful sunset, and they didn't stop swarming until nightfall.  We were able to eat our dinner as the stars came out and we enjoyed the evening with fewer mosquitoes.  After 5 days of camping and only 1 shower back at Muskegon Lake, I was eager to jump in the shower, which was lukewarm, and wash off the dirt and grime of the week.

We again left the rain fly off the tent and enjoyed watching the stars until we fell asleep for the evening. The next morning we woke up for a hike before getting back into the car to drive home 15 hours to Denver to end our weeklong camping road trip.

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