Nelson Dewey State Park
The campground is the star of this destination. It has most of the qualities a tent camper desires: not too big with widely spaced sites; large sites with near maximum privacy, and a beautiful forest. And that's just the regular campground! Nelson Dewey also has four walk-in tent campsites that have all the above plus ridgetop views of the Mississippi River and across to Iowa that any tent camper would be proud to call home. This state park is also blessed with amenities both within and nearby that will keep you busy when you are not standing around admiring your campsite.
Usually, any campground has a few dud sites. Not this one. By the way, all campsites here are reservable, so make your plans. The campground is set on a bluffline peering down on the Mississippi River. From the park entrance, follow the camp road to reach the camping loop on the left, situated beneath a cathedral-like hardwood forest dominated by oak trees. Younger trees and heavy brush form a privacy-delivering understory. Pass campsites #1 and #2. These large, shaded sites are typical of the campground with good sites on either side of the loop. Campsite #3 is even larger. A vault toilet for both sexes is located past a double site. The Woodbine Nature Trail lies across the campground road. Pass a few electric sites, along with an all-access site, to reach a spur road leading left. You'll find a few electric sites on this mini-loop as well as some real winners. Site #18 has a view of the river below. Site #17 sits all alone and is highly recommended. A short foot trail in between these two sites leads to the walk-in tent sites.
Handy pull carts are provided to transport your gear from your vehicle to the walk-in campsites. These bluff-side sites have been leveled with landscaping timbers. Walk-in site D is first. It offers a stunning view to the southeast and is partially shaded by locust trees. Site A offers an excellent view also and is more shaded. A portable toilet is located near Site B. A final spur trail leads to site C, arguably the best of the best. It looks far to the southwest at the end of the ridgeline. Shade trees overhang the site. Be apprised that you can hear trains traveling the riverside tracks at the base of the bluff, whether you are in the walk-in sites or not. They didn't bother me a bit.
The main campground loop continues beyond the spur roads and circles past a modern bathhouse. It then reaches another spur loop housing sites #24#31. This is the domain of the electricity-loving big rigs and the only place a tent camper wouldn't want to be. But even these sites are attractive and would work just fine. Pass the firewood shed. A series of non-electric sites graces the loop as it circles to an end. The large sites are very well separated.
This smallish state park offers some trails along the Mississippi River bluff. The Prairie Trail features rocky points with fantastic vistas of their own. The Cedar Trail offers overlooks, too. Once the home of Wisconsin's first governor, Nelson Dewey, the park preserves his home, which you can tour. Other than that, the park serves as a jumping-off point for nearby attractions. Just across the road is the Stonefield Historic Site, owned and operated by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Originally a farm started by Dewey, the area now includes the Wisconsin State Agricultural Museum and a 1900 village exhibit. The museum houses farm implements of the past and rare, one-of-a-kind machines. It also follows the history of farming in the Badger State. The turn-of the-19th-century exhibit features 30 reconstructed buildings displaying a small farm community from the early 1900s. Stonefield is open from Memorial Day through early October.
Some campers will be using private facilities in nearby Cassville to fish the Mississippi River. Kids will want to swim in the Cassville public pool, which charges a small fee. Consider canoeing or tubing the nearby Grant River, down by Beetown. It offers a quiet, scenic small river experience. A rental and shuttle service operates on the Grant during the warm season. For more information on the Grant River, call Grant River Canoe Rental at (608) 794-2342.
To get there: From downtown Cassville, head north on Wisconsin 133 for 0.5 mile to County Road VV. Turn left on County Road VV and follow it for 1.2 miles to the state park, on your right.
Address: Nelson Dewey State Park, P.O. Box 658, Cassville, WI 53806; (608) 725-5374, www.wiparks.net
Open: Year-round, bathhouse and spigots open May through October
Individual sites: Four walk-in sites, 41 other
Fee: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend during weekends $10 residents, $12 non-residents; weekdays and all days rest of year $8 residents, $10 non-residents; $3 extra for electricity
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication