Brownsville Overlook - Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Visitors stopping at Brownsville Overlook have an opportunity to witness a wildlife spectacle on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge.  Each fall migrating Tundra Swans blanket the river with a sea of white.  Witnessing this magic of migration and listening to the song of the swans echo across the river and bounce off the bluffs is an experience not to be missed. 

Migrating day and night, tundra swans flock to the refuge to feed and rest.  Their woo-hoo, woo-hoo call can be heard across the river valley.  From late October through freeze-up swans grace the refuge. They feast on arrowhead tubers often called duck potato. These tubers are buried in the river bottom and their large webbed feet dislodge the tubers and their long necks reach these tasty morsels. There may be 25,000 swans resting and feeding at one time.  

This site is just one stopping point along the 261 mile long Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge  established by Congress in 1924.  The north end of the refuge begins at the confluence of the Mississippi and Chippewa rivers near Wabasha, Minnesota and ends near Rock Island, Illinois. 

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Latitude: 43.674938 Longitude: -91.277412 Elevation: 642 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Cindy Samples


Recreational Opportunities

Wildlife Observation
In late October through mid-November refuge naturalists are on sites to share information about the migrating tundra swans.  Times are Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 4:00 pm

Viewing scopes help visitors see bald eagles in the distance sitting on islands.  Eagles can also be seen soaring overhead.

Seasons Accessible

The overlook is accessible spring, summer and fall.  The overlook is open 24 hours a day.


There are no fees.

Accessibility Notes

An accessible viewing scope and porta potty are provided at the overlook.


Pet Friendly Notes

Pets must be on a 6’ leash.


As long as you are in the vicinity plan to stop at other places along the Great River Road.

Ranger Cindy, 8/29/2016

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