Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Visitor Center

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.

The Visitor Center is surrounded by a restored prairie. Plenty of prairie plants provide year-round color. These native plants are beneficial to butterflies, bees, dragonflies and more. The prairie is absolutely "buzzing" with activity from late spring through fall. Visit each season to see the change.


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Latitude: 43.928076 Longitude: -91.281525 Elevation: 664 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Cindy Samples

Recreational Opportunities

Visitor Center Exhibits

Inside the visitor center is the popular River Walk exhibit. It allows you to “walk on water” and see what lies below the surface of the river. Other exhibits include mounts of birds and mammals of the refuge. There are roller dials and a touch table with deer antlers, turtle shells and feathers. A 10-minute movie in our theater explains seasonal sights and sounds on the refuge.  Interactive exhibits allow you to explore the refuge wildlife.

Wildlife Watching While Walking Trails 

There are two miles of paved and gravel trails winding through the prairie.  A trail leads to a deck overlooking the Mississippi River. The view is of the  backwater Lake Onalaska. During waterfowl migration waterfowl congregate on this stretch of the river, and in summer aquatic vegetation floats on the lake.  Bald eagles and sand hill cranes are commonly seen in the spring and summer.  The loud, bugle calls of sandhill cranes can be heard from 2 miles away. 

Prairie Wind Bookstore

The store is operated by the Friends of the Refuge – Mississippi River Pools 7 & 8 a non-profit organization. The perfect educational book or souvenir is easily found in the store to remember your visit. The funds support outdoor education opportunities.

Seasons Accessible

Visitor Center Hours

Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturdays - Closed

February - November
Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturdays - 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Visitor Center closes at 12:00 p.m. on the business day before the following holidays:  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

All offices and Visitor Centers are closed on Federal Holidays.



There are no fees.

Accessibility Notes

Accessible restrooms inside and out and ample parking for vehicles, including buses and RVs. The Lake Onalaska Overlook offers accessible wildlife viewing opportunities.

Pet Friendly Notes

The walking trails are pet friendly if pets are on a 6' or less leash.  Wildlife is easier seen without pets. 

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