Wisconsin’s Nelson Dewey State Park — Views from the Bluff and Turn of the Century History

This camping season got off to a later start than I would have liked thanks to the pandemic. Prior to this weekend, two reservations of mine were cancelled. In fact, this weekend was the first weekend the state park system allowed camping reservations. In short, I was itching to sleep in a tent, sit around a campfire, and do some hiking.

My 2020 camping season began at Nelson Dewey State Park. This park is located just outside the town of Cassville on a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

This park is named for Wisconsin’s first governor, Nelson Dewey, serving two terms from 1848 to 1852. During his term as governor, Dewey oversaw the transition from a territorial to a state government, played a role in the infrastructure development of the state, opposed the spread of slavery into new states, and advocated for the popular election of senators. After losing much popularity in his second term, Dewey did not run for a third.

If 1901 history and agriculture are your jams, other areas of interest to note are the Dewey House and the Stonefield Village site. We weren’t able to visit either thanks to COVID, but hopefully they will be open to visitors soon. Both are a trip back in history to the turn of the 20th century to see what life was like in a farming village. Check out the Stonefield Website for information if you plan to visit.

The Nelson Dewey house, located near the entrance to the state park. (Photo credit: Wisconsinhistory.com)

Links to follow along:
Nelson Dewey State Park Page
Trail Descriptions
Park Map

Let’s hike!

Beginning from the campsite, we first circled the Woodbine Nature Trail, before taking a linear route on the Mound Point Trail, Prairie Trail, and the Cedar Trail. There isn’t a lot of trail distance at this park but the short journey really packs a punch in terms of views overlooking the river. If you hike this route to the end of the Cedar Trail and back, it’s about a 2.3 mile hike.

Woodbine Nature Trail

Length: .3 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy
Description: This easy, paved trail circles to stunning views overlooking the Mississippi River

Although it doesn’t appear this way on the map, these two trails intersect on the southwest side of the Woodbine loop.

A short introductory trail brings you to the loop. This entire trail is a pleasant and gentle walk through the woods.

The loop brings you near the edge of the bluff where you can enjoy views of the river below and Iowa on the other side. If you plan to continue on the hike along the bluff, get used to this view.

(The friends enjoying the view, except for Moxxi (dog) who was derping near the bench.)

After taking in the sights, we kept on the loop to the point where it meets the Mound Point Trail. From here the journey was a linear there and back hike.

Mound Point Trail

Length: .6 mile linear
Difficulty: Easy to moderately easy
Description: Traveling through the woods at first, this trail turns and follows the edge of the bluff.

While this trail is short (.6 miles,) it travels up and down a few hilly portions of the bluff. (Thus the easy to moderately easy difficulty.) I never found the hills anything close to strenuous and was only mildly winded at points.

(Hello fern, my old friend!)

The trail opens up to a parking lot, picnic area, and overlook point. If you are unable to hike there, this is a great option to still take in the views. In fact, there are several parking lot overlook points in the park. They are all worth a stop.

(Selfie station site!)

(We tried the selfie site with limited success.)

We continued on the Mount Point Trail to the next parking lot and picnic area, where the it meets the Prairie Trail.

Prairie Trail

Length: .2 miles linear
Difficulty: Easy
Description: This trail travels through a native Wisconsin prairie along the bluff.

This trail is pleasant. It travels through a plethora of native Wisconsin prairie plants while providing more spectacular views. I love finding areas of tall prairie grass in an open atmosphere along the bluffs. in fact, one of my favorite segments of any Wisconsin trail I have hiked so far is a portion just like this on the Brady’s Bluff Trail at Perrot State Park.

This trail brings you to overlooks of the historical site below. Like I said earlier, we were unable to visit because of COVID but hopefully you’ll be luckier because it looked pretty neat.

The prairie trail ends in another parking observation area lot before meeting the Cedar Trail.

(Puppy photo op)

Cedar Trail

Length: .2 miles linear
Difficulty: Easy
Description: Another short, easy trail along the bluff with views of the river and the historic site.

The trail passes next to an old stone wall. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on the history of the wall to learn if it was, in fact, old.

Continuing along the edge of the bluff.

These views never get old.

After reaching the end of the Cedar Trail, we backtracked to the campsite. Like I said, the hiking isn’t very long, (about 2.3 miles if you hike to the end and back,) but these two miles pack in a lot of views. Those views along with the nearby historical sites make this park worth a visit.

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