Frequently, a park has a niche, something it offers that makes it stand out from other parks. This niche is often what become designated as a park in the first place as someone loved this feature enough to share it with everyone. It could be anything, rock formations, Native American history, waterfalls, etc. A showcase of what the state has to offer.
Merrick State Park is no different. Nestled on a short stretch of a slough of the Mississippi River, it’s not surprising that this park is all about water. Water sports, water views, and water…camping.
I covered the minimal hiking at the park in a previous post. You can check it out here. This is a park for water lovers. Fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing enthusiasts will find plenty to fill their days with. I’m not a water enthusiast (yet) but I still really enjoyed this park. Not for the hiking, which is normally why I like a park, but for the unique camping it offers.
Merrick Park has 65 campsites spread across three campgrounds; the North Campground, South Campground, and the Island Campground. Pick your campground carefully, as they offer different things. The North Campground is the only campground with electric sites, but it doesn’t have any waterfront sites. It’s also the only campground with showers and flush toilets. The Island Campground is the smallest and offers the most privacy from your neighbors. This campground only has waterfront sites. These sites are all walk-to, so only tent camping is permitted there. The South Campground offers a mix. It has both waterfront and non-waterfront sites, and it allows RVs and trailers on some sites, but with no electricity.
For our stay, we camped on the Island Campground at site 48. All sites in this campground are walk-to sites and share a central parking lot and restrooms. There are carts to help you haul your gear the 200-300 feet to reach the sites.
Helpful links to plan your own adventure:
Site 48 is a straight shot from the parking lot, making it the shortest distance to walk and haul your gear to. Here you can see the path from site 48 to the parking lot. About half way down the path, another path cuts through, bringing you to the other sites. As far as walk-in campsites go, this one was one of the easier hauls; flat, wide, and relatively short.
All sites in this campground, and probably in the park, have a standard campfire ring and cooking grate. The thick foliage you see here surrounds the site, making it feel much more private than other campgrounds in the park. You can sometimes hear your neighbors, but you can never see them. (If you camp when the foliage is thick.)
Sites are also equipped with a picnic table. We moved ours front and center to have the best views of the water.
Like I mentioned earlier, all sites on this campground are waterfront. It’s hard to beat your own personal view of the water.
The water we’re looking at isn’t the Mississippi, but Fountain City Bay, a slough of the Mississippi. The main channel of the river is on the other side of the trees in the distance. We don’t have a canoe or kayak (yet,) but others in the campground had their boats tied right up on their shore for easy access, which sounds pretty awesome.
While I don’t have a photo to prove it, this was also a great spot for Bald Eagle watching. We saw several flying by looking for a tasty fish.
Another perk of the campsite; sunsets from the shore were very pretty.
Having the picnic table so close to the water, this was the perfect spot for a private picnic with a view.
How were the bugs, you ask? Surprisingly, not bad at all. We went in August when it tends to be less rainy in Wisconsin. While there is always moving water in the slough, the surrounding land was very dry. With no stagnant puddles for breeding, bugs were minimal.
It was also a great place to spend a few hours playing boardgames.
I would say this site is perfect for any water loving furry friends, but I can’t speak to that. While Moxxi joined us on the trip, this was during one of her rebellious teenage phases where she decided she didn’t like water. She loves it now, as any respectable lab should.
Speaking of rebellious teenagers, this picture pretty much sums up the entire phase. Here she is refusing to use her bed, despite loving beds, while giving me “that look.”
At least I got her to sit for a nicer picture later. Kids, I tell ya.
To sum it up, the unique camping made this park great. If I had a boat of some kind, it would absolutely be a yearly trip for me. Without a boat, and with very minimal hiking in the park, this was just a really neat place to camp. It’s good to have some of those places on the list too.
If you love waterfront camping, and especially if you have a watercraft of some kind, I highly recommend spending time in and camping at Merrick State Park.