Great River Road Learning & Visitor Center @ Freedom Park, Prescott, WI
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The Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center is the centerpiece of Freedom Park perched above the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers in Prescott, Wisconsin. The views of the Mississippi river (and sunsets) are spectacular, and the unique mixing of the blue waters of the St. Croix River with the muddy Mississippi is often visible from the overlooks. The park grounds feature century old bur oaks in an oak savanna setting. The Center is on the Great River Road Audubon Birding Trail, and also a Watchable Wildlife site. The Center is a National Park Service Partner Site and has NPS passport stamps for the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The Center is also the northern gateway to Wisconsin’s Great River Road and Wisconsin’s only National Scenic Byway.
Use our spotting scopes to watch eagles, raptors and other birds year round. Bring your binoculars for spring and fall migrations of thousands of birds. Several educational gardens surrounding the Center feature native plants and include prairie, woodland, wildlife, butterfly and rain gardens. The butterfly garden features one of 6 art benches in the St. Croix valley. Designed by John Turula of Maiden Rock, the butterfly bench was created by the artist and more than 60 volunteers including children and adults. It is nestled in our butterfly garden filled with butterfly nectar and larvae food sources, and you can sit on the bench and listen to the music of the garden’s waterfall.
Children of all ages can enjoy the fun playground just outside the Center’s doors. Picnic tables and benches are scattered throughout the park.
STORIES & EXHIBITS
Visitors discover and enjoy the unique stories of this region through hands-on, audio-visual exhibits in the Center and many interpretive signs and exhibits outside. From Dakota people who lived at the rivers' confluence for centuries, to newcomers who made a living through fishing and boatbuilding, to those who piloted the steamboats that transported people, products, and ideas along the Mississippi from New Orleans to the Twin Cities, the stories of this region are told through the individuals who lived them. Enjoy our educational gardens and stroll the paths to our overlooks of the Mississippi River.
Originally called “Tourist Park” when founded in 1928, Freedom Park was renamed in 1982 to honor an eagle named “Freedom”. “Freedom” played an important role in a national celebration honoring U.S. service people held as prisoners-of-war or missing-in-action in the 20th century.
Click here to read more about how Freedom Park got its name and came to be.
Hours of Operation
Spring Center Hours
Feb. 1 – Memorial Day
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–5 p.m. Monday: Closed
Summer Center Hours
Memorial Day – Labor Day
Monday–Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–5 p.m.
Fall Center Hours
Labor Day – Nov. 30
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–5 p.m. Monday: Closed
Winter Center Hours
Dec. 1 – Jan. 31
Saturday: 11 a.m–4 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–4 p.m.
Click here for directions to the GRRVLC.
“Mississippi” means “Great River” in the Ojibwe language. Imagine a road following the entire length of the Mississippi River from its source in Lake Itasca, Minnesota to its great delta in Louisiana! Originally conceived in 1936 and passing through 10 states and over 2,300 miles from north to south, the Great River Road travels through ecosystems that change throughout its length from northern pine forests to alluvial delta.
The Great River Road is the gateway to towns and regions that slice through the multi-layered American experience. From north to south and east bank to west bank, the Great River Road offers a rich sampling of the regional diversity that is the heart and soul of America. Today there are 69 museums and historic sites in the Great River Road network.
Wisconsin's Great River Road, which begins in Prescott, showcases 250 miles of the mighty Mississippi River and its magnificent valley, and was rated by Readers’ Digest as one of the most scenic drives in America. The Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center in Prescott is the northern gateway to Wisconsin’s Great River Road and one of the Road’s 69 interpretive Centers. To find out more about these Centers and where they are located follow these links:
Click here for the National Great River Road website.
Click here for the Wisconsin Great River Road website.
The Great River Road, which follows the 2,300 miles of the Mississippi River, is the nation’s first designated National Scenic Byway. There are 150 roads in the United States with the special designation of National Scenic Byways and All American Roads. National Scenic Byways, a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation, recognizes, preserves, and enhances very special roads throughout the United States judged to be extraordinary showcases of the nation's natural or historical heritage. Visitors driving these byways encounter a wide array of archeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational and scenic experiences. National Scenic Byways include such famous roads as Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Santa Fe Trail. Traveling these 150 roads is an extraordinary opportunity to experience America’s heritage, history and true character.
Click here for the National Scenic Byways website.
The Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center is a National Park Service Partner Site with two National Parks converging in Prescott. Ask about our two National Park Service passport stamps and come in and enjoy our NPS displays!
Mississippi National River & Recreation Area
Established in 1988, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area includes 72 miles of the Mississippi River stretching from the cities of Dayton and Ramsey to just south of Hastings, Minnesota, directly across from Prescott, Wisconsin. The segment of the river flowing through the National Park has always been of major significance as a spiritual site, a place for recreation, and a tourist attraction. From the Science Museum in St. Paul, the Mill Museum in Minneapolis, to the locks and dams, wildlife areas, miles of bike and river trails, this National Park can be enjoyed by all who visit the Twin Cities area. Learn more about this National Park through the Ranger-On-Call phone interpretation program (877-727-1172. Prescott is ext 19).
Click here for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area website.
The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers offer 252 miles of clean water gliding past a lush green landscape, with glimpses of a human presence. Choose to canoe and camp amid the northwoods or boat and fish surrounded by wooded bluffs and historic towns. This river corridor provides a wealth of scenic views and a haven for wildlife near a major metropolitan area. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway ends at the mouth of the St. Croix River at Prescott, Wisconsin. The confluence of the St. Croix and the Mississippi Rivers can be seen up close at Mercord Mill Park in downtown Prescott.
Click here for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway website.
More Links of Interest
City of Prescott (Learn more about Prescott)
Mississippi Valley Partners (Learn more about what to see and do along the Mississippi river)
Prescott Area Chamber of Commerce (Where to eat, shop, stay and play in Prescott)
Prescott Foundation (Supporting programs which enrich quality of life needs in Prescott)
Scenic St. Croix Valley Tourism Alliance (Learn more about what to see and do along the St. Croix River)
Travel Pierce County (Where to eat, shop, stay and play in Pierce County)
See more information on our See and Do page.
Photos courtesy of Margaret Smith