Discover Our Streams
La Crosse County is a paradise for people who love the outdoors — especially water. Here, the Mississippi River sprawls beyond the main channel to surround green islands, creating vast habitat for wildlife and great places for people to explore. Bluffs tower on both sides of the Mississippi and the hills, narrow valleys and spring-fed creeks of the Driftless region spread east and west.
Fishing is a popular pastime in La Crosse County. That's not surprising when you know that the Upper Mississippi River is home to more than 25% of the freshwater fish in the United States and more fish species than any other temperate river in the world. Miles of spectacular cold water trout streams flow throughout the region, too.
In this stretch of the Mississippi you’ll catch walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, perch, bluegills/panfish/sunfish, crappie, northern pike, sauger, channel catfish & blue catfish. If you catch a fish you don’t recognize, you can find out what it is on Wisconsin’s Fish Identification Database
Smaller Streams & Rivers
Fishers who explore the La Crosse and Black Rivers catch many of the same fish they do in the Mississippi. Our many cold water streams team with trout, primarily brown, brook and rainbow.
Boats are everywhere here because the Mississippi spreads wide, with channels, lakes, open water marshes and calm backwater areas. Smaller rivers and streams meet the Mississippi up and down the shore.
On a summer weekend, speed boats and skiers, fishing boats, pontoons and sail boats are a common sight on this part of the Mississippi.
Paddling in the La Crosse area is hugely popular. Canoes and kayaks are a perfect way to explore open water marshes, islands, and tributaries. Paddling groups take part in events spring through fall, including the Mississippi River Challenge, a weekend event in late July.
Better houseboating can’t be found. Tens of thousands of water acres, miles of shoreline, hundreds of islands, and dozens of river towns make this an adventure many enjoy. And renting a houseboat in the area is easy.
The Upper Mississippi is relatively clear, and several beaches are available for swimming in and near La Crosse. Look for them on Pettibone Island, Goose Island, at the Black River in La Crosse, and at Lake Neshonoc near West Salem.
The Upper Mississippi River is a migratory flyway and a popular place for duck and goose hunting. La Crosse County’s streams, fields and forests are home to abundant deer, turkey, grouse and pheasant. Hunting information, permits and season dates are available from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
There is an open camping policy on Mississippi River sand bars and islands. Campers also enjoy county parks, state parks, and private campgrounds in the area with full-service hook-ups and amenities.
The Upper Mississippi River is home to bald eagles, pelicans, herons, egrets, and nearly limitless varieties of songbirds. It’s also a superhighway for migratory birds. Spring and fall, organized and informal bird walks are common and observation platforms scattered along the shore are crowded with people viewing trumpeter swans and other migrating species.
The Mississippi is a dramatic place and part of the fun is watching the big boats—barges and paddlewheelers large and small. In La Crosse, paddlewheelers cruise daily and smaller cruise boats explore nature in the back waters.