Monday, December 4, 2023


The long, long RV trip, Week 16: Mississippi River camping and Wisconsin wines

This week’s stops:

  • Burr Oak Winery, Lisbon, WI, with Harvest Hosts
  • Camping at Blackhawk Park, DeSoto, Wisconsin 

After several weeks of socializing with friends in Chicago, Atlantic City, Baltimore, and Virginia, it was time for some alone time and catching up on writing and other work. I turned to my new favorite group, the Army Corps of Engineers, and found some amazing Mississippi River camping at Blackhawk Park in Wisconsin.

I’ve talked about how great the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds have been before on this trip in both Kansas and West Virginia. They have been exceptionally well run with lots of amenities like hiking and watersports. They often have electrical hookups available. Water, dump stations, showers, and playgrounds for the kids also seem standard, as are boat launches, fish cleaning stations, and often swim beaches (Blackhawk Park has one).

They’re also an amazing bargain, even at full price. But at half price with a national parks pass, you can be in a gorgeous campground with an electric hookup for about the price of a fast food meal these days. I reserved five nights.

I did make a Harvest Hosts stop along the way, though.

Tasting Wisconsin wines at Burr Oak Winery

Burr Oak Winery
Burr Oak Winery

My wine supply was getting low and I had never tried Wisconsin wines, so I booked a night out in the country at the Burr Oak Winery in New Lisbon, WI. 

The parking was scenic, surrounded by rolling corn- and grapevine-covered hills.

Owner Steve Kennedy started winemaking as a hobby, then followed his passions by opening up a winery.

Steve Kennedy of Burr Oak WInery
Steve Kennedy, owner of Burr Oak Winery

The Wisconsin wines they served were surprisingly good to this California girl. They seem to have a strong German-style of winemaking and generally run on the sweeter side, although I enjoyed the semi-dry in both red and white varieties and left with a bottle of each.

And while I am generally not a fan of fruit wines, Burr Oak’s intriguing Cranberry wine was delicious. Not too sweet, which I like, but with a vibrant cranberry flavor.

Prior to visiting, I had not realized that Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state.

Camping at Blackhawk Park, DeSoto, WI

camping at blackhawk park, wisconsin
Camping at Blackhawk Park, Wisconsin

The Army Corps of Engineers have quite a variety of campgrounds up this way, all part of the St. Paul District, which covers an area of approximately 139,000 square miles. The district borders follow the edges of four river basins—Mississippi River, Red River of the North, Souris River and Rainy River. (Spoiler alert—I stay in several more Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds coming up in Minnesota, too).

When we think of the Mississippi River, we typically conjure up visions of the South. Perhaps this is because of the myths created by movie musicals and Mark Twain novels. But the mighty Mississippi begins in Minnesota and in the early days of our country, the Army Corps of Engineers worked on many ambitious projects that helped control flooding and kept the river navigable.

Blackhawk Park is located adjacent to the main channel of the River and features lots of scenic shorelines. Waterfront campsites are handy for boaters who want to pull up near camp. But even in the interior sites, you are never far from the water.

The weather was starting to turn cooler when I visited, so the mosquitos were somewhat at bay. Nonetheless, they still certainly let their presence be known. I am guessing those waterfront sites in the heat of summer might be miserable with bugs.

Each day while my neighbors went fishing and boating, I went out and walked the entire park, which let me hike for a few miles through woods and meadows, all along various inlets and shorelines.

In the evening I would sit on the bench-like swings the Army Corps had so thoughtfully placed at intervals along the shoreline, to gaze at the sunset.

camping at blackhawk park at sunset
Camping at Blackhawk Park at sunset.

As peaceful as it all looks today, it wasn’t always so. This site has a lot of history attached to it.

Zebulon Pike (of Pikes Peak fame) camped here in 1805 on his expedition to discover the Mississippi River’s headwaters.

More infamously, on August 1, 1832, the Battle of Bad Axe took place here ending the Blackhawk war with the slaughter of 23 Indian men, women, and children. They were attempting to surrender at the time.

With such a bloody history, I would have expected some good ghost stories about the place, but I couldn’t find any. If you know of any, drop them in the comments.


Niagara Cave, picking Aronia Berries, urban RVing in St. Paul

Previously in Cheri’s long, long RV trip:


Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard is the author 8 published books on topics as diverse as US Citizenship to Cannabis Cooking. Cheri grew up in a circus family and has been RVing on and off her entire life.



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Drew (@guest_203711)
1 year ago


I’ve enjoyed every installment of your trip- thank you!

Linda (@guest_203485)
1 year ago

It would be nice to know what size & type of rig you are RVing in.

Cheri Sicard (@guest_203569)
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda

I have a 2500 Ram truck and a 25 foot travel trailer.

Cheri Sicard (@guest_203571)
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda

It’s in the picture in this story and in few other installments of the Long Long RV trip stories too.

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