Welcome to the 7 Rivers Region — the gem of the upper Midwest.
It is a region so beautiful, the glaciers left it alone, leaving behind spectacular bluffs that keep watch over the Mississippi River Valley.
This 14-county region of western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa is more than scenic.
It offers a quality of life that combines high-quality education from kindergarten through college; world-class medical care; environmental wonders and abundant wildlife and outdoor recreation; an entrepreneurial spirit and regional collaboration.
It’s the type of place where high schools work together with colleges and businesses to develop high-tech, career-track training.
We celebrate our Rising Stars Under 40 – the young professionals who are making a difference in their communities. We celebrate our high school seniors who have overcome obstacles or provided exemplary services to community.
In other words, we celebrate people in the 7 Rivers Region, not just our beautiful landscape.
Terrific schools and higher education are the bedrock of our region.
In addition to high-scoring K-12 education, the 7 Rivers Region is blessed with public and private universities and technical colleges – all preparing top students for tomorrow’s workforce.
Industry is thriving.
We make fasteners and furniture.
We have clusters of industry that specialize in composites and food processing.
We grow crops and raise chickens and dairy cattle.
Farm-to-table is embraced by area restaurants, and organic farming is a huge economic drivers.
Celebrate the arts
The 7 Rivers Region boasts a vibrant arts scene.
In Winona, you’ll find artwork from some of the world’s masters at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum; great performances at the Great River Shakespeare Festival; and beautiful music at the Beethoven Festival, which has featured fabulous talent from Yo-Yo Ma and Branford Marsalis to the Minnesota Orchestra.
The world-acclaimed Nordic Choir at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, provides stunning sounds.
In La Crosse, enjoy all sorts of music performed in Riverside Park along the Mississippi.
You’ll find theater performances at the Weber Center for the Performing Arts, the Pump House or at Viterbo University or the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
In fact, you’ll hear grand performances throughout the region, from the Heider Center in West Salem and Old Main in Galesville and the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.
And, you’ll love the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Prairie du Chien.
That’s just a sampling of the cultural events in towns small and large.
The great outdoors
If you love the outdoors, the 7 Rivers Region is blessed with fabulous opportunities.
From boating to biking and birding to hiking, you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
There are gorgeous state parks and national wildlife refuges along the Mississippi River.
Our pristine trout streams bring tourists from throughout the United States.
The Mississippi hosts national fishing tournaments.
Area lakes and rivers are terrific for kayaking, canoeing and boating, as well as fishing.
You’ll find plenty of wildlife – and our deer hunting is a huge tourist draw.
The region is a key leg of the Mississippi Flyway. You can see more than 325 bird species make the round-trip each year, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
An annual feature is the visit of flocks of snowy-white pelicans and tundra swans.
The bald eagle soars along the Mississippi and the feeds off the fish in area rivers
Biking and hiking in the bluffs is great sport.
If you prefer motorized outdoor fun, the snowmobile and ATV trails of Jackson County are a particular treat.
If you want to stay in the car or ride your motorcycle, there are scenic vistas.
Take a spectacular drive along the Great River Road – much of it along America’s Main Street, the Mississippi River.
Our, marvel at the historic Mindoro Cut.
The 7 Rivers Region is the Apple Capital of the Upper Midwest, and the fall harvest brings great apples and fun festivals to celebrate autumn.
During the summer, check out a pizza farm – wood-fired pizza served under a beautiful sky at one of several rural retreats.
And, if you enjoy a beverage, you’ll find plenty of wineries and craft breweries throughout the 7 Rivers.
Tourism is a strong part of the economy. The La Crosse Center is the largest civic center in the region, but there are a number of smaller venues that host business and civic groups.
There’s plenty to do and see – countless opportunities for enjoying our history, arts, recreation and culture.
Coulee is a French word for a valley or ravine and it’s what we call the unique region that covers nearly 15,000 square miles of southwestern Wisconsin,
southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa.
It’s also a land sometimes called the Driftless Area, a region that was not scoured by the glaciers during the last Ice Age. And so 12,000 years ago
the land-leveling mountains of ice moved around our region, leaving us with the rugged hills and bluffs, the remnants of a vast inland sea from hundreds of millions of years ago.
It’s a region blessed with verdant valleys and hundreds of spring-fed streams that flow into rivers before becoming one with one of the mightiest rivers in the world. The Mississippi River was once the transportation lifeblood of the region – a role it still plays today – but provides a recreational playground for fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, bird-watching enthusiasts.
Mark Twain once described the beauty of the region: The majestic bluffs that overlook the river, along through this region, charm one with the grace and variety of their forms, and the soft beauty of their adornment. The steep verdant slope, whose base is at the water’s edge is topped by a lofty rampart of broken, turreted rocks, which are exquisitely rich and mellow in color -- mainly dark browns and dull greens, but splashed with other tints. And then you have the shining river, winding here and there and yonder, its sweep interrupted at intervals by clusters of wooded islands threaded by silver channels; and you have glimpses of distant villages, asleep upon capes; and of stealthy rafts slipping along in the shade of the forest walls; and of white steamers vanishing around remote points. And it is all as tranquil and reposeful as dreamland, and has nothing this - worldly about it -- nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.
The region’s largest city – and Wisconsin’s largest on the Mississippi – is La Crosse, which was supposedly named by French explorers who saw Native Americans playing a game with a leather ball and a curved stick that looked similar to the la crozier stick carried by French bishops. The city was permanently settled beginning in 1841.
The region’s forests gave birth to the first major industry – logging and sawmills. There were more than two dozen sawmills that employed more than 4,000 people, sending billions of square feet of lumber downstream that were used to help build a nation.
The hills and valleys of the region drew European settlers who found land similar to home. Agriculture became an important part of the region, along with the smaller communities that grew. The region is a cultural melting pot with many nationalities and religions represented.
Today the region welcomes more than 1 million visitors a year. Whether you’re here on business or pleasure, there are many things to do, many things to see and many places to eat, drink or be entertained.
Bluff to bluff
To capture a spectacular view of the river valley, follow Main Street to Grandad Bluff, the highest point east of La Crosse. The bluff is 1,183 feet above sea level and 590 feet above the city. From a newly renovated observation deck you will witness the panoramic view of three states.
From the west side of the bluffs drive along La Crescent’s Apple Blossom Scenic Drive, where there are impressive views of the prairie and Lake Onalaska. You can also see Lock and Dam No. 7, part of the Mississippi River’s lock and dam system.
Take Hwy. 16 – a National Scenic Byway -- south of La Crescent to Hokah and pick up Hwy. 44 for a visit to Caledonia, named the Wild Turkey Capital of Minnesota and center of the Quilting the Countryside project, where 60 beautifully painted wooden quilts grace rural barns throughout the county.
Enjoy and explore the mighty Mississippi River.
From the shore you can walk in Riverside Park in downtown La Crosse or go across the bridge to Pettibone Park. There are also daily sightseeing cruises or backwater cruises as well.
Western Wisconsin is home to production of one of North America’s native fruits – the cranberry.
The berries are grown in beds where there is an adequate supply of water and sand. The vines mblossom in late June or early July and are harvested in the fall when the beds are loaded and the berries float to the surface of the water.
Head to the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens to learn about the heritage of the cranberry industry, take a guided tour or take a self-guided tour.
Warrens is called the Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin. Within a 15-mile radius there are more than 2,500 acres of cranberries that produce an average of 40,000,000 pounds of cranberries annually.
Dining and night life
Dining and night life exploration in the Coulee Region is limited only by your time. There are award-winning restaurants in historic buildings to traditional supper clubs to ethnic eateries. There’s pizza and pub food and many taverns to enjoy beer, wine and other drinks.
Whether you enjoy riding trails or roads, the Coulee Region boasts some of the best bicycling in the country. There are more than 160 miles of flat limestone trails that are part of the state trail system.
The city of Sparta, the Bicycling Capital of America, is in midst of the trail system and is where the first rail bed was converted to a trail. There are also excellent road riding opportunities on both sides of the river, from flat highways to roads that snake through the coulees and over the ridges. The opportunities are numerous.