Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A sweeping valley view from Grandad Bluff in La Crosse October 20, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Grandad's Bluff, 89 valley view 1


LATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON and the sun lights and shadows La Crosse. High above this Wisconsin city just across the Mississippi River from Minnesota, I am aiming my camera toward the valley below. With a bit of trepidation. Even though I am securely fenced atop the nearly 600-foot high Grandad Bluff, I am still unnerved by the height.


Grandad's Bluff, 94 railing on overlook


Yet, after awhile, I grow comfortable enough to edge to the railing and fire off shots of the scene below. Houses and colleges. Gridded streets. Water and sky and backdrop of bluffs. Trees, oh, the trees. With a view like this, it is not surprising that some 100,000 visitors come to Grandad Bluff annually.


Grandad's Bluff, 91 valley view 2


Despite the cold and fierce wind, admirers of autumn, like me, have driven to this bluff  park to appreciate the valley view. It is not an ideal time of day to shoot photos here, looking to the west in the late afternoon. But I manage.


Grandad's Bluff, 90 lookout point


Year after year after year, autumn still grabs my heart unlike any other season in the Midwest. Memories of riding in the family car along the gravel roads of the Minnesota River Valley from near Granite Falls east to Morton each fall remain a vivid visual from decades ago. But not until my daughters aimed east for college, one to the Mississippi River town of Winona and the other to La Crosse, did I discover the rugged river valley beauty of this region. This pocket corner of southeastern Minnesota and into Wisconsin is now a favorite to tour as the leaves change color. Anywhere along and near U.S. Highway 61 really.


Grandad's Bluff, 93 valley view 3


Oftentimes I reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a state like Minnesota with such a diverse terrain of prairie and rolling hills, river bluffs, woods and lakes and rivers. So much packed into our state and neighboring Wisconsin.


Grandad's Bluff, 87 red-haired girl


In this final month before winter grips the land, I savor scenes like that which unfolded before me Friday afternoon high atop Grandad Bluff. Soon enough trees will stand naked in the valley. Waterways will ice over. And images of this October day will remain in a computer photo file labeled La Crosse, and in the memory bank of my mind.


Grandad's Bluff, valley view 4


Grandad's Bluff, 86 standing atop post to take photo


This sculpture, installed in September, honors La Crosse resident Ellen Hixon. Sh saved this bluff from developers.

This sculpture, installed in September, honors La Crosse resident Ellen Hixon. She saved this bluff from developers. The bluff area became a park in 1912.

FYI: Check back for more stories from La Crosse.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


32 Responses to “A sweeping valley view from Grandad Bluff in La Crosse”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    You can sure tell it is harvest time for the haze of corn dust.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    Great views. I’ve never been to this overlook. Another wonderful overlook on the WI side of the Mississippi is in Alma – Buena Vista Park. Further down river from Alma and just North of La Cresent, Great River Bluffs State Park is great MN State park with grand views of the river valley as well.

  3. Marneymae Says:

    “She saved this bluff from developers”
    O how I love that Ms. Hixon was memorialized & thus known by visitors for such a generous deed.

  4. Beautiful Captures 🙂 Brings back memories of exploring with my family growing up as well as my adult years in MN. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Nice! I’ve heard of Grandad Bluff but never been there. Putting that one on the list.

  6. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow what beautiful photos.

  7. Expectational Says:

    Even back in 1912 people had to fight off overly aggressive developers.

  8. Jackie Says:

    Yes this is such a beautiful area in the fall, I have never personally been to this lookout but have been to Garvin lookout in Winona. I need to check out this one sometime. Thanks for sharing this beautiful fall with us!

  9. chlost Says:

    Those who live in the area call their little spot of the world “God’s Country”. Many family members from Lacrosse/LaCrescent. My dad and stepmother worked hard to maintain a little park on the bluff above LaCrescent. Now I wonder if it has been made into the state park noted in the previous comment. I’ll have to check!

  10. Beth Ann Says:

    What a lovely place and I am glad you overcame your trepidation so that we could all enjoy these views. Chris and I are going hiking tomorrow so hopefully we will have some great views of our own to share.

  11. treadlemusic Says:

    Too busy yesterday to read much of anything on the blogs!!! Playing quick ‘catch-up’ with yours. Glad to see you were brave enough to venture up the hill (our’s and Granddad’s)!!!!!!!

  12. Thread crazy Says:

    Beautiful area n fall colors are gorgeous. You captured them both well. Earlier this week a TV station was showing parts of Wisconsin and the beautiful fall colors. I too always love the fall season; I have many fond memories of raking and falling into pikes of leaves with my Dad. Plus going to pick out the perfect pumpkin, what a treat that was.

    • What wonderful memories. I remember building leaf houses by dropping leaves into rows to form rooms in “houses.” That’s my fondest childhood leaf memory.

      • Thread crazy Says:

        Oh how neat…hadn’t thought of doing that. We’d try to rake the leaves as high as we could get them. We’d even rake the neighbor’s yard..just to get more leaves. In the end, we’d either burn them or place under trees in yard. Fun times.

      • I don’t really recall jumping in leaf piles, only building those leaf houses. We have lots of leaves in our yard. Only one tree. But leaves from the entire neighborhood fall and blow into our yard.

  13. Sue Ready Says:

    Audrey, great vista views your lens captured-and looks like a lot of others thought it a perfect day to seek out autumn colors. yes we are lucky in Minnesota with the change of seasons.

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