Wisconsin
Complete Guide to Merrick State Park

Complete Guide to Merrick State Park

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Merrick State Park sits on a 322-acre piece of land along the banks of the Mississippi River. The park is one of the most prolific outdoor parks in the upper Mississippi area.

Complete Guide to Merrick State Park

Outdoor lovers visit this place all year round to engage in camping, boating, fishing, hiking, and other adventurous outdoor activities. Whenever you find yourself in the upper region of the Mississippi, visit the park to enjoy some of the outdoor fascinations that await here. 

History of Merrick State Park

Most of the land in Merrick State park was donated to the park in 1919 by John Latsch, a wealthy grocer who lived in this region. Latsch requested that the park be named after Merrick, a Civil War veteran who was also a proprietor and investor in the railroads in the county. The land became an official park in 1932. 

Merrick State Park Camping

Camping in Merrick State Park is an enjoyable affair. The campgrounds cater to both tent and RV campers. There are three different campgrounds here; the southern campground, the island campground, and the northern campground.

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There is a 50-people tent that caters to group campers. Each campground has resources and amenities such as flush toilets, running showers, dump stations, and recycling centers. All the campgrounds are close to the parking area. You can also access all the hiking trails and the river from these campgrounds easily. You can reserve a campsite before coming to the park up to 11 days in advance. 

The North Campground


This is the largest campground in the park. There are 25 campsites on this campground. 22 of these campsites have electrical hook-ups. One of the campsites caters to the disabled. This site has restrooms, showers, dump stations, and clean water stations that are accessible to disabled campers. This campsite is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The Island Campground

There are two group campsites here that cater to the people who love wild camping. Facilities and amenities in this campground include vault toilets, a log shelter, picnic tables, and a boat launching pad. There is also a landing area for anglers and fishing enthusiasts. 

The South Campground

The campground in the southern section of the park has 35 campsites. 28 of these campsites overlook the Fountain of Bay area, giving campers direct access to the river and fishing grounds. This section experiences seasonal floods. During this time, people are not allowed to camp here until the flood recedes. 

When camping inside this park, always adhere to Wisconsin’s State Park camping rules and regulations. Fires are not allowed inside the park. If you need to light a campfire, inquire from the main office how to go about that. You can buy firewood from the concessional stand here. You are not allowed to bring firewood from outside the park.

Merrick State Park Activities

There is so much fun to be had here – just look at all of the amazing activities you can partake in!

Merrick State Park Watersports

In the summer there is fun to be had scuba diving, fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, canoeing, and so much more!

Merrick State Park Fishing

The Mississippi River offers anglers an excellent opportunity to catch fish throughout the year. You can get free fishing equipment from the main office if you are a camper inside the park. Some of the fish species you can find in the river include bluegills, crappies, and small and largemouth bass.

Merrick State Park Swimming

Because of the boating and canoeing activities in the park, swimming is not a very popular activity here. The beach is sandy but the shoreline is small. The water sometimes turns green and murky because of the marshy weed.

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Merrick State Park Kayaking and Boating

The park is currently building more boat landings in several locations to allow easy access to the river. There is an active one at the north campground that is clean and accessible. Motorized boats are allowed here.

You cannot access this landing by car. You would have to pull your boat to a walkable landing on a sandy beach. However, you can still enjoy kayaking as long as you are willing to carry your kayak into the water.

The shore has large rocks that were placed there to prevent erosion. These rocks make it difficult to launch a kayak from the shore. The boat traffic may be intense at times, so be careful while you are in the water.

Kayaking and paddling are great ways to take in all the stunning views of the park and the surrounding landscape. There is a self-guided canoe trail near the lower boat landing. You will find canoe trail markings to direct you on your path. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at the park’s office. The canoes are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Merrick State Park Boat Rentals

The best way to enjoy the Mississippi river would be through a boat trip. People looking for a relaxing time watching the evening sun and enjoying the cool breeze on a boat will have an amazing moment here.

You can also rent a canoe, kayak, or boat from the main office. There are other rental places close to the park you can explore as well. There are two boat launches close to the campgrounds. You can choose to either hire a self-guided canoe or join a boat tour along the Mississippi. 

Merrick State Park Hiking

Merrick State Park Hiking

There are two miles of hiking trails that circle the park. The terrain of the hiking trails is level and ideal for all kinds of hikers, including disabled people. There are two popular hiking trails on this campground.

South Merrick State Park Trail

Length: 0.5 miles

This is a lightly trafficked loop trail. It takes you through a wetland and a hardwood forest while still offering you amazing views of the river shoreline. The trail is moderate and evenly elevated.

There is a boardwalk that overlooks the river. You can spend time watching birds and wildlife here as you enjoy an evening stroll. Be wary of the poison ivy that grows wildly along different sections of this trail.

North Merrick State Park Trail

Length: 3.0 miles

This is another loop that gives bird lovers the perfect opportunity to watch birds, take nature trips, and enjoy wildlife. It is a lightly trafficked trail near fountain city. The slight elevation makes this a perfect trail for all skills levels, including beginner hikers.

You will be passing via scenic places, close to the river where you will have a thousand chances to take beautiful photographs. There are massive pine trees in the narrow trail and well-built stone staircases in areas of high elevation. There is a boardwalk that overlooks the river. When you stand here, you will have the perfect opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and take beautiful photos.  

Merrick State Park Picnic Areas and Shelter

If you are camping with your family or friends, you can enjoy a picnic on one of the many picnic areas erected inside the State Park. Once you get inside the park, you will be offered a map that shows where all these tables are located along the Mississippi River.

The tables have been set strategically to allow the visitors to enjoy breathtaking views of the river, nature, and wildlife around them. The picnic area on the south section of the park near the boat launch area is open to pets. You need to follow the park’s guidelines and make sure that your pet is on a leash at all times. 

The playground is between the north and south campgrounds and close to the main parking lot. This area is a haven for your kids to play and enjoy themselves. The park has erected swings and slides for children to play safely. It is your responsibility to keep them safe as there is no guardian staff on site.

There are two picnic shelters inside this park:

Round Shelter

This is a small picnic shelter that was built in the mid-1930s. The shelter has picnic tables and grills that can accommodate a small group of people. There are vault toilets and shower facilities close to this shelter. This picnic shelter is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Nature Center Shelter

This is a larger shelter that can accommodate up to 60 people. It is close to a large picnic area. There is a small nature center that also acts as the park’s museum.

You will find exhibits detailing the history of the park inside this nature center. There are restrooms close. The nature center shelter is also close to the main parking lot of the park. There are grills and picnic tables erected near this shelter. There is a playground as well.

Merrick State Park Waterfowl Hunting

Deer and waterfowl hunting in Merrick State park occur in the adjacent Whitman Dam State Wildlife Area. You may need to have a license for this activity. Inquire about the hunting times, regulations, and licensing from the park’s office.

State of Wisconsin Hunting Information

Merrick State Park in Winter

winter in peninsula state park

Apart from ice fishing during the winter season, you can also visit the park for cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Most of the trails are not groomed or developed during this time.

When snowshoeing, you will enjoy watching wildlife and the solitude because the trails are usually deserted during this time of the year. Note that some campgrounds may be closed during the winter season.

Merrick State Park Ice Fishing

The strategic location of Merrick State Park along the banks of the Mississippi River offers excellent ice fishing opportunities. The park is also bordered by the National Wildlife and Fish refuge. Anglers can enjoy fishing in scenic spots along the river.

Bluegills, crappies, and small and largemouth bass can be found here in plenty. You can bring fishing gear or get free equipment (when in stock) from the park’s office. Ice fishing during the winter season is a popular activity here. 

During the summer season, fishing is regulated. You can check with the park’s office to learn more about this. When ice fishing, be cautious at all times because the park does not regulate or monitor the ice conditions. Most of the water in Merrick State Park is shallow with a lot of weed growth. These marshy areas offer excellent nesting spots for bass fish. The marshy waters also harbor egrets, muskrats, herons, and otters. 

The Winona dam is not far from the park and it offers excellent ice fishing opportunities during the winter season. There is a floating fishing pier for fishing walleyes on the Winona dam. You may require a license to fish here, so inquire about this from the park’s office before you go fishing. 

Merrick State Park Ice Fishing

Merrick State Park and Dogs

Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles. Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws on stray animals. 

ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t microchipped. If you do lose your pet you can contact the Buffalo County Humane Society at (715)-760-6150. 

Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations. 

Other animals like deer, chipmunks, squirrels, gray wolves, skunks, fishers, elk, and porcupines can be found there. 

Pets are not allowed in the following places: 

  • Buildings 
  • Picnic areas and picnic shelters 
  • Main Beach
  • Playgrounds 
  • Marked Nature Trails

No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered. 

Of course, if your dog is a service animal, those rules do not apply.

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Attractions Near Merrick State Park

Other attractions worth visiting near the park include:

  • Whitman Dam State Wildlife – for deer and waterfowl hunting
  • Fountain City Museum – For great collections of pre-historic Native American artifacts
  • Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum – to see unique sculptures created by Herman Rusch, a famous self-taught artist
  • Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge – to see numerous protected birds and other wildlife species.

Merrick State Park And Golf

Golf lovers camping inside the park will enjoy exploring different golf courses near Merrick State Park. Some of the best courses close to the park include:

  • Westfield Golf Club– 7.9 miles away
  • The Grove Golf Course – 6.2 miles away
  • Trempealeau Mountain Golf Club – 17.7 miles away
  • St Charles Golf Course – 19.9 miles away
  • The Bridges – 12.5 miles away

Merrick State Park Reviews

People who have visited this park in the past have a lot of wonderful things to say about the time they spent in the park. The campsites are large and flat, making it easy to park a large rig.

Most of the campsites have a beautiful view of the lake while still being shaded by the tall trees in the park. The sites are also secluded and peaceful. You will find grill grates and fire rings in almost every campsite. Boating on the Mississippi River and the Winona dam is an excellent way to spend a great time in the park.

The park is building other boat landings to make it easy for people to access these water bodies with motorized boats. The park is generally a beautiful and peaceful park to visit. The only downside is the noise as trains go by quite often, or the sound of your neighbor chopping firewood at 6 am.

There is a lot of concern about the park being very buggy, so carry your bug spray if you want to avoid those irritating creatures.

Directions to Merrick State Park

The easiest way to get to the park would be through Lake City Minneapolis. From Lake City, drive southeast for approximately 13 miles and then turn left onto Bridge Avenue for a quarter-mile.

Find your way to Wisconsin Highway 25 and then turn right into Wisconsin Highway 35. From there, drive for about 22 miles to Merrick Junction. Turn right at this junction and the entrance to the park will be on your right about a quarter of a mile away.

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