Thursday, May 25, 2017

Houseboats on the Mississippi

"It's lovely to live on a raft.  We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our back and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened . . ." --Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Recently, the husband and I spent a couple of days driving around Wisconsin and down the Great River Road.  Some of the prettiest country I know is along the banks of the Mississippi in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Iowa and Illinois. It's not the most dramatic scenery in the world, but it has a simple, quiet, ancient beauty that soothes my soul.

On this last trip north, we accidentally missed a turn and crossed the Highway 25 bridge into Wabasha, Minnesota, which proved to be a fun detour.  We wound up spending the night in Winona.  In the morning, we decided to head back across the river to Wisconsin on Highway 43.  The highway crosses Latsch Island, also known as Island Number Seventy-Two. We hopped off the highway on the island and discovered a whole world of houseboats.

Houseboats along the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota

The houseboats vary greatly in style and quality.  Some are two story marvels that look like "regular" houses.  Others appear to be little more than hobo shacks, ramshackle affairs built of spare parts.  Many of the boats are hooked up to electricity, and some have TV antennas rising above the roofs.  There are several porta potties on the island, so I don't think they have plumbing (how could they?).  According to an NPR story I read, some of the houseboats are occupied year round. Can you imagine how cold they must get, not to mention problems with river ice?  While not for me, it looked like a laid-back life, filled with wildlife and beauty.

The Wagon Bridge on Latsch Island

The houses are best seen from an old bridge called the John A. Latsch Historical Wagon Bridge (or, of course, from the river itself).  We drove over the bridge (five miles per hour speed limit!) into Wisconsin, but had to turn around in a fishing camp because the road was blocked.  As we returned to the island, we had a marvelous view of the houseboats.  Not worried about traffic, we stopped on the bridge so I could snap some pictures.

By the way, you may remember how I rhapsodized about some battered cheese curds in Dubuque, Iowa back in January 2016.  I can also vouch for the Leinenkugel's battered curds at the Fill In Station in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  If you're ever in the area, check them out! 


  1. Not sure I can live on a houseboat, (summer time maybe?) but the view surely looks lovely!

  2. What a great trip you all must have had (and a very deserved trip for sure).... I've never been to that area --but would love it...

    Sometimes detours become the best part of a trip!!!!! Love it...

    Beautiful bridge---and I'm sure that those cheese curds are 'to die for'...


  3. What a fun ride! My husband is retiring in July and I am hoping for some restful, road trips like this. Those houseboats are so interesting.

  4. My SO is a river person. I'll send him a link to this post, as he is planning a "ramble" in that area some time this spring.

  5. I really enjoyed seeing your houseboat photos! Did you know I lived one by myself for 5 years? If you want to see photos google this "teresa kasner houseboat". Thanks for sharing.. I loved seeing the houseboats there along the shore.. here we have houseboat communities where they are all tied up to docks and have flush toilets that connect to the land sewers. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  6. SO beautiful. I can imagine such a tranquil life there. Thank you for taking us along with you on this wonderful trip.

  7. You are right about that river drive being one of the most beautiful with so many interesting communities and natural sites. Thanks for the road trip. You make me yearn to return to this region.

  8. Whau, that is very interesting. I have never heard about these houses before and it blows my mind to think some people live there permanently. It must be calm but I would worry about the furry of mother nature. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.


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