Nelson Dewey State Park

Quick Facts

Nelson Dewey State Park

Wisconsin

(608) 725-5374

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Nelson Dewey State Park is located in southwest Wisconsin, just an hour north of Dubuque, Iowa. Take in a panoramic view of the Mississippi from a campsite atop the river bluffs. Tour the home of Wisconsin's first governor or relive history at Stonefield Village which covers 756 acres. Outdoor opportunities abound at Nelson Dewey State Park.

Long before prospectors discovered lead in southwestern Wisconsin and Marquette and Juliet canoed the Wisconsin River, Native Americans hunted the valleys and ridges, fished the Mississippi River, and raised food near their village in the shadow of the bluffs. Remains of these occupations hold clues to the lifestyles and activities of the people who lived here so long ago.

Three groups of burial mounds and two village sites have been found within the boundaries of Nelson Dewey State Park. Artifacts from the villages indicate that this area was inhabited as early as 7,000 years ago. The oldest burial mounds in the park may be more than 2,000 years old. Most of the mounds appear to have been built between A.D. 500 and 900.

Map of Nelson Dewey (WI)

Latitude, Longitude: 42.740985, -91.033600

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Activities

  • Boating

    The Mississippi river runs adjacent to the park.

  • Bird Watching

    Nelson Dewey State Park is in one of the North American bird migratory flyways, Mississippi Flyway. Stop in the office and pick up an "Audubon Great River Birding Trail" guide or the "Birds of Nelson Dewey State Park" bird list to get started.

  • Camping

    Nelson Dewey State Park has campsites for individuals and families and small and large groups. Groceries and other camping supplies and a laundromat are available in Cassville, about two miles from the park. The Cassville Lions Club sells firewood near the dump station in the faimly campground.

    The family campground, with 45 individual wooded sites, is on a bluff top more than 300 feet above the Mississippi River. there is substantial brush growing between the sites. There are 16 sites with electrical hookups and four walk-in tent sites.

    A group camping area can accommodate up to 40 people on 3 separate sites for a total of 120 people. Each site has a large camping area, picnic tables, and a large fire ring. A shelter, toilets, and water are available in the group camp.

  • Fishing

    Anglers can test their luck in the Mississippi River.

  • Hiking

    There are several trails in the park which total about three miles in length.

  • Historic Sites

    Three groups of burial mounds and two village sites have been found within the boundaries of Nelson Dewey State Park. Artifacts from the villages indicate that this area was inhabited as early as 7,000 years ago. The oldest burial mounds in the park may be more than 2,000 years old. Most of the mounds appear to have been built between A.D. 500 and 900

    There are three kinds of mounds in Nelson Dewey State Park:

    Conical or dome-shaped mounds Linear or long mounds Compound mounds, a rare expression of conical and linear mounds connected in a chainlike arrangement. The Dewey mound groups were first brought to national notice by Colonel P. W. Norris, an archaeologist working for the Smithsonian Institution. He visited the Dewey farm in the 1880s, and wrote that the land was "literally dotted with mounds and other works." Many mounds had already been damaged by farming and soil borrow. Norris noted that the mounds had continued to be used for burial long after mound-building ceased. Later Native Americans dug into preexisting mounds, creating what archaeologists called "intrusive" burials.

    The mound groups are an expression of important social and ceremonial activity. Each mound was built with hundreds of basket loads of soil, many carried a great distance to the mound. Some mounds show a preconstruction outline carved into the ground to keep mound builders"inside the lines" of the original design. It is known that many individual mounds were built over a long period of time, in some cases several hundred years.

    Many functions have been suggested for the mound groups. Some say they were used to mark hunting territories, or others say important astronomical events. Some believe that they commemorate a clan or ancestor. Most are known to contain human burials. Mounds have been designated burial sites and they are protected by laws of the State of Wisconsin and by federal law. Please respect these sites as they are sacred areas to many.

  • Picnicking

    Facilities--There are two picnic grounds within the park equipped with tables, grills, and restrooms. Accessible accommodations are available near the Dewey Heights Picnic Shelter.

    Supplies-- No picnic supplies are provided at the park, but you can buy them in nearby Cassville.

    Fires--Please confine your fire to a designated fireplace, fire ring, or charcoal grill. Do not leave it unattended at any time. Extinguish it before you leave.

    Shelter--Planning a wedding, family reunion, anniversary party, or a get together with friends or family? Reserve the picnic shelter in the park. Contact the park office for details.

  • RVing

    There are 16 sites with electrical hookups

  • Water Sports

    The Mississippi river runs adjacent to the park.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Nelson Dewey State Park's high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and native and restored prairies attract varied birds and wildlife.

  • Winter Sports

    Winter offers quiet solitude that is often hard to find during the rest of the year. Bald eagles, frequent winter residents, are often seen from the bluffs. Bald Eagle Days is an annual winter festival in Cassville.

    In winter, other wildlife is common in the park, with wild turkeys becoming especially abundant.

    The park takes on a whole new look when the thick summer brush dies and viewing is much easier. Investigate some of the hidden valleys and maybe find the old lead mine or quarry that once operated on the park grounds. Visit the park in the winter and see it from a different perspective.

    Camping is available throughout the winter. The toilet/shower building normally is closed from mid October until late April. During this time water is available near the office at the park entrance.

Seasonality/Weather

Open year-round.

Park Partners

Friends of Stonefield State Historical Site and Nelson Dewey State Park

The friends group promote the properties, provide interpretive and educational programs for visitors, coordinate volunteer services and provide financial support to Stonefield and Nelson Dewey State Park.

Directions

Driving

From State Highway 33 in Cassville, take County Highway V V northwest about a mile. The park entrance will be on your right and Stonefield Village Historic Site on your left.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(608) 725-5374

Campground reservations

(888) 947-2757

Links