Grandad Bluff Park

3020 Grandad Bluff Road 
La Crosse, WI 54601

The Grandad Bluff Shelter can only be reserved for weddings with a 2 hour time limit.
Call 608.789.7533 to make a reservation.

Park Description

Grandad Park opened in 1912. Grandad Bluff is the largest bluff in the La Crosse area and is well-known for its scenic overlook of La Crosse. In addition to enjoying the breath-taking view, you can explore several bluffside hiking trails. Since the top of Grandad Bluff can be seen from most points in the city, it's home to an annual New Year's Eve fireworks celebration.

Park Amenities

  • Parking
  • Open Area
  • Restrooms
  • Overlook Area
  • Shelter
  • Trails

Park History

Grandad Park was started with the purchase of the land from the state by Judge George Gale (Galesville's namesake) in July 1851. Between 1851 and 1912, there were 83 property transfers. The last owner was Mrs. Ellis B. Usher, daughter of Henry Bliss, who had built the road to the top of Grandad (Bliss Road). Mrs. Usher transferred the deed to Joseph Hixon in 1909 until it could be transferred to the city. Quarrying began on the bluff in 1865.

Grandad Bluff was purchased using private donations from Mrs. Frank Hixon ($12,000), plus $3,000 from other La Crosse residents. $2,000 was raised for road construction. The purpose of Grandad Bluff was for park purposes, with a clause providing a site for a water reservoir. For park visitors, a parking lot was constructed 300' from the point in 1931.

A 22' x 29' shelter house was constructed by the WPA Program which cost $11,500 and using stone quarried from the south side of the bluff in 1938. In 1941, a 65' flag pole was erected by the La Crosse Chapter of Reserve Officers Association. The money contributed by the La Crosse school children was used for this project. Eleven years later, in 1952, a rustic split rail fence of native oak was constructed along with two new picnic areas with parking. 

To be protected from weather, the shelter house was enclosed and wired for electricity in 1954. About 10 years later restrooms were built for public use. In June 1975, a commemorative rock was placed at the top of Grandad Bluff near the parking lot which reads:

This bluff (commonly called "Grandad Bluff") was the site of the first complete service of Christian Divine Worship to be conducted in La Crosse. The Reverend Father James Lloyd Beck and his company of pioneer missionaries on the morning of June Twenty Third, the fourth Sunday after Trinity, Eighteen Hundred Fifty, climbed to the top of the bluff and celebrated the Holy Eucharist in accordance with the book of common prayer.

This commemorative marker dedicated on the one hundred twenty fifth anniversary of the occasion by Christ Church Parish in conjunction with the La Crosse County Historical Society and the cooperation of the City of La Crosse.

In 1976, a new pump house was constructed; it was donated by the La Crosse Building Trades Council. Four years later, in 1980, park employees completed the landscaping at the point, which included the steps and terrace. In 1984, the old flag pole was removed, new fencing replaced the old 1952 split rail fencing, and cement picnic tables were installed. Ten years later, a 75' flag pole was erected by the La Crosse Jaycees at a cost of $5,000.