The Nelson Unit
The Nelson Unit is at the immediate south edge of Bellevue, atop a 300 foot limestone bluff. Picnickers at the Nelson Unit can enjoy beautiful views of the Mississippi River. Picnic shelters may be reserved for $25 through the park office. The enclosed lodge is an ideal spot for group events such as wedding receptions and family events and is available on a reservation basis. No camping is allowed in the Nelson Unit.
The Dyas Unit
The Dyas Unit is two miles further south on US Highway 52. The Dyas Unit encompasses over five miles of foot trails, scenic overlooks, and a stream with aquatic and other wildlife. In winter, bald eagles concentrate to feed near the open waters below Lock and Dam 12. Crow sized pileated woodpeckers can be seen in isolated areas. The park contains a wide assortment of wildflowers and the hepatica which blooms in early spring is one of the most abundant. In late spring, Jacob's Ladder with its bell shaped flowers appears. Many ferns grow here, but the one that seems to belong to the limestone bluffs is the smooth cliffbrake.
South Bluff Nature Center
The South Bluff Nature Center in the Nelson Unit contains a variety of interesting displays on the plants, animals and geology of Bellevue State Park. The center is open seasonally and offers a variety of programs in the summer. The Nature Center is open 1:00 - 4:00p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays (other times by appointment). Call 563-872-4019
The Butterfly Garden is located nearby. This unique area contains over one hundred separate plots, each featuring plants which provide food and habitat for butterflies. A network of pathways allows visitors to walk through the garden and see a wide variety of butterflies as well as enjoy the beautiful array of flowers and the pond in the center.
Nine trails provide a variety of hiking opportunities.
- Overlook Trail leads to a scenic overlook of Bellevue, Lock and Dam 12 and a historic mill.
- Indian Mounds Trail winds past three conical Indian burial mounds constructed by Woodland Culture Indians between 500 B.C. and 1300 A.D. and leads to one of the most inspiring views along the river.
- Meadow Trail restarts at the South Bluff Nature Center. It wanders through a three acre prairie, past numerous habitat plantings, through food plots established for wildlife and past the butterfly garden. The trail also serves cross-country skiers.
- Quarry Trail travels through a quarry from which limestone was taken to construct some of the park facilities, and passes by a primitive lime kiln..
- Nature Trail is a short trail adjacent to the nature center that offers views of the local plants and animals.
- Deer Trail is a short trail adjacent to the campground that provides a look at the forested communities of the park.
- Bluff Trail brings visitors to scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River and winds down into a valley to connect with Duck Creek trail.
- Duck Creek Trail takes you to Duck Creek to discover the aquatic wildlife and their habitats. This trail may be inaccessible during high water events.
- Campground Trail provides an opportunity to explore areas adjacent to the camp area. The trail is mostly comprised of forested areas.