Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More on Wisconsin

Sunday was an R&R day. We got up late, had pancakes for breakfast while we watched the birds, turtles, and fish outside our RV window. The Wood River didn’t look like anything we could paddle, but it was a haven for wildlife activity. I read a paddling book I’d have to get back to the library as soon as we got home, and then went over the maps to lay out our return trip from Wisconsin to Oklahoma.

Phlox at James McNully Campground
In the afternoon, Jean wanted me to see the Crex Meadows that she had visited while I was on the St. Croix. Crex Meadows is a 30,000 acre wildlife area outside of Grantsburg. It is part of the 1,500 square mile Northwest Wisconsin Pine Barrens, a sandy plain left when the glaciers receded 13,000 years ago. The glaciers left countless pockets in the soil that now provide small, shallow lakes which are ideal for birds, waterfowl, and game.

In 1912, the Crex Carpet Company purchased 23,000 acres of the existing wildlife area to grow grass for the production of grass rugs until linoleum replaced grass as a floor covering. The decline of this market drove the carpet company into bankruptcy in 1933, but the Crex name remained. Through the depression and 1940’s, many people attempted agriculture in the barrens, but the soil was not adequate to support crops, and the lands were soon tax delinquent. In 1946, Wisconsin purchased the land to create the wildlife area.

Gathering pollen.
The DeLorme Atlases are great for finding every landing and access road in an area, so we followed the atlas down to the river’s edge at Norway Point to see the St. Croix north of the wildlife area. The National Park Service publishes a very nice set of maps showing all the camping areas, put-ins, and ramps along both the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, as well as all the facilities at each location. The NPS tries to keep segment maps in boxes along the route, but rather than risk some of them being missing from a location when we may need them, as soon as we returned home, I called the NPS and requested the full set of maps covering the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Their contact information is: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway; 401 N. Hamilton Street; St. Croix Falls, WI 54024.
Phone: 715-483-2274.

To have complete information on the area, I also obtained two books, Paddling Northern Wisconsin and Paddling Southern Wisconsin. Both are authored by Mike Svob, and they cover 27 rivers and 32 rivers respectively. While they are intended as reference books, I’ve read both cover to cover, and would strongly recommend them for anyone wishing to take advantage of the great paddling opportunities in Wisconsin. They include camping information, water levels, gradients, access locations, shuttle routes, river class, and maps for each run with mile markers. I only found two shortcomings in the books. Mike is a whitewater paddler, so he enjoys charging through any rapids, so information on portages around rapids is sparse. He considers any water that isn’t noisy and frothy to be dead water, so he ignores any information on connecting lakes along a riverway. These shortages are minor, and I still consider the books a great resource.

Last Christmas Jean also got me the DVD “River Trails of Southern Wisconsin,” done by Morrall River Films. It’s a less academic approach, but still very complete, and with the color video of the areas being paddled, the DVD is both entertaining and theraputic if weather or circumstance have you locked in the house too long. In any event, the final point to stress is that I’m greatly indebted to Rex Klein and the Great River Rumble for introducing me to this stunningly beautiful area. I can’t wait to get back. Let’s face it, with 59 rivers and 15,074 lakes in Wisconsin, each surrounded with natural beauty, interesting history, and wildlife, what more needs to be said. See you there!


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