Re-Discover! America’s Great River Road

Sunny days, green bluffs and sparkling Mississippi River remind us that fun and socially responsible activities are all around us…and not limited just to our beautiful parks!! The Great River Road offers easily accessible scenic overlooks, fishing spots, historic side routes to tiny towns with big stories to share, and a fabulous opportunities for watching large wildlife. Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Egrets, herons, pelicans, and Trumpeter swans are not hard to spot on a day’s drive. Take a picnic lunch and a copy of the nearest Volume of DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD and make each day memorable!!

Check out all our Mississippi River products online at www.greatriverarts.com Are you a Kindle reader? Yes! Books are also available online at Amazon’s Kindle books and in regional gift shops along the river.

at Middleton and Great River Publishing have provided fascinating detail on life along the Mississippi River since 1987! The Mississippi River Activity Guide for Kids will provide summer structure for the elementary aged kids. In Volumes 1 (Upper), 2 (Middle), 3 Lower, 4 (Delta) of Discover! America’s Great River Road, Pat becomes your “friend on the road” providing in-depth background on everything you see along the Mississippi River. Father’s Day is a great time to gift your Dad a fascinating regional book or an historic map he will REALLY LOVE. Check out all our Mississippi River products online at www.greatriverarts.com

Sandhill Chicks Exploring the Homestead!

2009 2 chicks hatched successfully!

One of my all time favorite snapshots of the Sandhill Cranes with chicks in 2009. While the chicks (colts) are still quite small, the adults take them strolling through meadow, marsh, and even the pond.

Chick in Front, Dad in shade

May 6, 2020 and our single chick was hatched right on time, in the same locale as the parents have nested for the past 14 years. This year, I noted how very quiet and secretive they were around the nest. The second adult was alway on guard, well away from the nest, quite visible, but always on task. I think having an Eagle in the neighborhood has taught them to be far more cautious than they were in the first ten years!!

Exploring the Galapagos Islands!

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT

The Galapagos Island cruise reports are among our most popular Waterway Cruise Reports.. .

The best part of traveling the Galapagos is an amazing up close and persoal experience with the wildlife who call it home. This seal really loved my backpack!

PART TWO of OUR WATERWAYS CRUISE REVIEW OF VISITING THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS…. Click HERE to read PART ONE.

Alex was our preferred naturalist… mainly because of his love of the islands, and because of his 20 years of experience! But for those whose personal perspective is that this was a “vacation” and no “mandatory learning” was allowed, we had a second naturalist whose main focus was “learn a little” and have a great time! Every Galapagos naturalist today is professionally trained to interpret and protect this unique natural heritage.

On my first open ocean snorkeling excursion, I panicked and clung to the ladder.

“Alex,” I urged, “don’t wait for me. I’ll just hang here for a while.”

“I don’t go anywhere unless you decide to come with me, or get back in the boat,” he explained. “I don’t leave you in the water alone.” I felt absolutely safe with Alex from that point forward.

Snorkeling, panga rides, and kayaking were all available options for daily water-based activities. Snorkeling was by far the most popular… Turtles, white-tipped sharks, swimming with sea lions, and even “circling-up” when visited by several hammerhead sharks provided highlites on our Galapagos cruise. Oh yes, and we were joined by a pod of leaping dolphins during one of many memorable panga excursions!

“I really could not believe it was ME out there snorkeling with Hammerhead sharks!” one Minnesota passenger exalted.   And sea turtles were ABUNDANT in the clear waters!
 

Twice each day, the naturalists led us ashore for an island hike. An afternoon nap was mandatory, so that everyone had the energy to do the really important stuff… like hiking among the booby’s and iguanas, and magnificent Frigate Birds.

The AMAZING thing is  that these creatures truly have no fear of humans!! It was as if we had entered into the Garden of Eden.

While it is not necessary to  be   a student athlete to visit the Galapagos Islands, for the first time on any cruise, we found ourselves to be among the older visitors, rather than the younger!

It IS necessary to be able to hike for a mile or two… some of it over rocky lava surfaces, or up and down short steep slopes.

“Wet landings” are common, so be prepared to swing your legs over the side of a rubber panga and in the gentle surf!

I did bring two pieces of “gear” that I found incredibly useful…trekking poles that could be unscrewed to fit in a small carry-on suitcase, and lightweight Salomon’s “Amphibian” style hiking shoes with webbing. The trekking poles worked great when we were on lava rocks.

The specialized water/hiking shoes were great for wet landings. The webbing meant shoes dried quickly. The hiking soles stuck like glue to wet rock and afforded comfortable cushioning for the rest of the hike.

Casual dress is definitely the order of the day for this cruise!

Lisa’s beautiful maps are also available on Textiles!! If you are planning a wedding, family reunion or other activities on a tropical island, textiles make great gifts for the whole group!!  Click this link to see Options!

To Our Valued Past and Present Wholesale Customers

With the uncertainty of the current moment, Lisa and I just wanted to take a moment to reach out to our past and present customers to let you know that Great River Publishing and Great River Arts are open as always for our precious Wholesale Customers and online purchases.

Our fresh printing of Michael Gillespie’s rail and steamboat era anthologies, Lisa’s newly printed 25′′ 1858 Plantation maps, our timeless favorites, the Father of Waters Ribbon Map and our 4 Volumes of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road are ready to ship TODAY, Click blue links to see products directly online.

Lisa is prepared for your online wholesale orders at her shopping cart at www.greatriverarts.com Click SHOP to enter the shopping cart and use the code patspecial at checkout and the cart will zero out and we will invoice you manually as we always have, at the same wholesale pricing you expected from Great River Publishing. ( All online purchasers can continue to purchase online with no special code and no minimum purchase! Use keywords in the SEARCH button to find any of Lisa’s beautiful 400 map paintings and destinations.)

Your wholesale telephone order, email order, or other queries are always welcome!! Email: mapart@greatriverarts.com or Lisa at: 406.471.7563

Friends, we more than thank you for your continued support. Many of you have been buying our book, maps, note cards for close to 30 years! It’s hard to express how much I (Pat) have appreciated you through the years. If you have any questions. or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Although Lisa will be taking over the bulk of our wholesale business, always, feel free to contact me … with questions, concerns, or a bit of tutoring on Lisa’s www.greatriverarts.com


Drainage Map of the Mississippi River and its Tributaries. Some Facts and Figures

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!
For Jack, who wants to know more about all the tributaries of the Mississippi River: how many there are,  their names, and how long they are!
NPS.gov watershed tributaries

There are some 250 tributaries of the Mississippi which drain a total area of more than 1,247,000 square miles–one third of the nation’s landmass–extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west!

We start here with quick facts on the Mississippi River and several navigable tributaries! Please follow links for a little more depth of historical interest and to see our collection of hand-painted maps!

The Mississippi River, from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, is approximately 2,348 miles long. The combined reach of the Missouri-Mississippi Rivers is 3,741 miles–a length exceeded only by the Amazon and Nile rivers. The Mississippi River has shortened by several hundred miles since the days of Mark Twain. Even today it varies 30-50 miles each year.

The widest navigable part of the Mississippi is Lake Pepin, on the Upper Mississippi, where it is approximately 2 miles wide. The average current flows from 1.2 miles per hour nearer Lake Itasca, and about 3 mi per hour nearer New Orleans. Our historic Mississippi River Ribbon Map has been a best-selling Gift for many years.

Yes! The Mississippi River map can be ordered FRAMED and delivered to loved ones from Great River Arts as a uniquely treasured Father’s Day or Mother’s Day Gift!

“This is a beautiful map!! My whole life is on this map! My home town, the towns where my kids live, even New Orleans, my favorite place to vacation!”

TRIBUTARIES OF THE MISSISSIPPI River  … Watershed map
U.S. Geological Survey EROS Center


Remember the great Mississippi River Flood of 1993? It wasn’t just the Mississippi River flooding that wreaked havoc, it was that all those tributaries flooded as well! At one point, the volume of water flowing past St. Louis was eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls!! You may also want to check out our interactive map of which of the tributaries are at flood stage today! Click INTERACTIVE MAPS in the category list, right hand column, to see where the tributaries are at flood level TODAY!!

Lisa now offers her own custom ribbon map designs of both the OHIO RIVER and the Missouri River. Please click on any map image for more info on the map or the tributary. Or PHONE 888-255-7726 to order any map. Click on map images for more info on the tributaries.

192 Missouri River Ribbon Map
017 Arkansa Territory 1827
The Arkansas River forms in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and meanders 1,450 miles through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  It is the main water source for the state of Arkansas.Click here to see
more Arkansas River facts and Artisan Maps by Lisa Midd

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Ohio River Ribbon Map

The Ohio River is the second major tributary of the Mississippi. It is formed in Pittsburgh by the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela River and travels about 980 miles to Cairo, Illinois, and the Mississippi River. Interestingly, today’s Ohio River Basin is approximately the northern extremity of the ancient shallow sea that is represented today by the Gulf of Mexico! Consider that nearly 1/3 of the nation’s water drains past the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers at Fort Defiance in Cairo, Illinois!  

Click here to see more Ohio River facts and Artisan Maps by Lisa Middleton

The Illinois River

Illinois River Ribbon Map

The Illinois River, cutting through steep rocky bluffs, runs approximately 273 miles (439 km), with some 60 miles of scenic water. It flows through the heart of the State of Illinois, and links the great rivers of the American West with the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.

Historically, the Illinois River has had a significant impact on the state’s economy, communities, and peoples. Long before Europeans discovered America, indigenous tribes inhabited the Illinois River Valley and settled on the riverbanks, creating a river culture of their own. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet surveyed the region, canoeing up to the Illinois River via the Mississippi River, hoping to find a route linking the Great Lakes to the Illinois River and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the Illinois and Michigan Canals are the evidence that their vision became reality.

And for fun, checkout our fascinating 1841 STEAMBOAT MAP OF ILLINOIS
lists all the steamboat stops and distances along the Illinois River and the Mississippi, Ohio and Vermillion Rivers!

Wonderful detail!

119 1841 Steamboat Map of Illinois

Planning for an upcoming CRUISE? We’ve featured several of our SMALL BOAT CRUISE destinations here!
WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS

Dreaming of a Small Boat Cruise through the Galapagos Islands?

For the moment, at the peak of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, dreaming is all we can do responsibly!! but there are many glorius spring island destinations we can dream of!  

For more great ISLAND DESTINATIONS, both within and without our US Borders, click here to see maps and destinations from map Artist, Lisa Middleton, at  greatriverarts.com

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT

The Galapagos Island cruise reports are among our most popular Waterway Cruise Reports..  For most of us, the biggest puzzle pieces in putting together a small boat cruise are… “Who shall I travel with, and, when should I go?” 

209 Custom map of the Galapagos Islands Original fine art map of the Galapagos Islands, by Lisa Midleton. Greatriverarts.com  Add some magic to the walls we must look at just now!! Please Click this link for details.

Our May visit featured rich, green plant-life and fair skies. Every bird species, from finch to Albatross, lizard to seal lion seemed to be nesting, mating, and feeding with abandon. But, honestly, most species in the Galapagos are opportunistic when it comes to reproduction… one month is as good as another for attracting a mate and raising a brood. And any time you have the opportunity to visit these amazing islands will be perfect for you!!! 

WHO to travel with is another matter. A rule of thumb, is that smaller vessels rate better access to islands in the Galapagos. But we didn’t really want to risk chartering a small sailing boat with minimal amenities and an unknown operator. So we had an eye out for a slightly larger vessel, with a luxury tradition. We discovered the 32-passenger Galapagos EVOLUTION and Quasar Expeditions, it was clear sailing… especially in hind-sight…everything about this cruise and our eventual visit to the Andes highlands turned out to be immensely satisfying! With 32-passengers, a sleek classic yacht design, a modern, informative web-site, and luxury ratings for meals and accommodations, the EVOLUTION seemed to be our vessel.

 Quasar Expeditions is one of the oldest cruise operators in the Galapagos. The family has offered cruises of the Galapagos since the 1980s and offered us trouble-free travel planning… both cruise passengers had the advantage of knowledgeable and passionate naturalists, excellent food, and superb access to the islands. Quasar also organized our week-long land tour in the Andes highlands around Quito… Our driver and English-speaking guide took a personal interest in our satisfaction from the moment they picked us up at the airport to the moment they waved us off the Tarmac.

While Quasar Expeditions is an Ecuadoran company, every contact we had was with an English speaking individual.  From website to office staff, the company is positioned specifically to deal with English-speaking populations.

 “The understanding that we are an English-speaking company makes it easier for us to garner the finest crew, naturalists, and to meet the expectations of an English-speaking clientel,” I was told. “Plus, we don’t just want you to come and enjoy the islands, we want you to leave the EVOLUTION with a new cadre of FRIENDS. That just happens more easily if everyone speaks the same language.”

Click here to see MORE about the unique creatures and activiities on the Islands!

Lisa’s beautiful maps are also available on Textiles!! If you are planning a wedding, family reunion or other activities on a tropical island, textiles make great gifts for the whole group!!  Click this link to see Options!

Charting Our Course

A note from map artist, Lisa Middleton
Friends,we are all charting the course day by day in this confusing time. It seems if we miss the news a single day, everything changes the next, and the world is upside down. Kudos to all of you who are staying home to save lives! My sincerest regards to those who are personally affected by COVID-19. Thank you to those in essential industries who keep the world turning at times like this.

Maps represent our human experiences, memories, and a thousand little stories of the ancestors who beat impossible odds to create the historical maps we hold in our hands today. Our current circumstances are no less difficult, and we can chart the course together, day by day.

What makes our Museum Quality Prints Special

Our maps are unique in the industry! You may have loved ones who had to cancel their vacation, or know of a young couple who had to cancel their wedding or honeymoon. Maybe there is a grandparent in your life who has to be alone in quarantine thousands of miles away from you. There is no better way to tell them you care than to send them a map of a memory, a family legacy or even their dream!

“In her hands, a torn black-and-white 1883 plat of Montana Territory blossoms into a vividly colored snapshot of what the land once was. It remains a map by definition, but by execution it is now an ornate showpiece fit for the living room wall, touched by an artist’s hand with its essential purpose still intact.”
Myers Reese, Montana Quarterly Fall, 2014

We invite you to browse our galleries of more than 400 antique, Mississippi River, East Coast, West Coast, and original custom designed map art at Great River Arts…. greatriverarts.com !! Enter a key word in the orange SEARCH BOX at the top of the map page to explore the cartographer, the year, region or title that is meaningful to you. We hope you enjoy this gift of art and history!!

Leucistic or “White Phase” Birds.

I have been thoroughly enjoying a conversation on the Wisconsin Bird network online list. The chatter just now includes quite a bit about leucistic birds in Wisconsin… apparently it all started when someone reported a leucistic pileated woodpecker that returns annually to the same area. This fellow, while mostly white, retains its red crest!

Leucistic Turkey Vulture

Every so rarely a genetic WHITE PHASE appears in animals that are normally not white (except as albinos). But leucistic birds (deer, bear, moose!) are not albinos, and they can have s matters of white and smatterings of more colored feather, fur, or skin.

Albinism is a condition in which there is an absence of melanin. Melanin is what is present in the skin and is what gives skin, feathers, hair and eyes their color. … Leucism is only a partial loss of pigmentation, which can make the animal have white or patchily colored skin, hair, or feathers

The pictures on this page show not albinos, but a “white phase” or leucistic variation of the various species. Unfortunately, things are never as easy as you think that they should be!

John, from Mercer, Wis., contacted a genetistic who added the following information:

The literature on albinism clearly states that there are different kinds of albinism, and that some albinos may show some color in their irises – often a light blue or gray. An animal can be a pure albino or a partial albino. The most critical factor in producing melanin, the organic pigment that produces most of the color seen in mammals and birds, is the presence of a special enzyme called tyrosinase – the “TYR” gene (google this for all sorts of technical treatises). If the TYR gene fails completely, an all-white, light-eyed albino animal will be born. However, the TYR gene can be altered in dozens of ways, producing other albino variations, such as albinos with light eyes but with some color on their fur.

What caught my attention in the conversation was a post from Maryland. She commented that most leucistic animals she hears about seem to come from Wisc., Minn, and the Northwest.

“Does anyone know why that is?” she queried. Numerous learned responses indicate that it is entirely genetic, and not more common in the North.

That got me thinking about some of theories that abounded about birds, white buffalo, deer, and other such white or “Spirit Creatures” in the early 2000s.

Then, popular theory seemed pretty settled that these “white phase” or “Spirit” creatures are expressing recessive genes that helped to protect the species during the ice ages. I saw data which I didn’t save which demonstrated how quickly dark mammals would turn white as the dark animals turned into prey and those with a recessive white gene began to multiply.

In Wisconsin, a northern game warden told me that in his life time, he’s heard of two white phase bear cubs… both in the vicinity of Superior, Wisconsin. Hmmm… makes sense. The same game warden has seen only one white phase sparrow… nearly 40 years ago. I saw a white English sparrow in our yard a few year ago.

I wonder if the white phases of various birds of prey are also expressing recessive genes related to living along the edge of glaciers? I’ve also heard of Mississippi River islands with concentrations of white phase muskrats, and white phase deer  I’d love it if you could share photos of your “white phase” creatures for use in a future feature article.

Anonomous Photo, White Phase Black Bear Cub, near Superior, Wisconsin

Above is a very rare “white” black bear cub photographed in the west. Also known as Kermode or “spirit” bears. Normally found only in areas where the recessive white gene was encouraged by small populations cut off from the larger populations, probably by glacier formations. The white gene would have been advantageous to bears living on the edge of the snowfields.

Pelican Watch!

Checked out the river yesterday for American White Pelicans. Some success! As I saw a small group doing their “string of pearls” south of Goose Island along Wis 35. Also a report from southern Wis so they should be here in large numbers soon!

Sandhill Cranes Across the State!

I have been checking the Wisconsin Bird Network frequently and seeing reports of Sandhill Cranes (and Trumpeter Swans) across the State since early February… in fact even in January! They may even have over-wintered in some few locations to south, as I heard a bit about last year!

Pool 8 of the Mississippi River
Beautiful POOL 8 Map Design by Lisa Middleton!
Click here to view map DETAILS.

“Your work is beautiful.  We ordered Pool 8.  It will look perfect above our mantel. As a plus – our home is near the center of the image. Could not have commissioned a better map!”
~Mark D., Pool 8

What I keep track of here however, is when we first see/hear Sandhill Cranes in our Pool 8 valley… and yesterday, March 8, was the first “hearing” of the year for us. It was very distant, however, and we haven’t “seen” them yet.

All other spring birds are being reported, and where there is still ice on the river, bald eagles are clustering. Nest sites are busy! No word of pelicans yet, but they follow very closely on the breakup of the ice! Happy Early Spring Birding!