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!!

Woohoo! Tundra Swans by the thousands this morning!

Had the great joy this morning of seeing thousands of pristine white Tundra Swans along Wisconsin’s Hwy 35, just to south of Goose Island!  The sky was full of flying swans as well as swans filling the ponds.  When I returned 1/2 an hour later, the skies were empty and there were fewer swans on the water.

Tundra Swan

“So where did they go?” I asked another birder who was panning with his scope.

“Did you notice that the wind changed direction and picked up, since 11 a.m. ? That’s what some of them were looking for. They’ve already resumed their migration to Chesapeake Bay.”

I was also curious as to what he saw in the scope. “Any gray cignets (juveniles)?” He said, yes, a few, but indeed most were adults and most were not family groups. The first drop of migrating swans is normally the single swans rather than swans traveling with juveniles.

Finally, make a grand journey THIS WEEKEND along the Great River Road between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dubuque, Ia.  In addition to Swans in the pools north of Genoa, American Bald Eagles are migrating and we are flush with both our resident eagles and the eagles moving down from the north (more on this in a later piece). Remember to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.

BEST Fall color on the AQRichardFall Color will be in its waning weekend the next several days. Oaks are a rich rust color and some of the late coloring trees are still coming into color (it’s all in the genes!)

So hit the road!! There is lots to see! and don’t forget your copy of Discover! America’s Great River Road by River Author, Pat Middleton... your guide to eagle watching, regional history, Treasure Hunting, commercial fishing, and more!!! Order your copy of each of the four volumes which lead travelers from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico by CLICKING HERE!

Discover America's Great River Road, Vol 1 - St.Paul Minnesota to Dubuque Iowa By Pat Middleton

 

 

 

 

New Kindle Versions of our Most Popular Steamboat Book…and a Little Something Extra!

If your favorite River Buff has become a Kindle fan, we now have the following NEW Kindle Editions available for Pre-order for Christmas gifting this year!

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“Treasure Hunting” has been one of our most requested river topics through the years. Pirates, military trails, payroll caches, old maps and steamboat wrecks have all left tales of sudden death and unrecovered treasures. In the first of our Kindle “INSIGHT Series” we  have collected a number of our previously published favorite treasure hunting stories, how-tos, and resources available to the Treasure Prospector here on the upper Mississippi River.

One Man’s Treasure” is now available for pre-order in the Kindle Store. PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE, now, just $2.99!

bright Come Hell Cover VOL 1 Kindle
Our ever-popular steamboat anthology, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER by Michael Gillespie is newly available as a quality 2-Volume KINDLE edition. Filled with historic photos, witty commentary, footnotes, bibliography, Glossary and fascinating river facts and stories. Each Volume is purchased separately. 

Volume 1 PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE.   $9.95

 Volume 2 PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE.  $9.95

 

 

A scientific dig for artifacts

sifting at Goose Island 4th Graders at Southern Bluffs had a unique opportunity to work with educators, parents, and archaeologists during a recent archaeological survey at Goose Island.

The survey was required because of planned recreational development of the site. The processed involved digging several test holes to a depth of 45 inches. The dirt from the test holes was sifted and any artifacts were identified and labeled. Interestingly enough, one test hole showed a few chert shards, charcoal, and a bit of pottery. Nice!! Another yielded mostly brown/green glass and rusted bottle caps, while another did not yield anything.test hole

Students then began skimming dirt from an approximately 4×4 square, and recording anything found in layers of approximately 4 inches (10 centimeters). Both sifting and skimming were pretty hard work!

Artifacts shown here include Chert shards, a bit of shattered rock, charcoal and a reddish bit of clay pottery. What a great opportunity for the kids to do a supervised treasure
hunting!! artifacts

Trying Something New… E Chapter Books!

Ok, Friends, as Great River Arts is encouraging us to find new options for using our
30 years of River Content and Waterway Travel, I am trying out pdf and flipbook formats.

Here is link to our first Old Time Railroad Stories Flipbook Sample, by Michael Gillespie. If you prefer a .pdf for your hand-held device, try this: Railroad Stories .pdf

If you wish to have it as a kindle file on Amazon, let me know and we will post it there!

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Please have a look at our sampler links above and let me know what you think.

All of Mike’s books are now available at Amazon as both paperback and Kindle formats, as well as on our shopping cart at www.greatriverarts.com

I also have a Mississippi River Treasuring Hunting Guide based on one of our HEARTLAND BOATING project-114832feature stories, and I’d like to get a Winter Bald Eagle Pamphlet out before long.

Click this link for our TREASURE.pdf
and here for the Treasure flipbook.

Our idea is to offer shorter readings of perhaps 12 pages on specific topics, rather big chunks on the whole river. Your thoughts are welcome!

Special Pricing our most popular Book and Map RIVER BUNDLE… Great River Road/Mississippi River Guides and SAVE $30!

Perfect for Gift Giving! Need extra maps? Everyone who loves our 1887 map by Lisa Middleton will love Discover! America’s Great River Road, our comprehensive guide to life along the river for their favorite section!  Just CLICK HERE to purchase additional maps!

All Great River books can be ordered activity coverindividually as well. CLICK HERE to go Straight to BOOKS on our new Shopping Cart at Great River Arts.

Let us know if you have any questions!

 

Monarchs on the Mississippi River!

 Bellevue State Park Butterfly Sanctuary

Bellevue State Park, near Bellevue, Iowa, just south of Dubuque, is located atop a 300-foot high limestone bluff with panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley and Lock & Dam 12. It also shelters the largest Butterfly Garden in Iowa.

The Garden Sanctuary for Butterflies near 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.

. 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. For more information visit the website at Butterfly Garden.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, butterflies found in Iowa are either in the process of migration or are completing one of the various stages of their life cycle. Approximately 60 species of butterfly can be expected to make their appearance at the Butterfly Garden each year. Host plants for butterflies include wild aster, ragweed, goldenrod, lamb’s-quarters, daisy fleabane, milkweed, cottonwoods, wild cherry, hackberry and willows.

Small Boat Cruise on the Shannon River, Ireland!

The PBS special on exploring the Shannon River in Ireland reminds me that we have several pieces on Ireland you may like to View. Clicking the BLUE links or the photos will take you to the stories and our shopping cart with zoom lens for the historic maps.

Click photo of the SHANNON PRINCESS to see our full review of visiting Ireland with Gourmet Chef, Olivia Powers.WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT
Cruising the Irish Heartland on the SHANNON RIVER
with the Shannon Princess

or use the SEARCH BOX upper right, to find more recent Ireland-related pieces on greatriver.com

Passionate Ireland! In conjunction with our river cruises, we generally do a two week land tour. Click Blue Link for our view of “Passionate Ireland.”

For Map Buffs, here is Ireland and the British Isles. These are all from an 1906 series by English Cartographer, John Bartholomew. I love the colors painted by the map artist, and the fact that RAILROADS are the featured mode of transportation rather than highways!

Click the image to find more about the history and how to purchase each map.

038 England 1906

113 Scotland 1906   057 Ireland 1906

Map art is available in numerous sizes and as note cards. Click on images for details.

 Railroad Trespass Hearings by Greg Koelker

Thank you, Greg Koelker for detailed report on Mississippi River Railroad Trespass Hearings. This is a significant issue for all of us along the Upper Mississippi River. If folks are not allowed to cross the railroad tracks. the trains which rattle our countryside constantly will also become a FENCE to separate us from the recreational resources we ALL love most about the river. It is worth paying attention to the discussions. ~Pat

Railroad Trespass Hearings  by Greg Koelker

Some 200 hunters, fishermen, trappers, birders, snowmobilers, business owners, community leaders, government employees and other concerned Mississippi River recreation enthusiasts showed up to be heard by State Senator Jennifer Shilling, Tim Yager from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Railroad Commissioner of Wisconsin, Yash Wadhwa at the De Soto Community Center and Stoddard Legion on April 22.

After introductions, Tim Yager informed the group that there has been investigation into 17 to 18 additional rail crossings along the Mississippi with good line of sight.  He added that these could cost between $15,000 and $250,000 each. He said that the position of the USFW is that they want safe and adequate access to the over 240,000 acres of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge.  The river is bordered by railroad tracks on both shores.

Dan Knapek of De Soto asked what percent of the railroad’s profit would it take to create the needed rail crossings.  Commissioner Wadwa said there were already 26 possible crossings being investigated.  They are looking to define all options and look into shared cost.

Long time member of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Bill Howe of Prairie du Chien said, “The railroad’s desire to limit access entirely impacts the entire rail system in this country.”  Howe called the railroad’s position, “…a great threat.”  He added that 15 to 20% of railroads are not on their own lands.

Dan Trawicke of Waukesha, representing the Safari Club, said, “This is not just a Western Wisconsin problem.”  He said that safety is a number one concern, but he added that it takes common sense.  “Additional crossings are not the answer,” said Trawicke, “we have a constitutional right” to access those lands.

Greg Koelker of Stoddard said, “Safely crossing a railroad track is no different that safely crossing a highway.  Look both ways and listen.  Then cross if it is safe.  Every first grader knows that.”  He added, “. . .  no amount of legislation will change the minds of suicidal people, drunks, idiots trying to beat a train, protesters of whatever, and especially not terrorists.”  Koelker brought up the long tradition of using the tracks to access the river. “I grew up near Cassville and my dad and I would walk the tracks to access ice fishing sports on Bertram Lake. For years, our family members crossed the tracks to trap and hunt ducks and deer and even morel mushrooms.  I used to cross the tracks at Shady Maple to ice fish with my family.  I have friends who cross the tracks to hunt ducks out on peninsulas along the river. There is no other way to get to those waters for much of the year.”  Koelker said he hears from legitimate sources that at least 50% of our legislators already support the change.  He added that, “I understand that the Railroad Commissioner has the power to order placement of railroad crossings.  I urge you to consider directing more pedestrian railroad crossings and to support changing the trespass law to allow direct crossing of the tracks.”

Click this link to continue reading Greg’s report.

Rail Trespass Law Hearing, Stoddard, WI. Continued.

Marc Schulz of the La Crosse County Conservation Alliance said of the trespass issue, “There is no bigger issue regarding the river.”  He added that greatests percentage of fatalities on the railroad happen at designated crossings.  Schulz said that, “Young professionals come to western Wisconsin because of its natural resources.”  He added that, “This is the people’s land and water.”

John Wetzel representing the Wildlife Federation said, “We need more state oversight.  Minnesota has done that.  He added that this isn’t just a Mississippi River corridor problem saying there are, “. . .hundreds of places in the state where this is a problem.”

Pat McCabe of De Soto said, “I have property on the other side of the tracks.  I will not stop crossing.”  He added, “I beg you make them (trains) slow down.  Who are you going to call? (if there is an accident.)”

Guy Wolfe of Stoddard representing CARS-Citizens Acting for Rail Safety said, “There is a public trust doctrine law.  We have a right to these waters.”  He added that he has seen derailed cars on both sides of the tracks on “our property.”  He urged people to photograph and report issues with the tracks and rail bridges.  He said he feels that after reports about decaying rail bridges the railroad started enforcement of the trespass law.  He said after letting the permit to repair the Coon Creek bridge at Stoddard expire, the railroad suddenly worked “24-7” to repair it.  Wolf added that at least one bridge still in use along the river was built in 1867.  He said, “We can’t afford to let (rail) bridges fail.”

Commissioner Wadhwa replied that, “The new fast act law requires that we put bridge inspection results on websites.”

Kirk Holliday of De Soto said that, “BNSF is making threats to the village sewer.” De Soto’s wastewater treatment plant is across the tracks on the river side.  He added, “The government bails them (the railroads) out.  They get billions to fix their problems and then they basically hold us hostage.”

Gary Moltert of De Soto told about railroad rolling stock that hauls Bakkum crude and ethanol.  He said, “Double hulled tankers are safer.  Canada is being very proactive enforcing this.  Here investors have $80 to $90K in old tankers and the government allows them six years to replace them with safer cars.”

Commissioner Wadhwa replied, “We can’t do anything, but the feds and USDOT can.” He added that, “New tank cars constructed after 2015 and existing cars must be retrofitted and have an advanced brake system installed.”

Sherry Quamme, representing the Mississippi River Parkway Commission said that, “We’re concerned with Wisconsin issues for eight counties of the Great River Road . . . we want to see that there is legal pedestrian access . . . additional crossings are not the answer because it requires a large capital investment.”

Mike Collins of the La Crosse Snowmobile Alliance said, “We purchased a building across the tracks.  We asked the railroad for a recreational crossing.  We asked them for $6,000.”  The railroad denied the request.  Collins added, “They said it’s a safety issue.  It’s not.  It is straight and level for miles.”

Frank LeMay commented that, “Point of access changes won’t work because the river changes from day to day.”

Joan Wolfe of Stoddard asked about changing Act 179, “What’s the downside?  Why wouldn’t the governor want to sign it?”

Senator Schilling said that, Assembly leader Van Wanggaard didn’t bring up the trespass law change proposed by 96th Assembly District representative Lee Nerison in the Assembly because,  “Governor Walker would likely veto it and the Republicans in the legislature don’t want to be put in the position of overriding the governor’s veto.”

Phillip Hooker of Victory said that the railroad speed limit is too high.  “It should be 45 mph max,” he said.

Monique Hooker of Victory expressed her concern about being able to do river cleanups, “The Friends of Pool 9 need to clean along the Mississippi and on the Wisconsin side.  Students and volunteers need access to clean up the river banks.  We have to look at the environmental issue and put your money where your mouth is.”

Ralph Knutson of De Soto said, “We need more rail inspections.  There is no state accountability – no rail inspectors.”  He added that, “The railroad is also interested in having only one person on a train to operate it to save money.”

Commissioner Wadhwa said that, “The federal safety board is taking comments on fewer crew.”

Senator Shilling added, “There is a bill in progress to improve emergency preparedness along the railroad and to train first responders to deal with (railroad) emergencies.”

A larger group attended the 1 PM session at Stoddard.  More than half a dozen people said they had received trespassing warnings from BNSF officers.  The railroad calls it, “ a public safety education campaign.”

Vernon County Sheriff John Spears asked those who received warnings if the officers were polite and courteous.  They all replied, “No.”  Spears who supports a compromise, told the Stoddard crowd that his deputies were not enforcing the law.  “If anybody gets arrested, they’re not spending a night in my jail. That’s for sure,” he said.

Dick Jensen of Stoddard said, “It’s almost like that railroad track now is a fence.”

Richard Meyer of La Crescent, Minn. ““This whole situation has damaged the state’s reputation and the railroad’s,” he said. “People are furious.”

Mike Widner of Boscobel, “The only folks who will likely obey the laws are hunters, fishers and trappers.”

Stoddard Village President Kevin Gobel said, “The enforcement campaign started soon after rail safety groups and the village complained about the condition of BNSF’s bridges.”