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

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!

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!

Railroad coversVisitA

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!

 

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.

New Railroad Anthology by Michael Gillespie now available!

New from Michael Gillespie, THE PHANTOM BRAKEMAN and Other Old Time Railroad Stories from the Era of Steam
ISBN 978-0-9711602-6-2, 172 pages, $19.95. Also available to museums and gift shops.

Phantom LR book coverPlease call 608-457-2734 to ORDER your books for immediate shipping.

As with all our books by steam historian, Michael Gillespie, this collection is full of historic photographs, entertaining tales from the days of steam railroading, and witty, insightful editorial commentary!

If you enjoyed COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, WILD RIVER WOODEN BOATS, or OLD TIME RAILROAD Stories, you will want to add this quality book to your steam collection.

Railroad buffs will also enjoy our broad selection of gift prints of Railroad maps! Please visit greatriverarts.com > SHOP and then enter railroad maps into the SEARCH button. We have maps for many individual lines and states. Also, all maps in the 1906 series include rail lines from that time frame.  NO_DELTA_MAP_small

 

 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.”

 

Great River Arts January Newsletter… and RAILROADING News

Please click link to view our JANUARY newsletter from Great River Arts. Lisa has featured a number of brand new hand-painted historic maps from her Gallery, as well as several new book releases from Great River Publishing.

Old Time Railroad Stories by Michael GillespieComing soon in PRINT from Great River Publishing is Mike Gillespie’s railroad anthology, OLD TIME Railroad STORIES! Call 888-255-7726 to reserve a copy from our first printing in March!

What a great match OLD TIME RAILROAD STORIES will be for our new MONTANA RAILWAYS historic map and our travel reviews of CLASSIC TRAIN JOURNEYS along great rivers in Canada, Alaska, and Europe.

Entertaining New History of Steam from Michael Gillespie

Great River Publishing is pleased to announce the KINDLE release of Michael Gillespie’s new steam history: 

RAILROAD STORIES..True Adventures, Humorous Tales, and High Melodrama from the Days of Steam [Kindle Edition]

Click on cover image to explore a sample edition ONLINE or to download a sample directly to your Kindle!
In this 340 page collection of old railroading stories, Michael applies his generous wit, dry humor, and historical insights to the school of railroading literature at the height of the steam era … journals, press reports, trade magazines all produced stories meant at the time to entertain readers… but which today offer a compelling folk history from the early days of railroads.