Fresh New Ways to Protect & Enjoy Wisconsin’s Waters
This year, River Alliance asked YOU—our amazing members across the state—to share your plans to protect & enjoy Wisconsin’s waters. Check out the submissions below to get inspired for making YOUR plans in the year ahead.
We’re highlighting our top two staff picks, but ALL the entries inspired us! Keep scrolling & then click to see them! We’ll be featuring these member-submitted plans during The Big Share community day of giving in 2021.
You can still DONATE TODAY to protect Wisconsin’s waters. Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry!
~ STAFF PICKS ~
Diana W. | Menominee River (Marinette County)
“I am proudly a member of the Coalition to Save the Menominee River. Even though the wetlands permit was denied, the fight is not over to protect this beautiful majestic river. Through fund raising we bring awareness and money to pay the lawyers who represent this river in court. In 2020, I kayaked from May 2 through December 10 on the Menominee. I am on a quest to paddle each of the 116 miles and explore the serenity, challenges and wildlife along the way.
2021 will see me continue kayaking, as soon as the ice is gone, and involvement in the Coalition to Save the Menominee River! Buy a face mask to support our efforts.”
Janice R. | Koshkonong Creek (Dane County)
“I plan to be part of our 22nd year of monitoring the Koshkonong Creek at the southern end of Cam-Rock County Park. We are determined to continue monitoring for our lifetimes as we call ourselves ‘Lifers.’. There are three of us now, after losing some members over these past years to cancer… We work with WAV (Water Action Volunteers) and the Rock River Coalition as citizen scientists and submit our water data for each month of monitoring season from May until October each year. I look forward to another year of serving as a water advocate.
Our little Koshkonong Creek is important to us and we feel it needs everyone watching over it.”
~ GET INSPIRED WITH THESE PLANS! ~
Mel V. | Neenah Creek & Kickapoo River
“Paddle—I plan to paddle more local rivers with more, different friends. I want to start earlier and paddle later so I don’t miss the beauty of snow on the banks, the spring beauties, skunk cabbage, redbud and other early blooms. And, I’ll try to recreate a long-ago Kickapoo trip just as the warblers seemed to just flow up the valley. I also want to try to paddle Neenah Creek at right time for the most cranes. On a warm night, I want to paddle under the full moon, raft up with friends and eat dessert. I’m hoping that my daughter can get home so we can paddle, camp and fish in our family tradition (and fully indoctrinate her getting-to-be-long-time beau!).’
While on dry land, I’ll be mentoring an early career water student. We’ll talk about how crucial local efforts are not only for helping people recognize the importance of water in their own lives and protect it in their communities but also to empower and inspire action statewide. I’ll keep working hard to be an active, helpful River Alliance member so that local water advocates can have the support they need for their own projects and for state policies that manage water on behalf of everyone who uses it!”
Austin P. | Manitowoc River
“Every Mother’s Day and for her birthday, my wife and I go out paddling on the South Branch of the Manitowoc River. It’s a little tributary that seems to slip under the radar, as it has long stretches through the forest, away from homes and fields, right in the heart of Wisconsin’s dairyland. We hope to connect all the segments, paddling all of the stretches from our farm near Lake Winnebago, all the way out to Lake Michigan.”
Stacy H. | St. Croix River & Lake Michigan
“My goal is to visit four important bodies of Wisconsin water this summer. I’m going to visit the St. Croix river, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and a very special lake up north that’s so nice it’s a secret. I’ve always loved swimming and kayaking, but the COVID crisis sent us outside more in 2020 and it deepened my appreciation for clean water. The work of River Alliance is so important!”
Judy J. | Wolf River
“My friend Ruth & I are going to kayak the Wolf River this summer, perhaps starting on the Waupaca or Tomorrow River & head downstream on a perfect summer morning. Or perhaps a late afternoon, ‘Jungle Tour’ paddle on a Wolf River bayou. We’ll take to the river in style to see beautiful water birds & perhaps even get a sneak peak at an otter or two.”
Emily M. | 1000 Accessible Waterways!
“My intention for 2020-2030 is to hike, swim, skate, ski, paddle all 1000 accessible waterways within my two local counties. I’ve started this journey to raise awareness and protects these local bodies. Clean water clean lives. Since I’ve begun counting, I have swam every month the coldest 0 degrees outside, crushed through ice while paddling and skated on some of the most pristine ice I could have imagined.’
‘As of this fiscal year, I have journeyed on 115 separate waterways. I bring my students, friends, and children to watch them get excited about these precious places. I invite all and always share what I have learned as our area is rich in history. The Minocqua Area is filled with tourists who may appreciate this area but are unaware of simple things like shoreline erosion, toxic exposures or the native flora and fauna that lives among us and takes refuge here.”
“Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.” -Sitting Bull
Jonah W. | The sights, sounds, and smells of spring!
“I am more than excited to get back on the water in my kayak, and hike the beautiful trails of Wisconsin! While the winter has been cold, and 2020 an entirely different year than most of us were used to, the refreshing sights, sounds, and smells of spring and summer can’t come soon enough!”
Glenn C. | Sunset Lake
“Our summer will include hanging out at our local lake (Sunset Lake). Swimming, canoeing, gathering milfoil and hunting bull frogs. They are so tasty at our weekly potlucks at the lake. And, of course, fighting like hell for clean water.”
Tony Z. | Totogatic River
“I’m looking to explore the Totogatic River, and learn about the flow and any dangerous rapids which exist.”
Jack S. | Driftless Trout Streams
“With waders on, I’ll be sliding into and immersing myself into Driftless trout streams to fly fish and be a part of a trout’s water world in the Driftless. It’s an intimate and special way to experience the Driftless and its flowing waters.”
Mark J. | Namekagon River
“Drift boat down the Namekagon River for two days in September enjoying the float, colors and hopefully a musky/smallie or two will strike a fly!”
Carol W. | Cold Water Dips
“No need to wait for summer to enjoy and protect our waters of Wisconsin. Some of us up north, who have endearingly called ourselves the Up North Cryophiles, have been seeking out open water in the Northwoods throughout this winter season. Evidence supports that submersing into freezing water has a number of benefits, not the least of which is the exhilaration we feel during and after. Winter can so often be thought of as simply cold, dark, and uninviting. But these cold water dips prove otherwise! There is adventure to be found in every season!”
Tom L. | Lowery Creek, Driftless
“I am a conservation photographer working on a water project in the Driftless Region. I started documenting Lowery Creek last fall and will continue working on that from its headwaters to the mouth. My plan will then move to the wonderful Lower Wisconsin River which I will paddle as I document its rich diversity.”
Ericka T. | Urban Rivers
“My goal is to kayak the entire length of the rivers in the city of Milwaukee this spring.”
Willi H. | Paddle ASAP!
“We are going to start paddling as soon as possible, and as the season warms up we want to start reaching out to other paddlers to support the River Alliance and other positive Wisconsin water keepers.”
Katina D. | Paddling more than 1000 miles!
“My goal of paddling more than 1000 miles this year will first begin with a source to mouth “warm-up” trip on the 200-mile long Fox River, the one that originates as a stream northeast of Pardeeville flowing north past my house in De Pere, where it decants into the bay of Green Bay. In 2019, I thru-paddled the Wisconsin River Centennial Canoe Trail from source to mouth and that piques my interest about the possibility of doing the same for the historic river I see single every day outside my front door. Even though I can frequently hit the Fox River for short outings, and even used my canoe this past summer to commute from my house to an outdoor socially distanced book group meeting a few miles downstream, this former Super Fund site with its seasonal blue-green algae blooms does not rate high on my list of favorite waters to paddle.
The Fox-Wisconsin River Heritage Parkway had been established to steward regional land and water trails and its formerly robust website included downloadable pdf maps documenting the entirety of the Fox River. They even were involved in the renovation of at least two historic lock keeper houses, including the one located here in De Pere, but the organization appears to now be inactive. Still, my interest in long-distance canoe adventures remains undeterred regardless of organizational infrastructure. I spent last summer scouting the Fox’s many dams and locks with my dad during our weekly road trips before he passed away last October and his ongoing health issues were one of the reasons I postpone my trip until this year.’
I first began following water trails a decade ago. My first trip was on the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) that I paddled in its entirety from its western terminus in Old Forge, New York to its eastern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine, completing it in 53 days with friends and family joining me and along the route to help paddle my tandem canoe. I’ve been revisiting this water trail almost annually, working my way through sections of it over weeklong vacations. The uncertainty and restrictions of Covid prevented me from heading there again last year. Instead of picking up where I last left off, my second trip of 2021 is a plan to re-paddle the entire NFCT again, ten years after I first completed it, but this time as a solo thru-paddler.
Finally, I want to round out the summer by participating in the annual Great River Rumble on its 20th Anniversary group paddling trip—100 miles on the Mississippi River. And maybe a fall trip to the Boundary Waters.
2021 is intentionally projected to make up for opportunities lost in 2020. Hopefully, last year was atypical. And at this point, I’m making sure 2021 will be as well.”
Jonathan B. | Planning Trips & Reporting Invasive Species
In the coming year, I hope to paddle some streams that are on my bucket list, and return to perennial favorites, especially those that are nearby. We’re lucky to have a variety of waters to paddle in Wisconsin.
My go-to websites for trip ideas are “Miles Paddled” and “Wisconsin River Trips”. They’re especially good at scouting out seldom-paddled streams and reporting the potential obstructions and hazards, as well as the highlights. High water can be dangerous and these two websites link to USGS streamflow gauges so I make sure the water level on a stream isn’t too high or too low.
Paddlers can post trip reports on these sites, helping other paddlers know what to expect.
Some streams are too shallow to paddle unless it’s rained recently. I set up alerts for such streams at: https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/wateralert/ My spouse laughs at me when I get excited about receiving text alerts from river gauges. Surf’s up!
While out paddling, I’ll continue to look for aquatic invasive species. I got trained via the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association, and the River Alliance also provides training and support:
Reporting invasives is easy. I take a photo with my phone which automatically geotags the location for reporting.
When leading trips, I encourage paddlers to follow paddling safety tips. Wearing a life jacket (PFD) is #1. For more tips, visit:
Luke Z. | Luke's Video Love Letter
And, a HUGE shout of gratitude to Luke Z. of Driftless Cafe and Wisconsin Foodie for creating this gorgeous video! This has us dreaming of being outside exploring all of Wisconsin’s wonderful watery places in the months ahead. Watch and enjoy!!