Supporters paddle the Kickapoo River to celebrate River Alliance’s 30th anniversary

Jun 29, 2023 | River:30

On June 24, two dozen paddlers and more friends of River Alliance of Wisconsin gathered near Ontario, Wisconsin to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Kickapoo River.

The paddle trip was one of a series of events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of River Alliance of Wisconsin. We are visiting places around the state to experience the rivers that have been long protected by grassroots organizations, conservation advocates, and Tribal leaders who share an ethic of defending our clean and abundant water.

Before we set off, River Alliance board president Mel Volbrecht led us in a recognition of the history of the Indigenous tribes who lived in the valley before colonization and whose values continue to lead us in taking care of our water resources. We then heard from Sierra Club member Ned Gatzke about river conditions and safety advice. We launched and were on our way down the winding river that led us past lush green trees and towering, moss-covered rock walls of the sandstone bluffs.

We took a break at Wildcat Mountain State Park where we were treated by a phenomenal lunch of Menominee wild rice and mushroom paella, watermelon and cheeses provided by River Alliance board member Luke Zahm, co-owner of the Driftless Cafe and host of Wisconsin Public Television’s Wisconsin Foodie. Luke shared his story of growing up in the Kickapoo Valley region and witnessing the impact of local efforts to protect the river through the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, where he also serves as a board member. 

We heard from Bill Schulteis who traveled from Milwaukee to share his experience of the fight – and winning – the contentious debate over a major dam project that would have turned the Kickapoo River into a lake, and would have destroyed the deep ecological value of this rare and unique river. We also heard from River Alliance Aquatic Invasive Species Program Director Ellen Voss about the ways boaters can prevent the spread of invasives like the Japanese Knotweed that can be easily seen along the banks of the Kickapoo.

Back on the water, the group meandered down to our takeout spot where we said our goodbyes and helped each other load boats on cars to depart. See more photos from the event on Facebook.

There are more paddle trips happening this summer in celebration of River Alliance’s 30th anniversary. Visit our events page to learn about the dates that are coming up next

The Kickapoo’s winding, five-mile paddle was a part of some participants’ River:30 pledge to spend more time with Wisconsin’s waters this year. Learn more about what the River:30 pledge could mean for you


– Stacy Harbaugh, Communications Director


This message is made possible by generous donors who believe people have the power to protect and restore water.

Help River Alliance of Wisconsin celebrate our 30th anniversary! Support our work with your contribution today or take the River:30 pledge to spend more time with Wisconsin’s rivers this year.