September-October 2006 River News excerpts and Links
Cassville, Wis. If you're looking for ways to get out on the river, check out the following new opportunities:
Mississippi River Outfitters is located in a historic building in Cassville. The Male family owns and operates the new venture, guiding visitors on short and long trips to scenic, out-of-the-way spots. TheyŐll even drop you off at an island beach with a picnic lunch and pick you up again a few hours later. The boat holds a maximum of six guests. Call or drop in for reservations.
Another new option is the River Wildlife Cruise offered by the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa. The 90-minute cruise on the Mississippi Explorer, a pontoon boat, takes visitors up Catfish Creek to the Mines of Spain and to other the backwater areas.
Owner Jack Libby said the cruise reminds people of a jungle trip because of the cliffs and dense vegetation. "We have everything but hippopotamuses," he said. A museum naturalist accompanies the cruise.
Cruises run through October. Tickets are sold at the museum box office.
The paddlewheel excursion boat, The Pearl of the Lake, now docks at the Willows condo-resort on the upriver end of Lake City, Minn. Owners Larry and Nancy Neilson said they bought and refurbished the boat because for years visitors have asked, "Where can I get a boat ride out on the lake?"
For reservations call the Willows or see their website.
In its second year docked at the Port of Dubuque, the Riverboat Twilight (a sister boat to the Julia Belle Swain of La Crosse, but without a paddlewheel) takes people out on short and long cruises. Some are two-day cruises, with guests staying overnight at a hotel on shore. Call for reservations or visit their website.
Red Wing, Minn. Thirty acres of silted-in Mississippi River bottomland is being restored this summer benefiting waterfowl and cerulean warblers and other species. The work will be accomplished with $15,000 raised by the Red Wing Wildlife League (RWWL) and a matching grant from Xcel Energy.
The project is the first of many in a plan developed for RWWL by engineering firm Bonestroo and Associates, to restore portions of the the group's 2,800 acres upstream from Red Wing, according to Tom Olson, RWWL president.
The plan is based in part on aerial photos from the 1930s, when the land included large areas of open water up to six feet deep. The plan aims to reduce siltation and restore bottomland using excavation, berming, plantings and spillway maintenance, according to John Smyth of Bonestroo.
"The silted-in areas have become covered with monotype and invasive plant species," he said, "and increasing the plant diversity will help game and nongame species." An inventory of sensitive natural areas within RWWL land will help nurture plant and animal species. For example, an eagleŐs nest was moved and warbler habitat was identified, so it could be preserved and expanded.
The Coon Slough Dam project is the first to be implemented. The cost of the entire plan is expected to exceed a million dollars, which will require funding from major sources, such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers, corporations and foundations.
The 800-member league opens the land to local residents for many outdoor activities.
Lancaster, Wis. Aerial surveyors and visitors from outer space will probably wonder what that big catfish is doing on the ridge above the river in southwestern Wisconsin. It's as big as a cornfield. In fact, the catfish is cut into a cornfield it's a corn maze.
"We wanted to tie in with the big catfish exhibit at the National River Museum in Dubuque," said Kyle Vesperman of Vesperman Farms.
Corn mazes grow up in a season. People pay a few dollars to enjoy an afternoon (45 minutes to two hours) wandering through and, at the end of the season, the corn can be harvested.
This yearŐs catfish design was cut into the corn in June, based on the specifications of international maze designer Adrian Fisher, of England, who also designed last yearŐs steamboat maze. The maize maze opens on Labor Day and closes at the end of October. For more information see the Vesperman Farms website.