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Background Information
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Long before the Europeans became enlightened regarding the existence of the lower Wisconsin River, countless generations of indigenous people lived in the valley known today as the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. The river served as an effective transportation route and was rich in fish. The bluffs, prairies and bottomlands provided an abundant supply of game and other food resources.

The journal of Father Marquette presents the first written description of the valley. While journeying down the river with Louis Joliet in 1673, Marquette wrote of the valley,

"It is very wide, it has a sandy bottom, which form various shoals that render its navigation very difficult. It is full of islands covered with vines. On the banks one sees fertile land, diversified with woods, prairies and hills…"

Over three centuries later, Marquette’s portrait still applies to a large portion of the lower Wisconsin River valley.

In 1989, Governor Tommy Thompson signed Wisconsin Act 31 which created the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. This historic action represented the culmination of years of planning and followed hundreds of hours of public meetings. The Riverway legislation was born from a compromise crafted by legislators from both political parties. The Riverway extends 92.3 miles from below the dam at Prairie du Sac to the confluence with the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien and encompasses 79,275 acres. The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for administering a land acquisition program within the project boundaries.

A new state agency, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, was created to administer the new law. The Board is composed of nine members of which six must be local residents or local elected officials from the affected counties (Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Grant, Iowa, Richland and Sauk). The agency administers a system of "performance standards" which are designed to protect the aesthetic integrity of the Riverway. Permits are required for structures, timber harvesting, utility facilities and other activities. A number of activities are now prohibited within the Riverway. However, most activities associated with an agricultural operation are exempt from the new regulations.

The Riverway Board office is located at 202 N. Wisconsin Avenue in Muscoda, the approximate mid-point of the Riverway. For information regarding the Riverway regulations, contact Mark E. Cupp, Executive Director, Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, P.O. Box 187, Muscoda, WI 53573 (phone 608-739-3188 or 1-800-221-3792; FAX 608-739-4263; e-mail mark.cupp@lwr.state.wi.us).


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Last Modified:  1/19/2005 2:17:51 PM
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