Normally, when speaking of the Riverway, I close with one of the many famous quotes about the Wisconsin River. However, because we are reflecting on ten years of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, I would like to attempt to explain what the opportunity and privilege to serve as Executive Director of the Riverway Board has meant to me. Incidentally, when I was hired as the first Executive Director of the board ten years ago, I never thought I would be standing here today imparting my thoughts on the Riverway’s first decade but, the River gets in your blood and…it has become my life.
While I haven’t been atop all the bluffs of the Riverway, I have scaled many and gazed in awe at panoramic vistas stretching for miles with the distant bluffs merging with the horizon and the blue ribbon of river sparkling and glistening below.
I have paddled on the river and gazed at those same bluffs as they stood like silent majestic sentinels watching the timeless flow of the river on its march to the sea.
I have walked through bottomland forests coated with heavy rime which turned the bottoms into a fantasy land of white and brown broken only by the red flash of the cardinal and adding even more mystery to the flight and call of the pileated woodpecker.
I have watched eagles soar and observed the touching of talons and aerial tumbling signaling the age-old courtship ritual.
I have seen the twitching ears of the red brown deer on a willow covered sandbar as the mist rose from the river at dawn in June and have seen the white flag raised and bound away as the deer sought a place more secure and secluded.
I have stood amidst a group of Indian mounds with the wind rustling through withered oak leaves still clinging to the trees and seemingly whispering the songs and secrets of the ancient civilization which once called this valley "home."
I have walked the trails used by the early pioneers on their arduous journey toward carving a life out of the wilderness and have marveled at their tenacity and intestinal fortitude.
Throughout these travels and, as a result of these experiences, I have come to understand that the lower Wisconsin River valley is not only a place of tremendous scenic beauty, it is a place with a quiet but powerful spirit which can be heard in the gentle breeze of spring and can be felt in the warmth of the September sun, where the voices of those who have gone before can be heard in the gurgling of the water as it passes through a deadfall close to the riverbank, and, where it can be seen in the rich tapestry of the rugged landscape all around.
The valley is a place worth protecting and preserving for future generations. The wisdom we show today in caring for this special part of our state will speak volumes about the people of the late twentieth century and their commitment to assuring the magnificence of the lower Wisconsin River, a place of such beauty and spirit, does not fall victim to the exploitation and greed of those members of society who are concerned with material things and could care less about things wild and free.
I am convinced that, because of the Riverway law, our legacy will be of a valley which will become more valuable and more special with each passing decade and, 90 years from now, when someone, perhaps my grandson’s grandson, celebrates the 100th anniversary of creation of the Riverway, they will be grateful for the wisdom and foresight shown by their forefathers a century earlier.
202 N. Wisconsin Avenue, P.O. Box 187
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Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
202 N. Wisconsin Avenue
Muscoda, Wisconsin 53573
Phone: 608-739-3188 FAX: 608-739-4263
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