Diane Schwartz

I am writing this blog because I love the lower Wisconsin River and the stories that make it such fascinating place.

So where is the lower Wisconsin River? The lower Wisconsin River starts at the Prairie du Sac dam in southern Wisconsin and flows west 92.3 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River. It’s home to diverse plants and animals and a rich cultural history.

In 1989, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway was signed into law. The riverway includes 95,000 acres of which 45,000 acres are state-owned and the rest is in private ownership. That law established the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, which is responsible for administering regulations that work to preserve the scenic beauty of the corridor. Private landowners that exist within the boundaries must adhere to timber harvest and building regulations. The law has been effective at preserving the scenic integrity of the 50,000 acres of private land in the river valley while protecting private landowner interests.

At the time the law was enacted, I was a graduate student at the Institute for Environmental Studies, now the Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. For my research, I interviewed about 30 longtime residents about what it was like growing up and living along the river. I recorded hours of hunting, trapping, fishing, swimming, farming and other stories about the river. Those stories formed the background of my thesis.

Now, 30 years later, my interest in the river has been reignited. The impetus for this renewal of interest has been the work involving the preservation of the Indian mounds in the lower Wisconsin River Valley. When I was doing my research, there wasn’t much talk about the mounds in the area but that has changed thanks to an organization called Cultural Landscape Legacies, Inc. (CLL). Its mission is to provide education, protection and preservation of the cultural heritage of the indigenous people who left their legacy on the landscape of the Upper Midwest. This group organizes tours and works to protect the remaining mounds in the area.

Of particular significance is a group of mounds at Frank’s Hill near Muscoda. This mound group was preserved by Frank Shadewald in 1998, who I will write about in future posts. CLL sponsors quarterly events at Frank’s Hill that includes the fall and spring equinox and the summer and winter solstice. I’ve been attending these events for the past year and have been captivated by the place and the spiritual connection that I feel while there. It is believed that the sun aligns with the mound grouping at the winter and summer solstice and that is powerful draw for me.

Sunset at the summer solstice at Frank’s Hill.

So, I will be writing about my experiences at Frank’s Hill, canoeing on the river, stories about how the riverway law was established, and more.

I hope that you enjoy it and subscribe to get the latest updates.