In response to funding cuts to conservation, Foundation executive director to embark on epic Wisconsin adventure

Executive Director Ruth Oppedahl will paddle the Wisconsin River from source to mouth to inspire action


logo-resized02Wisconsin’s parks, conservation education and endangered resources experienced significant and unprecedented funding reductions this year, jeopardizing some of the things Wisconsintes love most about this state: its lands, waters and wildlife. This includes the cut of a $84,100 nonprofit capacity grant that the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has received annually since 2000. In response to these developments, Foundation Executive Director Ruth Oppedahl is headed out on an 18-day kayaking trip down the Wisconsin River from source to mouth starting Sunday, Sept. 27. The initiative, called the “I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip,” is Oppedahl’s effort to celebrate the state’s cherished outdoors and to inspire others to do what they can to help.

“If I can paddle the Wisconsin River as one person, I am certain that every person can make a difference for our natural resources,” Oppedahl said. “We want to inspire others to find their river, find their prairie, find their forest. And then to help our state by becoming a steward of a state natural area, volunteering as a citizen scientist, encouraging kids to get outside and voting in line with their conservation values. Despite the challenges this year, we have so much to celebrate, especially as we enter the Foundation’s 30th year, and so much that we can each do as individuals.”

Oppedahl will launch Sunday, Sept. 27 near Lac Vieux Desert Park in Vilas County and, using her vacation time, will wind her way past state-managed lands that the Foundation has supported through grants and endowment funds. She’ll learn and share conservation stories from local conservation organizations. Oppedahl will paddle over the course of 18 days through 10 counties: Oneida, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Wood, Columbia, Sauk, Dane, Iowa and Grant. Along the way she will be joined by various partners and Foundation members, and will receive help portaging at hydropower dams by a group of volunteer “river angels.” Her trip will end Wednesday, Oct. 14 at the confluence with the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park, where Foundation staff, members, board members and partners will join in paddling her trip’s final miles.

“Getting out in nature is the best way to restore hope,” Oppedahl said. “There’s no better way to experience Wisconsin’s outdoors than to go straight down the middle, north to south, on the river that gave our state its name. The Wisconsin River captures the history of our state in a nutshell.”

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin will be tracking Oppedahl’s trip on a Google map, in blog posts, photos and video, and on Spotify, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #IheartWI. Follow Oppedahl’s progress and find more information about the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip initiative on the Foundation’s website:

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Photo by Greg Larson, Greg Larson Photography

Download additional images from the Foundation’s Flickr page

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin provides sustainable funding for Wisconsin’s most imperiled species and public lands, while helping citizens connect with our state’s unique natural places. Learn more at

Lindsay Renick Mayer
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
[email protected]
608-266-3138 (office)
202-422-4671 (cell)