Category Archives: Ruth’s River Trip Posts

Paddling for the love of Wisconsin: The final tale

By Ruth Oppedahl, Natural Resources Foundation This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 edition of Bridges, the member newsletter of the Natural Resources Foundation. When my mother turned 50 years old, she joined a group of women who were training to hike the Grand Canyon. She filled my brother’s Boy Scout backpack—a heavy canvas thing—with bricks and walked the hills around our suburban neighborhood in Iowa to get prepared. Her euphoria on doing...

Day XVIII: The last leg of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip

Listen to Ruth tell the story of her last day on the Wisconsin River: Day XVIII transcribed:  Last day of the I Heart Wisconsin River Trip. I woke up this morning to the sound of birds flying overhead. I was completely socked in by the fog. I couldn’t even see the edge of the water that was only 20 feet away. It was a solid bank of fog. Yet I could hear, not that far...

Day XVII: Campfire magic and sandbar living

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XVII:  Day XVII transcribed: Today I traveled from Muscoda Village campground down to the Wauzeka wildlife area. It’s— what I think is—my longest day on the river at about 25 or 26 miles. I was joined for camping and this morning by Mike Mossman and Lisa Hartman. And what a lot of fun to travel with these folks! Last night the winds were still blowing until who...

Meeting up with Ruth on the river

By Bill Keen, Foundation member How to meet up with Ruth on her extraordinary journey?  We decided that the only day possible was Sunday the 11th. Next step was to email the NRF office and Camille, who got the word to Ruth that we would join her in Arena.  Once we received the password to follow her GPS, details on how Lisa and I could meet Ruth on her paddle needed to be worked out....

Day VII and VIII Revisited: Learning from the Land and the Power of Partnerships

By Mike Mossman As my wife Lisa and I stood on the sandy banks of the Wisconsin River at the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Leopold Memorial Reserve last Thursday evening, awaiting Ruth’s arrival, I was grateful to know Sauk County as my home. It has been a conservation hotbed since even before the 1930’s, when Aldo Leopold and his family began to restore this worn-out piece of land and learn its many lessons. The Leopolds, and...

Ruth’s River Angels: The Heart of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip

By Lisa Charron, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin At the Natural Resources Foundation, we are amazed by all of the “River Angels” who have stepped up to help Ruth out. They’ve opened their homes and their kitchens, shared their river stories and their conservation efforts, guided her through tough waters, helped her lug many pounds of gear and gave her a lift when the river got too choppy. We’re shining a spotlight on a few of those River...

Day XVI: Striving for clean air, clean water and a connection to nature

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XVI:  Day XVI transcribed:  This is the October 12 blog. I want to start with a list of towns that I’ve been in so people have an idea about the route of the Wisconsin River. The closest town at the start is Land O’Lakes, although the river actually starts in a lake called Lac Vieux Desert, which is on the border between Michigan and Wisconsin. From there...

Day XV: Going with the FLOW, and cranes galore

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XV:  Day XV transcribed: This is the blog post for Sunday, Oct. 11, day 15. This morning started with a welcome by Timm Zumm of the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin, FLOW. Their motto is “go with the flow.” Timm came to the boat landing in Prairie du Sac and spent the day with me. He was a really great guide to the river and helped me...

Day XIV: Westerly winds

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XIV: Today I’m totally defeated by the wind and waves on Lake Wisconsin. I started out at 9 a.m. this morning after Pete Ostlind helped me go over the boat. We did a little extra patching, he replaced a rivet on the washboards (sort of like the cockpit edge) for me and we went over the whole boat and I headed out around 9 a.m. There was...

Day XIII: The beauty of birds

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XIII:   Day XIII transcribed: We woke up on the site of the Aldo Leopold Shack and it was a morning of learning and discovery for me. Mike Mossman and Yoyi Steele, who work on the Leopold Pines Important Bird Area, were there, along with Dan and Carl from the Aldo Leopold Foundation. This is a really interesting and significant area for the State of Wisconsin, and probably...

Day XII: Aldo Leopold, campfires and the Dells

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XII: I’ll start with the ending of the day. I pulled up on the right side of the Wisconsin River at the site of Aldo Leopold’s shack. What an inspiration to be coming down this river that he was so familiar with, with eagles flying overhead, with cranes flushing off the sand bars and settling back down—hundreds of cranes—and with the geese arcing across the evening sky...

Paddling Through History

By Lisa Charron, Natural Resources Foundation All my life, I’ve walked through the woods and imagined what it would have been like to do so long ago. What would a Winnebago Native American see from atop this hill? What potential did Wisconsin’s first fur traders see in this stream or that lake? Richard D. Durbin, professor emeritus of UW Madison’s Plant Pathology Department, does the same thing when it comes to paddling down the Wisconsin...

Day XI: Rock, stone and floating boats

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day XI:  Day XI transcribed: This is the Oct. 7 blog for day 11 on the river. I first wanted to start out answering a few questions people have asked. One is about if my boat is still leaking–it is. When I was in Point, my boat was completely unloaded and when I turned it upside down, I saw two pencil-lead-sized holes where I could see daylight straight...

Day X: Stevens Points and the gifts of wetlands

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day X: Day X transcribed: This is the blog for Oct. 6, day 10, in Stevens Point. A couple of weeks ago when I was talking about this trip with Tracy Hames at the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Tracy hatched an idea that ended up being an incredible experience today. Tracy had done his graduate work at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on the wetlands system and islands upstream from...

Day IX: Mystery mussels and outstanding outdoorswomen (Monday, Oct. 5)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day IX: Day IX transcribed:  This is the blog post for Oct. 5, day nine, Merrill to Wausau. Today three good Samaritans helped me out and really made a huge difference and I wanted to say thank you. I was kind of whiny about camping at Council Grounds State Park, but there was one really great thing: the campground host. I eventually found him that night and he...

Day VII: Homer Simpson and shoe goo to the rescue (Saturday, Oct. 3)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day VII: Day VII transcribed: This was the stretch of the river from Menard Island into Tomahawk. This morning was a really great day because I reached my one hundredth mile on the trip! But before I got there, oh boy.       I had an incredible campsite on Menard Island. I was dropped off by the Watsons and Neil on the upstream end, which was beautiful...

Day VI: Escaping time, and celebrating DNR employees (Friday, Oct. 2)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day VI:  Day VI transcribed: This was a really special day, and I want to thank the people who paddled with me today because that’s what made it incredible. One thing I’ve noticed about this whole trip so far—I’ve been out since Sunday and today is Friday—is that I’m living totally in the present. There’s only a couple of minutes during the day when I have to think...

Day V: Waterfowl and wild rice (Thursday, Oct. 1)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day V: Day V transcribed: Today is Thursday, Oct. 1, day five of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip. Today started with a freezing night, it was about 36 degrees and it was pretty cold, so I’m going to make some adjustments to how I stay comfortable at night camping. I was camping on Rainbow Rapids and had just finished up my breakfast when two dogs came running...

Day IV: Spectacular wildlife encounters…and leaky boats (Wednesday, Sept. 30)

Listen to Day IV in Ruth’s voice: Transcription of Day IV: Today is Sept. 30 and I’m on day four of the I Heart Wisconsin River Trip. This was a day of drama. Drama in a good way, and drama in a not-so-good way. The first drama: this morning, I saw a family of otters playing. There were four of them and I had been waiting for that on this trip. It was really cool—they...

Day IV: In video

Day IV of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip took Ruth through the Rainbow Flowage, a wildlife paradise, and to a beautiful campground for the evening. Follow along through these short video vignettes Ruth shot throughout the day:         Rainbow Flowage Beavers Wilderness Paradise Bald Eagle Campsite...

Day III: Winding waters and the power of land trusts (Tuesday, Sept. 29)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day III of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip: Day III transcribed: Today is Tuesday, Sept. 29 and it’s day three of the I Heart Wisconsin trip. Today I kayaked from Eagle River down to the County O boat landing, which was just about 12 miles. That’s kind of a nice short day. I paddled with Trisha Moore, who’s a conservation specialist with Northwoods Land Trust. We started...

Day II: Lunar eclipses and millions of stars (Monday, Sept. 28)

Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day II in her own voice:  Day II transcribed: Today is Monday, Sept. 28, day number two. This was an interesting day of paddling. We went from about mile eight to mile 35. The upper reach of the headwaters is a huge, winding stream that turns into endless alder thickets. When the river goes through the alders, it seems to spread out and what’s left is a shallow...

Day I: Beaver dams and heavy boats (Sunday, Sept. 27)

We put in at Lac Vieux Desert Lake around 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The wild rice bed in the distance fringed the shore. The sky was clear. I was lucky to have two friends join me for the start: Denny Caneff of the River Alliance and Bryan Pierce of the Northwoods Land Trust. After pulling over at the dam, we only had a short stretch to cross County Road E. The culverts were wide enough...

“Be safe”

  I’ve been hearing this phrase quite a bit this week as friends and family give me best wishes for a great trip. Usually it’s said in a way of showing care for my well-being, and sometimes there is a tinge of “be careful.” I appreciate both messages. There are three main ways I stay safe: using my experience and knowledge, planning when I am where so my support team knows what to expect, and...

Pre-trip shakedowns

Ahead of my trip, I’ve been out on a few kayaking adventures to test my equipment, make sure all of my supplies will fit in the boat and strengthen my rowing muscles. While out on some of these pre-trip shakedowns, I was greeted by bald eagles, heard the call of the sandhill crane and witnessed the beautiful bluffs of the Upper Dells. I’m looking forward to capturing more of these sounds and sights during the real trip, but...

Which boat?

When I decided to do this river trip, one of the first decisions was about which boat to use. Like a lot of paddlers, there are several boats in our garage. This past spring I bought a used kayak off Craigslist because at 13 feet, it is better for navigating southern Wisconsin streams. And, ever since reading Larry Rice’s books and watching his presentations about trips he has taken with a “boat in bag,” I have...