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By Rob Rohde-Szudy - Madison, Wisconsin - USA

Making Time - The Lower Wisconsin River - Pt 1

click for bio

Part One - Part Two

BULLETIN: Now is the time to reserve campsites for the Rend Lake Messabout for 2012. Check the "messabout" or "messabout_rendlake" yahoo groups, or email Rob directly. But act now - these sites go FAST and the messabouters need to make a coordinated effort to reserve an entire loop. Thanks! --Rob

I have to apologize to my faithful readers - it's been a hell of a year for me! A job change and a very hot summer created the perfect storm of zero time for boat projects, or indeed boating! This year I managed to get out on the boat a grand total of not at all! Until now, that is. Usually in Wisconsin, October is when boats are getting put away and only hardcore fishermen and duck hunters are to be found on the water. However, I had promised a former co-worker I'd get him out on the river, and I'm not one to forget such a promise.

Donovan is an avid photographer, and this provided an ulterior motive for me - I could concentrate on piloting the boat while he took care of photos.

I took a few, but I'm sure you'll be able to tell the difference - he's more of an artist than I am.

We put in at Arena, Wisconsin, just downstream from my hometown and went about 6.5 miles upstream to Ferry Bluff, then back.

What always amazes me on this river is how short a distance you can go and still feel like you went to a completely different place. If you're short on time, a half mile will usually do. There are many sandbars and islands, and each is different.

An important factor in this "different place" feeling is the impact of water level changes. The Lower Wisconsin River is mostly quite shallow, with a meandering deep channel. Any rise or drop in level can really change the landscape. When I was on the same stretch of river the prior week with another friend, the water was quite a bit lower, which exposed this beach.

From where I'm standing to that first little inlet of water is about a one-foot drop-off.

To the right of where I'm standing you can see some ankle-deep water. With the water level a little lower, this too would be beach.

When riverbed gets exposed you get to find things.

Raccoons find things too. and leave the shells behind. Sometimes they miss some, too.

Freshwater bivalves tend to have rather rubbery meat, so this one was "rescued" to the ankle-deep water.

I'm not enough of a naturalist to tell you what made that last pattern. (Perhaps a reader can chime in with Chuck's new comments feature.)

Rhea was impressed at how like concrete the thinly-deposited clay could look.

To do this with kids, you really need an army entrenchment tool. I like the Vietnam era and prior version with the wooden handle.

This is a surprisingly long stretch of beach with quite a lot to see.

And all this was only about a half-mile from the launch ramp! A week later, it was mostly under water.

Donovan and I stopped at a different island.

To be continued next month...

Click Here for a List of Articles and Columns by Rob Rohde-Szudy