portfolio > gone on the river

day 33
day 33
July 01, 2022

Day 33, July 1.
Measurements: turbidity at mile marker 609, between Guttenberg and Cassville: 55cm. Miles today: 30!

I woke early, around 6am, with the sun already quite warm in the tent. I ate the breakfast I'd prepped last night (overnight oats with fruit and such, and tea) and got off of the island I'd spent the night on before 9.

The next stop was Cassville, which is on the Wisconsin side. It was named for the governor of the Michigan territory, the same man Cass Lake in northern Minnesota is named after. Interestingly, this tiny river and railroad town was vying, early on, to be the capitol of Wisconsin. The building they offered up for the legislature is still there, the basically derelict Denniston House.

The wind was mercifully light today, and when it did crop up a bit it was mostly behind me. That allowed me to push much further than in past days. I arrived at Lock and Dam #11 at around 4pm. I had to wait for a barge to come through, and sort of hid in the backwater next to the dam, something that one of the dam workers noticed and complimented - smart move, getting out of that tow's way over there.

In the lock, I had an interesting conversation with not only another dam worker but also two guys who were taking large jet skis down from La Crosse to St. Louis. They had left La Crosse... that morning. I had to laugh, because I left La Crosse four days ago? Five?

The dam worker also had fascinating information. He let me know that the river has dropped six feet in the last month. At the beginning of June, the river level was six feet higher than it is now. So the lack of current I'm perceiving is partly due to the interventions like the dams, and partly due just to the amount of water moving through the valley. It's especially interesting to me, because I saw so many signs early in the trip that the water level at that place and time was exceptionally high.

After the lock, I paddled the last few miles into Dubuque. I passed another major milestone: the state line between Wisconsin and Illinois. I am now finished with Wisconsin, at least for this trip. It feels a bit odd, because I was within and then alongside Minnesota for so long, and I feel like Wisconsin's time has been relatively short - just since Prescott and the St. Croix confluence, less than two weeks ago.

I transformed the rig into road mode and made my way up into town, across a strange overpass over a freeway into the old town, which had a very real "below the hill" feel, sort of seedy and raw and real. Down at the bottom of that area I found a brewery, Dimension Brewing, and parked on the sidewalk. A guy inside saw me, and came up to the open roll-up window along the building face to ask if I was paddling the Mississippi. I said I was. He said he was a member of the Mississippi river paddlers Facebook group, and I said I was too, and told him that I'm the guy whose boat left without me three weeks ago or whatever. He remembered that story well, and we had a good laugh about it. He bought me a beer, and then another for the water, and then brought his buddy around who works at the brewery, who bought me four more tallboys and asked me to put their sticker on the canoe, which I was happy to do. (I feel like I should have been doing this all along, collecting stickers like a Nascar driver,)

Dinner was at a very fancy and very good place called L May. Risotto with corn and asparagus, everything fresh and lovely.

Tonight I am sleeping in a motel. I sprung for the cheapest option available, which the map said was about fifteen minutes away by bike. Turns out it was also up about a thousand feet in elevation, up into the stratosphere where the air is thin (this may be a very slight exaggeration) and then back down a bit. Google Maps had warned of "moderate hills," and I take that to mean they're moderate in comparison to a literal vertical cliff face. I had to push the whole rig up most of these hills on foot. A nice lady slowed to see if I needed help, and I said no thank you. A nice Black guy stopped me to say that he'd never seen anything like that, and we had a fun little chat; he was pretty amused by my whole deal.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to safely ride back down into downtown, to the water's edge, put back in, and continue downstream.