Adventures Along the Upper Mississippi

I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely gorgeous the Upper Mississippi River is.


My first few weeks have been spent in one of the most biologically diverse regions in the United States. How fortunate I am to have been chosen to intern on this beautiful land caught between the bluffs for the entire summer. Effigy Mounds National Monument is a hidden gem.


Now four weeks in, I’ve discovered the delightful squelch of Wisconsin cheese curds. During my work trips and leisure time, I’ve observed the close-knit communities in both Iowa and Wisconsin. I have gone to two free-food community events, one featuring sirloin steak as the main dish, and I have gone to Prairie du Chien’s 1800s county fair. I have noticed running small towns takes considerable effort. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many leaders from conservation groups, historical societies, and economic development boards while traveling with Effigy Mound’s Superintendent Susan Snow.


Since my arrival on May 22nd, I haven’t had the opportunity to see the stars much due to frequent rain. Coming from Oregon, I’ve always been fond of rain, but here it comes down incessantly. Just last weekend, we received two feet of rain. Thunder and lightning keep my cat—and consequently, me—awake at night. Despite the flooding and disarray, I find myself marveling at the changes to come. Yet, I feel apprehensive about the varying impacts of climate change across the region, which has unfortunately led to many people losing their homes.


These first four weeks have been a period of reflection for me. Working in the National Parks Service, I’ve been privileged to witness the decision-making and collaborative processes firsthand. I ponder where I fit into all of this and what truly matters to me. Speaking with Albert LeBau, the cultural resource manager, he emphasized the importance of preserving the mounds. As an outreach assistant, I offer my own skills and dedication to this cause.


I’ve grown closer to my colleagues, each displaying unique qualities. I thoroughly enjoy being surrounded by fellow outdoor enthusiasts. In my next blog post, I’ll delve into my own contributions and what I bring to this park, especially in relation to its most cherished resources—the effigy mounds and its significant lands, which provide me with the invaluable opportunity to learn from the affiliated tribes.


During their annual canoeing celebration, the Ho-Chunk Nation graciously shared their hand-carved canoe with us. Crafted from sturdy cottonwood, these canoes can float even when filled with water due to their impressive buoyancy. This experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I’m immensely grateful to have participated in this event with the Ho-Chunk, where we enjoyed a potluck, explored Villa Louis across the river, and took a short trip in their hand-carved canoe. Here are some photos from that memorable day.


Shiela, the museum technician of Effigy Mounds, with Bill Quackenbush, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) of the Ho-Chunk Nation.


Bill Quackenbush with Alex, one of the Effigy Mounds maintenance staff, at the Villa Louis House.


Me on the canoe!

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