Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news


January-February 2008
News and Links

Follow the links for more information about news in Big River.

How’s the Weather Look?

Now travelers on the Upper Mississippi River with web access can easily check the weather in rivertowns. Click here for a map of the river from the Twin Cities to Muscatine, Iowa. Click on any of the cities to open a National Weather Service forecast for that city.

River Adventurers

Diamond Bluff, Wis. — After floating down the St. Croix River and into the Mississippi as far as Diamond Bluff last October, a 51-year-old woman’s inflatable raft got punctured, and she was stranded in a mess of floating logs and debris for three days, until a Hager City, Wis., fisherman found her.

The fisherman heard screams, boated over to investigate and was startled when a head popped up from under a blue tarp.

“I thought I was kind of in ‘The Twilight Zone’ there for a bit,” he recalled, in a story in the Pierce County Herald (10-17-07). He took her to Diamond Bluff and called 911. An emergency crew arrived and found her in stable condition, just cold and hungry.

She was dressed in what the fisherman described as an evening gown, and had only a blue tarp for protection, a few berries to eat and a butane lighter for heat.

“She was happy to get off the river,” said the fisherman, Rob Iberg.
She’d spent a month floating downriver, stopping to work at Prescott, Wis., for a while. The Coast Guard had checked on her occasionally along the way.

Farther downriver, in Vicksburg, Miss., the Coast Guard stopped a raft, saying it was unsuitable for one of the most dangerous stretches of the Mississippi. The raft’s only power came from a paddle turned by two stationary bicycles. Three adventurers — Laura Mattingly, Libby Hendon and James Burkart — had already peddled 1,000 miles down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and were headed to New Orleans. They agreed to install an outboard motor to help them change course more quickly. (WDSU New Orleans online, 10-22-07)


Volunteers hold the once-lost tundra swans at the National Eagle Center before their release back into the river.

Swan Rescue

Wabasha, Minn. — Five tundra swans, migrating through the river valley last November, apparently got lost in the fog and came down in the woods near Hammond, Minn., 30 miles from the river.

Hunters found four birds weak but alive, and a fifth that had been killed by a predator. They called a local wildlife officer, who took the birds to the nearby National Eagle Center. The Eagle Center found no obvious injuries, but delivered them to the Wildlife Rehab Center in Roseville, Minn., just to be sure.

After a week of observation and good feeding, the swans were released near Wabasha. They swam around for a few minutes, calling out to about 500 other swans near the Peterson Lake area across the river, before flying off to join them.

Swans fly off to resume their migration.(The white specks across the river are more swans. Click for a closer look.)

Iowa Fish Advisory

Bellevue, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has issued its first Mississippi River fish advisory. The agency warned against eating more than one meal per week or four per month of predator fish such as walleye, sauger, bass and northern pike caught in Pool 12 (from Dubuque to Bellevue, Iowa) in the Mississippi River.
Tests showed these fish to be high in mercury. Exposure to even small amounts over a long period can damage brain, kidneys, lungs and developing fetuses.
No single source of mercury is suspected. Industrial pollution from coal-burning power plants is a prime source, but mercury also occurs naturally.

Climate Change Events

Minneapolis — Climate change is the subject of two upcoming National Park Service programs in the Twin Cities.

On January 17, 2008, Jeffrey Corney from the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve will talk about potential changes in Minnesota and the models that predict them. The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

On March 13, 2008, presenters will discuss resource conservation programs that emerged during the Depression and World War II, and how people can support a new national priority of conservation in response to the threat of climate change. The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Mill City Museum.

Registration is requested. Call the Mississippi River Visitor Center at 651-293-0200. For directions or more information, see the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area website.

Clean River Manual

St. Paul — A manual to help developers, planners and others improve Mississippi River water quality was created by the St. Paul Riverfront Corp. with a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

“Water Quality Manual: Improving the Water Quality of the Mississippi River in St. Paul,” applies to cities up and down the river. It addresses water-quality issues, such as rain barrels, permeable paving and native landscaping, techniques that filter pollutants and keep them out of streams and rivers. The manual addresses a key challenge of water-quality advocates, scaling such techniques up to neighborhoods and cities, noted Steve Wise, natural resources program manager for Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago.

“Nuts-and-bolts” is a good way to describe the half-inch-thick manual: Its unusual binding is a single bolt, allowing users to take the document apart and hand around its card-like 4-by-7-inch pages.

Manuals are available from the St. Paul Riverfront Corp. at 651-293-6860.