Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news
March-April 2008
News excerpts 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.

Coal Power

Cassville, Wis. — Wisconsin is finally considering Alliant Energy’s application to build a 300-megawatt coal power unit on the Mississippi at the Nelson Dewey generating station in Cassville. The Public Service Commission rejected the application in June 2007 as incomplete and asked for more information, including the plant’s effects on the river bed. The commission has 180 days (plus another 180 with an extension) to accept or deny the application. The public may comment online or write to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7854, Madison, Wis., 53707-7854, and refer to case 6680-CE-170.)

The environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin said in a statement, “Instead of reducing global warming emissions, the boiler design chosen by Alliant would emit at least 10 percent more global warming pollution per unit of energy than the current facility, which was built nearly 50 years ago.” They also noted that “several of the options Alliant outlines in its application involve removing a large section of scenic bluffs in order to make room for expanded rail lines.” The group also sees a threat to the Cassville area’s large population of endangered Higgins’ eye mussels.

Big River Man

When Martin Strel swam the Mississippi in 2002, it was just one river in his bucket of accomplishments. He broke his long-distance world record, the Danube in 2000, with the Yangtze in 2004, and yet again, in 2007, with the Amazon.
Martin Strel wrote a book about his swim, The Man Who Swam the Amazon. (
Director John Maringouin (“Running Stumbled,” “Just Another Day in the Homeland”) first recognized Strel’s offbeat movie allure when he saw the endurance athlete swigging wine on the banks of the Mississippi on CNN. (New York Times, June 3, 2007)
Maringouin filmed Strel’s Amazon swim. The resulting movie, “Big River Man,” is scheduled for release this year by Lumina Films.
Strel, a robust 53-year-old from Slovenia, swam the Amazon’s 3,278 miles in 67 days. He wore a wet suit to protect himself from various poisonous and parasitic critters. His official motto for his swims is, “Swim for peace, friendship and clean waters.”

Saving a Queen

Dubuque, Iowa — People take risks all the time — and on federal park land, at that. They climb mountains and hike the Grand Canyon. So, why shouldn’t they be allowed to ride in the Delta Queen, asks Jerry Enzler, director of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
Enzler is part of a nation-wide, grass-roots effort to keep the steamboat operating.
The Delta Queen, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has operated safely for 80 years, according to a resolution prepared by the National Rivers Hall of Fame. The resolution asks Congress to permanently exempt the vessel from a provision of the Safety of Life at Sea Act, which prohibits the operation of vessels with wooden superstructures. The Queen has such a superstructure but has been exempted from the law for 37 years. The exemption is due to expire in November.
Enzler pointed out that the boat is coated with fire-resistant paint, has an up-to-date sprinkler system and fire-suppression equipment. Besides, he said, the Queen, which cruises up and down the Mississippi, is never more than about a half mile from shore. As long as passengers are warned of the potential for fire, they should be allowed on the vessel, he said.
Today there are only six active steamboats, and none has as much history as the Delta Queen, he said.
The National Rivers Hall of Fame board is working with other river cities.
A loosely organized team of steamboat enthusiasts has established an Internet campaign to save the Delta Queen. According to Franz Neumeier, a German who operates the website, “hundreds, if not thousands, of people” from Europe and Canada, as well as the United States, have asked Congress to extend the exemption.

Pepin’s Icy Regatta

Lake City, Minn. — Lake Pepin froze clear and solid enough this year to host 98 racers from all over the country, and a few from Europe, at the 2008 North American DN Championship Regatta on January 14-18. The race was sponsored by the International DN Ice Racing Association.
The race had shifted to Lake Pepin from Lake Winnebago, in eastern Wisconsin, at the last minute, due to a heavy snow on the ice there.
Sailors encountered plenty of wind and temperatures that ranged from 10 to 20°F.
Ice-sailing has been a traditional sport on the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin for more than 100 years. (See “Iceboating,” in Big River, January-February 2007) or view online

Great River Road Promo

Bettendorf, Iowa — The 10-state Great River Road is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. If you’re interested in how the Mississippi River is promoted, check out the next two annual conferences of the Great River Road, both on the Upper Mississippi.
Bettendorf will host the meeting this year on Sept. 25-28, and the 2009 event will be in Red Wing, Minn. Although the meeting focuses on promoters, giving them a chance to talk to and learn from each other, the meetings are open to the public, for a fee.
Great River Road promotion is overseen by the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, composed of representatives of the ten Mississippi River states.
A special geocaching event is in the works this year, with historically-themed caches throughout each of the Mississippi River states.