*This blog post was written last fall before I began my last year of college. The references I make of school are from that time period, enjoy!
Calming and exhausting; two words that don’t sound quite right together, but what two better words to explain a day on the Kickapoo River. To give you a good understanding of this twisting wonder, you need to understand the history of it, much like understanding a long time friend.
The Kickapoo River winds over a 126-mile long path through untouched valleys of the driftless region. Known for its remarkable twists and turns, the name comes from the Algonquian translation meaning, “one who goes here, then there”. The Algonquian background that it possesses comes from the many Natives who once claimed the beautiful gorged valleys as their home.
From the Native valleys that the Kickapoo River winds through, it finds its final destination in the Wisconsin River and is the longest tributary of the Wisconsin River. The Kickapoo river is not only the longest tributary but one of the oldest. With this area being the driftless region, it means that no glaciers ever touched the area we call our home.
In the valleys, we judge the seasons by the river stages. In late spring the water drops from its flood stages, and our valleys flood with people wanting to get out on the water. During the summer, you will see rows and rows of cars lined up in our parks. Attached to the cars are typically canoes, kayaks, and the occasional fishing boat with their final destinations of course, being the Kickapoo River.
For visitors looking for a fun-filled day of canoeing or kayaking, I would highly suggest canoeing the Kickapoo; or as we locals say “canoe the poo”. From the minute you slide your body down into the canoe or kayak, to the end of the ride when you dip your foot into the soft muddy waters, you experience something unlike anything in this world; a sense of calm and chaos.
I “canoed the poo” just last week and the water was very calm and shallow. It was quiet and not many were out on the river due to school being started. To get in my last adventure on this beautiful river was something that I couldn’t wait to do, and the minute I pushed off the canoe from the muddy bank, I knew that I was home. The rivers tranquility, takes me to a place that I can breathe. Riding its smooth current that day I was finally able to think about my life and the start of another busy school year. I was able to appreciate the simplicity of life that was surrounding me at that very moment.
As my thoughts wandered with each turn I was able to finally relax and soak in each piece of our lands history I could. Though I have seen every crevasse and crack of this old river, something small and new always seems to catch my eye. I noticed for once how clear the water was, just like my thoughts becoming clearer with each tiny pebble I could see underneath the ,smooth, glass look to the water. At some points I had to get out and pull the canoe over the rocks to make my way to the next spot deep enough for me to plunge back into. As I continued on down the river, the rock walls closed in on me. It felt comforting being so close to them; its feels as though their wisdom and age put me at ease. With each stroke I was making, small beads of sweat began to drip down my forehead, like the water dripping down off the rocks. But before I could wipe my brow I had to prepare myself for the next turn ahead. With the turns and twists that the river makes you must always be ready to make a hairpin turn in a matter of seconds or less.
After the turn, all was tranquil, for a while at least. You see, with each turn you make you never know what you are going to see around the bend. Just like in life, you never know what is next, you just hope you are ready for it. And just as I had suspected the next turn brought me to a massive tree that had fallen to its death. Although it ran directly over the river I had enough space to just slip right underneath the mass of the tree. When getting so close to the bank, trees or branches hanging down, you need to watch out for the occasional spider or snake that tends to drop down into boat like the way people unexpectedly show up in your life; in this case I got very lucky not to have either end up in my canoe.
As the path of the river continued to make me work I started to think that I had missed my dock to finish my trip, but getting ahead of myself as I always do, the dock finally appeared. I slipped my feet quickly into the cool waters and drug my canoe up the dock and to the small landing area that are for canoe businesses. And as I sat there and waited for my ride, I watched the river continue to push along in its calm ways. The river to me is so easy to relate to because just like life, things keep moving and it’s up to you to stay in the current. Yes there are those turns you make that run you right into an obstacle, but there is always a way around it. Sometimes the going gets rough and then there are the calm and easy times. Being out on the river that day was the best thing I had ever done for myself. I was able to gain a sense of self-calm before I went back to school. It made me realize that although I would be going away for a while, I would be able to remember this day so vividly in my mind and remind me of why I try to go back so often.
Sadly because of how life continues to move on no matter the situation, I wont be able to get back on the river for the rest of the year. For now I am going to have to wait until the flood waters fall in the spring and the area becomes flooded with all the people wanting to get out on the waters and “canoe the poo”.