Driftless Rivers

National Park

Foundation

Seeks creation of a new national park in the ruggedly beautiful blufflands of the

Upper Mississippi River – the heart of America.

Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation

 

Seeks creation of a new national park in the ruggedly beautiful blufflands of the Upper Mississippi River – the heart of America.

The Vision: America’s Next Great National Park

Imagine a great national park in the heartland of America–the Driftless Rivers National Park.
A northern region where massive continental glaciers a mile thick repeatedly loomed and
stalked the area for more than a million years but could not touch it, encircling a refuge for
flora and fauna of the Ice Age. It’s a land of stunning beauty, rugged bluffs, a confluence of
ancient rivers, filled with caves and archaeological treasures thousands of years old, the site of white man’s
first encounter with the mighty Mississippi, and a place of French fur trading barons, log-built military forts and
battles with the native peoples.

The heart of the park would be born, and carved out of, the unincorporated portions of what is now Crawford
County, Wisconsin, an area about 586 square miles (375,000 acres). At such a vast acreage, this ark would be fourth in
size out of the national parks east of the Mississippi River, with only The Everglades, Great Smoky Mountain and Isle Royale
National Parks larger. The park boundaries could also include parts of the adjacent counties of Richland and Vernon and perhaps
span across the Mississippi River in the area currently designated as Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa.

Great, beautiful and visionary as they are, most of our national parks lie far out west and every further away in Alaska. Consequently,
they are functionally out of reach for a vast number of Americans who could greatly benefit from recurring trips to a national park.

The Driftless Rivers National Park would possess enormous conservational, recreational, educational and historical potential. Some of the park’s
highlights would include sightseeing, hiking, mountain biking and camping in the rugged bluffs and valleys, boat tours on the mighty Mississippi including on paddlewheelers
from the era of Mark Twain, kayaking and canoeing the Kickapoo and Wisconsin Rivers, bird watching in one of the nation’s greatest migratory flyways, fishing trips on waters
ranging from the country’s biggest river to intimate, crystal-clear trout streams, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, spelunking in ancient caverns and viewing
thousand-year-old effigy mounds, horseback and carriage riding, and fall color touring.

The Vision: America’s Next Great National Park

Imagine a great national park
in the heartland of America–
the Driftless Rivers National 
Park. A northern region
where massive continental
glaciers a mile thick repeatedly
loomed and stalked the area for
more than a million years but could
not touch it, encircling a refuge for flora
and fauna of the Ice Age. It’s a land of
stunning beauty, rugged bluffs, a confluence 
of ancient rivers, filled with caves and
archaeological treasures thousands of years old,
the site of white man’s first encounter with the mighty Mississippi, and a place of French fur trading barons, log-built military forts and battles with the native peoples.

 

See what you can do to help us

There are many ways you can support our cause

See What You Can Do

There are many ways you can support our cause

financial support

Please contribute today. Give until it feels good. DRNPF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and your donation is deductible to the full extent of the law.

 

volunteer

Volunteer your time. Contact us to discuss ways that we can work together in your community. 

 

 

sign the petition

Sign our petition to Congress to show your support for the Driftless Rivers National Park

 

 

purchase the book

Purchase of copy of the book The Becoming of the Driftless Rivers National Park.

 

donate land

Either to support the Foundation financially or to provide the nucleus for the creation of the national park!

 

planned gift

Make a planned gift by naming Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation in your will.

 

donate money

Donate how much you want directly via Paypal

 

 

Activities in the Driftless area

The Driftless Rivers National Park possesses world-class outdoor recreational  opportunities. The Mississippi, Wisconsin and Kickapoo Rivers, scenic limestone bluffs, pristine trout streams and expansive backwaters provide an unmatched natural playground for outdoor recreation.

Kayaking

Hiking

Bird watching

Mountain biking

fishing

Fact about the Driftless area

The Driftless Region is an enchanted land that a mysterious force shielded for more than a million years from the powerful, massive continental glaciers of the last Ice Age.  The landscape is filled with rugged, stunning scenery, bizarre microclimates–some desert-like with cactus and lizards and others arctic-like with Pleistocene species, and deep caves. The world’s oldest river meanders its way through the center, having carved beautiful cliffs lush with rare wildflowers and topped with pine relicts. Native America effigy mounds and petroglyphs remain from a thousand years ago.

Here’s a list of cool facts about what makes the Driftless Region so spectacular with its wealth of scenic, ecological, archaeological, geological and historical significance.

The Driftless Region is an enchanted land that a mysterious force shielded for more than a million years from the powerful, massive continental glaciers of the last Ice Age.  The landscape is filled with rugged, stunning scenery, bizarre microclimates–some desert-like with cactus and lizards and others arctic-like with Pleistocene species, and deep caves. The world’s oldest river meanders its way through the center, having carved beautiful cliffs lush with rare wildflowers and topped with pine relicts. Native America effigy mounds and petroglyphs remain from a thousand years ago.

Here’s a list of cool facts about what makes the Driftless Region so spectacular with its wealth of scenic, ecological, archaeological, geological and historical significance.

Our nation’s first soil conservation project of the 1930s was launched in the Coon Creek Watershed around Coon Valley, Wis. (just a short distance north of Crawford County) with the leadership of Aldo Leopold, the “father” of wildlife conservation. Phil Lewis, a retired UW Professor of Landscape Architecture, identified the Driftless as a region that should be preserved as a natural playground and retreat for surrounding, large urban areas as part of his Circle City concept developed decades ago.

The Driftless Area is the subject of both a book, The Becoming of the Driftless Rivers National Park, and a documentary film, Mysteries of the Driftless, in recognition of the significance of the natural, historical and archaeological resources of the region.

A nearly complete mastodon skeleton was discovered in 1897 a few miles east of Crawford County near the town of Boaz.

The limestone and karst geology of the Driftless Area resulted in numerous deep caves, including several known sites in Crawford County, such as the Kickapoo Caverns and Larson Cave.

Trout Unlimited recognized the significance of the world-class trout streams of the region when it launched its TUDARE program (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort) in 2004. Large sums of money are being spent restoring the ecology of the coldwater resource of the Driftless Area.

The land’s diverse topography harbors many globally-imperiled natural communities with amazing contrast, spanning the gamut of hot-dry sites with prickly pear cactus to Ice Age holdovers like Pleistocene snails and beautiful northern monkshood wildflowers sustained by air chilled and vented from subterranean ice caves and rock fissures.

Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to visit the upper Mississippi Valley, the area now proposed to be a national park, when they reached the Mississippi River by way of the Wisconsin River on June 17, 1673.

The majority of ancient Native American effigy mounds, along with prehistoric cave art, is concentrated on the Mississippi River bluffs of the Driftless Area. As a result, the Effigy Mounds National Monument was created right across the Mississippi River from Crawford County.

Some geologists believe that the Kickapoo River may be the oldest active river in the world.

In 2012, the Huffington Post declared the Great River Road Scenic Byway in Wisconsin the prettiest drive in the nation, edging out a highway in Hawaii for the title.

More recently, the significance of the area’s ecology was confirmed by the fact that a Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1989 to protect the federally endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail and threatened northern monkshood plant. Habitats that support these species are also home to other glacial-relict snail and plant species that require specific cool moist conditions to live. These species occur only on algific talus slopes or moist sandstone cliffs. In these fragile places, constant cold air exiting from a cliff or talus slope creates a unique microclimate, one that may be considerably different from areas only meters away. The ultimate goal is recovery and removal of both species from the Federal list of endangered and threatened species.

The river floodplain that bisects the Driftless was declared the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1924. This 240,000- acre refuge, which runs for 261 miles along the river valley, provides habitat for 40% of America’s waterfowl, more than 300 bird species and 260 species of fish. With more than 500 access points and harbors, the river is a recreational resource to more than 3 million people annually (more than Yellowstone), supporting a $6.6 billion annual recreational/tourism economy. Just a few years ago, the Upper Mississippi River was designated a RAMSAR wetlands of global significance.

Our nation’s first soil conservation project of the 1930s was launched in the Coon Creek Watershed around Coon Valley, Wis. (just a short distance north of Crawford County) with the leadership of Aldo Leopold, the “father” of wildlife conservation. Phil Lewis, a retired UW Professor of Landscape Architecture, identified the Driftless as a region that should be preserved as a natural playground and retreat for surrounding, large urban areas as part of his Circle City concept developed decades ago.

The Driftless Area is the subject of both a book, The Becoming of the Driftless Rivers National Park, and a documentary film, Mysteries of the Driftless, in recognition of the significance of the natural, historical and archaeological resources of the region.

A nearly complete mastodon skeleton was discovered in 1897 a few miles east of Crawford County near the town of Boaz.

The limestone and karst geology of the Driftless Area resulted in numerous deep caves, including several known sites in Crawford County, such as the Kickapoo Caverns and Larson Cave.

Trout Unlimited recognized the significance of the world-class trout streams of the region when it launched its TUDARE program (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort) in 2004. Large sums of money are being spent restoring the ecology of the coldwater resource of the Driftless Area.

The land’s diverse topography harbors many globally-imperiled natural communities with amazing contrast, spanning the gamut of hot-dry sites with prickly pear cactus to Ice Age holdovers like Pleistocene snails and beautiful northern monkshood wildflowers sustained by air chilled and vented from subterranean ice caves and rock fissures.

Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to visit the upper Mississippi Valley, the area now proposed to be a national park, when they reached the Mississippi River by way of the Wisconsin River on June 17, 1673.

The majority of ancient Native American effigy mounds, along with prehistoric cave art, is concentrated on the Mississippi River bluffs of the Driftless Area. As a result, the Effigy Mounds National Monument was created right across the Mississippi River from Crawford County.

Some geologists believe that the Kickapoo River may be the oldest active river in the world.

In 2012, the Huffington Post declared the Great River Road Scenic Byway in Wisconsin the prettiest drive in the nation, edging out a highway in Hawaii for the title.

More recently, the significance of the area’s ecology was confirmed by the fact that a Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1989 to protect the federally endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail and threatened northern monkshood plant. Habitats that support these species are also home to other glacial-relict snail and plant species that require specific cool moist conditions to live. These species occur only on algific talus slopes or moist sandstone cliffs. In these fragile places, constant cold air exiting from a cliff or talus slope creates a unique microclimate, one that may be considerably different from areas only meters away. The ultimate goal is recovery and removal of both species from the Federal list of endangered and threatened species.

The river floodplain that bisects the Driftless was declared the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1924. This 240,000- acre refuge, which runs for 261 miles along the river valley, provides habitat for 40% of America’s waterfowl, more than 300 bird species and 260 species of fish. With more than 500 access points and harbors, the river is a recreational resource to more than 3 million people annually (more than Yellowstone), supporting a $6.6 billion annual recreational/tourism economy. Just a few years ago, the Upper Mississippi River was designated a RAMSAR wetlands of global significance.

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Frequintly Asked Questions

Have there been archaeological discoveries in the Driftless Area?

The Driftless Area is rich with unique archaeological discoveries. Massive earthen effigy mounds, burial mounds constructed in the shapes of animals, are concentrated on the high bluffs overlooking Driftless Area rivers, including the Mississippi and Wisconsin. Such effigy mounds, found predominantly in Wisconsin and Iowa, with a few specimens as far away as Ohio, are unique in all the world....

What types of fossils have been found in the Driftless Area?

The sedimentary rocks of the region contain large numbers of fossilized sea creatures, including trilobites and cephalopods. In addition, a nearly complete mastodon skeleton was discovered in 1897 a few miles east of Crawford County, Wisconsin near the town of Boaz.

When did Europeans first reach the Driftless Area?

Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, were the first Europeans to visit the region when they reached the Mississippi River by way of the Wisconsin River on June 17th, 1673.

How old is the Driftless Area?

The sedimentary rocks of the Driftless Area are from the Paleozoic Era and up to 545 million years old, and even the most recent strata of bedrock are hundreds of millions of years old. Since the glaciers of the last Ice Age, which started between one and two million years ago and ended roughly 13,000 years ago, did not extend into the Driftless Area, the rivers of this landscape have been left...

Why is the Driftless Area special from a conservation perspective?

In addition to the high biodiversity and number of rare species found in the Driftless, the area is unique in its conservation role-model status. The Driftless is the Lambeau Field of conservation—an almost-mythical place with a storied history of leadership.   Our nation’s first soil conservation project of the 1930s was launched in the Coon Creek Watershed around Coon Valley, Wis. with the...

What distinguishes the Driftless Area?

Unlike the surrounding, glaciated regions that were plowed by mile-thick glaciers that dumped deep layers of sand, gravel and rocks on the terrain, the Driftless Area landscape has had its rivers and streams left to carve deep valleys over the past 1.6 million years.  The result is a scenic landscape of steep bluffs with limestone and sandstone cliffs and valleys that form dendritic (treelike)...

What is the Driftless Area/Region?

The Driftless Area, also known as the Paleozoic Plateau, is a region in the Upper Midwest that escaped the crushing and scouring effects of glaciation during the last glacial period.  Its size is variously calculated between 16,000 and 29,000 square miles. These differences seem to be the result of the strictness with which one defines the boundaries, as parts of the Driftless Area were overrun...

Have there been archaeological discoveries in the Driftless Area?

The Driftless Area is rich with unique archaeological discoveries. Massive earthen effigy mounds, burial mounds constructed in the shapes of animals, are concentrated on the high bluffs overlooking Driftless Area rivers, including the Mississippi and Wisconsin. Such effigy mounds, found predominantly in Wisconsin and Iowa, with a few specimens as far away as Ohio, are unique in all the world....

What types of fossils have been found in the Driftless Area?

The sedimentary rocks of the region contain large numbers of fossilized sea creatures, including trilobites and cephalopods. In addition, a nearly complete mastodon skeleton was discovered in 1897 a few miles east of Crawford County, Wisconsin near the town of Boaz.

When did Europeans first reach the Driftless Area?

Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, were the first Europeans to visit the region when they reached the Mississippi River by way of the Wisconsin River on June 17th, 1673.

How old is the Driftless Area?

The sedimentary rocks of the Driftless Area are from the Paleozoic Era and up to 545 million years old, and even the most recent strata of bedrock are hundreds of millions of years old. Since the glaciers of the last Ice Age, which started between one and two million years ago and ended roughly 13,000 years ago, did not extend into the Driftless Area, the rivers of this landscape have been left...

Why is the Driftless Area special from a conservation perspective?

In addition to the high biodiversity and number of rare species found in the Driftless, the area is unique in its conservation role-model status. The Driftless is the Lambeau Field of conservation—an almost-mythical place with a storied history of leadership.   Our nation’s first soil conservation project of the 1930s was launched in the Coon Creek Watershed around Coon Valley, Wis. with the...

What distinguishes the Driftless Area?

Unlike the surrounding, glaciated regions that were plowed by mile-thick glaciers that dumped deep layers of sand, gravel and rocks on the terrain, the Driftless Area landscape has had its rivers and streams left to carve deep valleys over the past 1.6 million years.  The result is a scenic landscape of steep bluffs with limestone and sandstone cliffs and valleys that form dendritic (treelike)...

What is the Driftless Area/Region?

The Driftless Area, also known as the Paleozoic Plateau, is a region in the Upper Midwest that escaped the crushing and scouring effects of glaciation during the last glacial period.  Its size is variously calculated between 16,000 and 29,000 square miles. These differences seem to be the result of the strictness with which one defines the boundaries, as parts of the Driftless Area were overrun...

Get In Touch

Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved
Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation
P.O. Box 279
La Crosse, WI 54602
info@DriftlessRivers.org