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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Paddling On the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Region 3, September 18, 2012
Ericka Overgard fullfilling a life's dream, camping on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Ericka Overgard fullfilling a life's dream, camping on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a

This summer the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge hosted a series of paddling events as part of the Summer of Paddling 2012 initiative. One of those events was a notable experience for one visitor; she got to check off a lifetime bucket list item: camping on an island on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Ericka Overgard teleworks for IBM, owns Riveroutfitters a kayaking/canoe rental shop in Alma, Wis. and dreamed of camping on an island on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. When she heard that the Refuge Rangers from Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge were scouting a water trail through the refuge she signed up to go along. She brought her friend Ian and on August 23, 2012 after a 17 mile paddle from the confluence of the Chippewa River flows into the Upper Mississippi River to Fisher Island she was able to check camping on an island off her bucket list.
Ericka commented, “This was my birthday present to me. When Ed and Cindy said it was encouraged that the public join them on this paddle I knew I had to do it.”

 

After the paddle Ericka commented, "I just wanted to pass on THANKS from both me and Ian for letting us paddle with you for a portion of your great trip! I am sorry our boats were not a good match for yours and truly appreciate you waiting for us along the way. I know it slowed you down but it meant a lot to us. After you all left, Ian and I enjoyed some breakfast on the island and then paddled the backwaters near Buffalo City before ending our trip. We'll definitely get out again thanks to the confidence we gained travelling and learning from all of you."

Confidence in paddling is what many of the Summer of Paddling events did for participants. Kevin Foerster, Refuge Manager stated, "Hosting these events allowed first time paddlers to gain experience and it boosted the confidence levels for many paddlers."
Ericka has also started a project that will help other paddlers she’s creating a guide to paddling the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife & Fish Refuge. Ericka commented, "I think introducing people to the area and getting them excited to paddle here, in part, depends upon making information readily available and also providing the next level of detail and interpretation of the opportunities out there. I think this will be a great compliment to promoting the Mississippi River as a water trail."

Contact Info: Cynthia Samples, 507-542-4232 ext.216, Cindy_Samples@fws.gov