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Rustic Raft Rally- a logging history event

Rustic Raft Rally- a logging history event

Last Saturday Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve held their 2nd annual Rustic Raft Rally. The event saw four groups of two that worked hard crafting their rafts for the event using only natural materials.

Before the rafts were launched, spectators had the opportunity to vote for the best crafted vessel that would be awarded the People’s Choice Award.

A free rock was given to all spectators that then voted for their favorite raft by dropping it in a basket on each of the rafts. Additional rocks were available for $1.00. The money raised for additional rocks benefitted the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

The rafting rally began at Bridge 12 in Rockton and ended at Bridge 14 on County Highway P, just North of LaFarge.

Spectators and team supporters had the option to follow the rafts on the river, or wait at Bridge 14 and participate in activities sponsored by the organization. Activities included fishing, a nature scavenger hunt, looking for clues in a treasure hunt, and yard games, and were hosted by Friends of Kickapoo Valley Reserve members Polly Cisco of Richland Center and Lynn Foster of La Farge.

Member Julie Hoel of Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve offered some history of the rally. “This is the second year we’ve done it. The first time was last year. It was done in conjunction with a theme of the year that was for traditional wisdom and activities. Last year, there were also demonstrations of traditional crafts. There was a Native American meal that was served. We thought the highlight of the day was the rafting, so that’s the part that we continued this year.”

Hoel said last year around 200 people attended the rally that came from 41 different zip codes.

Hoel also noted that the event speaks to the long logging history of the Kickapoo river. A history that dates back to the 1830’s when large stands of white pine were harvested, and loggers floated their timber down the Kickapoo to the Mississippi River markets of Dubuque, Galena, Savannah, and Davenport, although some mill of logs was done locally. By the 1850s, the lumber industry had become the backbone of the state’s economy, that lasted until the 1880s.

The Kickapoo River became the natural power source for saw milling in the nineteenth century.  Today, the Kickapoo is used for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking enthusiasts, and the river plays an important role in many local economies along its banks.

Sacred Heart School sold food and beverages, along with the food trailer, Le Grille. Formerly the Blackhawk Grille from Viroqua, Le Grille is now owned by LeAnne Mslna of Cashton.

First to finish this year’s Rustic Raft Rally was one of the youngest participants, Hixson Katz and his younger brother Kieran, from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Some rafters making it to Bridge 14 had a few trials and tribulations trying to navigate to the end. They may have learned about buoyancy, a necessary skill to complete the event on a homemade raft.

For future events sponsored by the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, visit their Facebook page. For more information about Kickapoo Valley Reserve visit their website.

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