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The Bark River Chronicles: Stories from a Wisconsin Watershedby Milton J Bates
Synopses & Reviews
The Bark River valley in southeastern Wisconsin is a microcosm of the state's - indeed, of the Great Lakes region's - natural and human history. "The Bark River Chronicles" reports one couple's journey by canoe from the river's headwaters to its confluence with the Rock River and several miles farther downstream to Lake Koshkonong. Along the way, it tells the stories of Ice Age glaciation, the effigy mound builders, the Black Hawk War, early settlement and the development of waterpower sites, and recent efforts to remove old dams and mitigate the damage done by water pollution and invasive species.
Along with these big stories, the book recounts dozens of little stories associated with sites along the river. The winter ice harvest, grain milling technology, a key supreme court decision regarding toxic waste disposal, a small-town circus, a scheme to link the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River by canal, the murder of a Chicago mobster, controversies over race and social class in Waukesha County's lake country, community efforts to clean up the river and restore a marsh, visits to places associated with the work of important Wisconsin writers - these and many other stories belong to the Bark River chronicles.
For the two voyageurs who paddle the length of the Bark, it is a journey of rediscovery and exploration. As they glide through marshes, woods, farmland, and cities, they acquire not only historical and environmental knowledge but also a renewed sense of the place in which they live. Maps and historical photographs help the reader share their experience.
"Using his and his wife's journeys by canoe from Wisconsin's Bark Lake along the Bark and Rock Rivers to Lake Koshkonong as a narrative thread for this charming book, Bates meanders to and fro recounting local lore and musing on a variety of subjects — from a history of the land during the last Ice Age to thoughts on the life and work of Lorine Neidecker, an immensely influential modernist poet unique for having remained a writer of the rural while participating in a decidedly urban and international artistic movement. On a quainter note, Bates details the pros of a canoe when compared to a kayak, the process by which ice was harvested from the Milwaukee River during the late 19th century for use in industries as diverse as brewing and corpse-storage, and the histories of a slew of old mills along the waterways. While Bates is clearly an expert on the Wisconsin watershed and its colorful past, and his insights often draw from curious factoids and observations, the narrative is constrained to a necessary sort of provincialism — for folks familiar with the area, this is a rewarding journey. For others, even the beauty of Bates' writing will likely prove insufficient to keep them on course. Photos & maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Using a canoe trip down a small river in southeastern Wisconsin as its narrative thread, The Bark River Chronicles blends history, archeology, natural science, and analysis of current environmental issues to tell the story of the state, the region, and ultimately much of the country.
About the Author
Milton J. Bates has lived most of his life in Wisconsin. After completing a doctorate in English at the University of California–Berkeley, he taught at Williams College and Marquette University, retiring in 2010. He has held a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and Fulbright lectureships in China and Spain. His previous books include studies of the poet Wallace Stevens and of the Vietnam War. He lives with his wife in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
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History and Social Science » Americana » General