The Driftless region of Wisconsin is no stranger to flooding. Its spectacular valleys and ridges were formed by the flow of rushing water over millions of years. But in recent memory, the floods are getting more intense, and happening more often—a combination that is having a profound impact on local people and communities. In this episode, we’ll hear stories from people who experienced the flooding firsthand, from farmers to firefighters. And we’ll hear from people who think that these stories might just hold the key for creating a sustainable future in the Driftless—and beyond.
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Photo by Tim Hundt of the Steve Fortney farm near Soldiers Grove in Crawford County taken in 2018. Steve is a fifth-generation farmer who is trying to hang on to the family farm but told Tim it is getting harder and harder as the Kickapoo River has been out of its banks so many times over the last 15 years.
Photo by Tim Hundt of water rising on the main bridge that sits over the Kickapoo River in the community of Viola on August 29, 2018. The river would eventually crest in Viola at 23.72 feet beating the old record of 21.25 feet set just 10 years earlier in June of 2008.
The Driftless Writing Center’s “Stories from the Flood” project published a book that can be read online here. This project and publication was funded in part with a grant from Wisconsin Humanities. Learn more about their grant program here.
More than 100 people have been interviewed so far as part of the “Stories from the Flood” project. The stories in this episode from Nick and Ellen Voss, Clinton Bagstad, Ryan McGuire, and Cele Wolf were generously shared and used with permission.
Erosion in the Black River watershed, Wisconsin (1935)
Much has been written about the region. We recommend checking out “Birth of a Conservation Movement: Contour Farming in Wisconsin.”
The Driftless Writing Center received a grant from Wisconsin Humanities for the”Stories from the Flood” project. They recorded interviews with residents about their experiences of the catastrophic flood of 2018 at workshops like the one pictured above.
Caroline Gottschalk Druschke is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she directs the Headwaters Lab. Her teaching and research interests are community-driven and focused squarely on the intersections of stream restoration, flooding, and community-level resilience in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. She splits her time between the Yahara, Kickapoo, and Pere Marquette watersheds and would always rather be with family near, on, or preferably in water.
Tim Hundt has worked as a journalist in the Driftless Region for the last 20 years. He has covered the flooding that has impacted the region as well as environmental issues, local government, and politics. Born and raised in La Crosse County on a dairy farm at the top of the Coon Creek watershed, Tim now lives in Viroqua where he works as a district representative for Congressman Ron Kind. He has written about the watersheds including the Lessons of Coon Creek and worked with the Driftless Writing Center on the “Stories From Flood” project that included a video he produced about the watersheds.
Curt Meine is a conservation biologist, historian, and writer who serves as a senior fellow with both the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature. He has written several books, including Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (University of Wisconsin Press, 1988). You can read his reflections on The Driftless Area, where he lives, in “The Edge of Anamoly” and hear him interviewed on Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Ellen and Nick Voss live with their coonhound Loki on a small farm near Soldiers Grove in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. They spend their free time fly fishing for trout and muskies, finding new rivers to paddle, and road biking. Ellen is the Aquatic Invasive Species Program Director with River Alliance of Wisconsin, and Nick is the head fly fishing guide at the Driftless Angler fly shop in Viroqua.
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Host: Jimmy Gutierriez
Senior Producer: Craig Eley
Producers: Jessica Becker, Jen Rubin, and Jade Iseri-Ramos
Executive Producers: Brijetta Hall Waller and Dena Wortzel
Photographers: Aris Owens, Craig Eley, Jessica Becker and Gary Porter