The forgotten river ways
Often I like to imagine what this area was like before the settlers arrived. There is a rich, but relatively short history to be found here. Most of our communities in Todd and Wadena County were founded 100 to 150 years ago. Ever think about how humans would navigate this once great wilderness? Well, trails and rivers were their highways and while we may not live in lakes country, thankfully we have the rivers. A few years back, on a mild November day, my wife and I threw our recently acquired canoe into the Wing River in Hewitt. For nearly three hours we drifted down the river, enjoying the bountiful wildlife and vegetation living along this forgotten terrain. I am guessing that it had been awhile since anyone had braved the Wing, with all of the fallen trees and barb wire fences crossing the river. When we left on our adventure that first time, we didn't even have a plan for how to get back to town, but thankfully we caught a ride home by the county line. Since that initial experience, we have continued to enjoy trips down the river. The head waters of the Wing are located near Parkers Prairie and the river runs to the Leaf River, emptying into the Crow Wing and finally meeting up with the mighty Mississippi. So in theory, you could travel from Hewitt to New Orleans by river.
Rivers have always been great ways to travel, but not that long ago they were also a clean source of food and water. Over the years we have turned our backs on the health of the environment and the rivers in particular. As the waterways flow through the countryside, much like the blood through our veins, the rivers accumulate numerous toxins from a variety of sources. By the time the water from the Wing River reaches the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi, the environment there is uninhabitable creating what is considered a "dead zone".
I would like to see our communities be more conscience of the watersheds we live in. It is important for us to be aware of what we are draining into the rivers. The first step in accomplishing this is to get out and explore your river ways! The rivers are an untapped recreational resource in our area that are vitally connected to the future health and livability of our region. It is up to us as citizens to care and monitor what is happening with our water supplies. Only the areas of our nation that make a concerted effort to clean up and protect the environment will continue to support a healthy habitat for future generations.
Michael Dagen works and lives in what he calls, "the suburb of Wadena" aka the City of
Hewitt. Michael is a songwriter, audio engineer, and passionate lover of the outdoors.
Dagen is married to artist Amber Fletschock and you can track their happenings at