Old Man River attracts fur traders
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
On this longest day of the year, I am writing about my Mississippi River adventures. I could use more than one long day that the summer solstice gives us.
Like Pere Marquette, Joliette and McGregor we landed in Prairie du Chien on a hot Friday afternoon to discover the Old Man River. The last time we were here was five years ago.
Annually the city hosts the largest fur trade re-enactment in the Midwest. The river was high after recent rains but did not flood the St. Feriole Island.
On our way to Prairie we bet that nothing has changed in the area for the last 100 years.
Well, we were right except for road construction in the downtown area. And a local businessman completed the remodel of a furniture store.
We crossed the Mississippi to Iowa’s McGregor to stay at Uncle Sam’s Saloon built in 1857 on the landing. The building has been remodeled and updated, but it does have this formidable steep staircase like into a chicken coop.
The view of the town from the porch was marvelous. McGregor is known as “Pocket City” reminiscent of a pocket in the bluffs surrounding the river.
Ludek lived in this Pocket City from 2007 to 2009 and changed living quarters three times as the owner kept selling the houses. The last month he even lived in the nearby Marquette.
Coming back to this place felt like we never left.
The big river is wide here as the Wisconsin River flows into it. Houseboats and boatels were floating on the water, and crews were putting more in. The river gives livelihood to many just like hundreds of years ago.
The 39th annual Rendezvous set-up on St. Feriole Island featured teepees and tents of all sorts. The tents line up the streets on the island. Vendors offered food such as fresh Mississippi fried catfish and turtle soup, Indian fry bread and tacos, fried pickles, frog legs and chips.
Curiosities included steins made from wood and tusks, hundreds of furs and fur hats, rocks and minerals, necklaces and peace pipes.
Competitions featured a black powder rifle shoot, hawk and knife throw, cooking and games for children and adults.
Demonstrations such as blacksmithing, pottery, storytelling took place at individual camps.
Most campers were dressed up in period attire that was also for sale at many outfits.
To be continued
Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova