My own quest will begin on the Baraboo River. The Baraboo is near my house, so I can visit it frequently and observe it closely at all times of the day and throughout the year. The Baraboo’s headwaters are just a few miles from Elroy; from here it flows generally southeast through the Driftless Area — an ancient landscape carved by running water — to its confluence with the Wisconsin River, about a dozen miles downstream from Aldo Leopold’s shack.
While I expect to concentrate on areas near my home, the Baraboo River is short enough that we’ll be able to explore its entire length. From time to time, I might follow the Baraboo’s waters farther downstream, and visit sites along the lower Wisconsin River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.
And because I am temperamentally disinclined to focus, I plan also to study the river of my former home ground. The Crawfish River, which flows through a more intensely farmed region of the state, is more altered than the Baraboo, but is nevertheless rich in history and wildlife habitat. Whenever I am in south-central Wisconsin to visit friends and family, I’ll also visit the Crawfish, to make amends for all the years I neglected it, and to learn something of what I should have known all along.