Owning a Piece of the Driftless   3 comments

A friend of mine has a dream to own a plot of land in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. The land would ideally be at least 10 acres, it would abut a trout stream, and it would share a contiguous border with a large natural public space. It would be used for trout fishing, hunting (on the property and on surrounding public land), and for a getaway. Someday he may choose to reside there full time.

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

Driftless Land near the Kickapoo River, Wisconsin

I’m all for visiting areas that I love. I go back to my favorite places over and over and over again. In some ways I feel like I own them. Everyone feels this way when you arrive at one of your favorite spots to find others enjoying it. The thought, “Hey, this is my spot!” comes into my head. My familiarity with a place and my affinity for a place conjure up a sense of ownership.

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

Water flowing through a seam in the earth, Driftless Wisconsin

I have many favorite places and I like having the freedom to visit this variety of locales when the moment strikes. Ownership comes with obligation. There is a Buddhist quote that says “He who has cows is worried to see his cows; worried is the man of substance, and he who has no substance has no worries.” If I had a piece of land in the Driftless I would feel obligated to visit it, even if there were other streams, other counties, other forests I’d longed to see.

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Seeking trout in the Driftless, Wisconsin

I own a tiny piece of land in Madison. It holds everything I need to live, and it houses my family and my dog. It is obligation enough for me to own this place. When it comes to getting away, I want to explore. I want to let my itchy feet roam. I want to sleep in the woods and take in a different view when I feel called to do so. I want to drive over that next ridge and down into that next valley to see what I can find. Let me wander!

And when the time to wander comes to an end on Sunday afternoon, I’ll point my car east and return to my home. But my mind will have memories of all the places I’ve seen, with their sounds and smells and experiences. In my mind and my soul I will have owned a piece of all of those places. How can it be better than that?

3 responses to “Owning a Piece of the Driftless

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  1. I’m extremely thankful for those before me who placed so much emphasis on public lands and waters. I can’t imagine living in a place without open access to quality trout streams.

    • Angela,

      I couldn’t agree more with you. Our public spaces are such a gift. When I hear about people in the West or in Europe paying fees to fish for trout on private land I feel so fortunate that we have wonderful places to fish for trout, to camp, and to explore. Wisconsin’s wet foot law is a special thing. It allows us to explore places we otherwise would not be able to access. It’s a free pass allowing anyone to walk through a piece of property.

      I once got in trouble fishing in Jackson, Wyoming when I didn’t realise the river I was fishing on, Flat Creek, was not subject to the same access rights as our rivers and streams in Wisconsin. In Wyoming and much of the West, you have the right to float a waterway, but you are not allowed to touch the riverbed as this belongs to the property owner.

      The man who informed me of this law was very polite and friendly about it and let me fish through as long as I promised to release what I caught.

      But the experience made me feel like my fishing options were severely limited on Flat Creek, and I felt like a foreigner. Our access laws in Wisconsin are wonderful. I hope they always remain as they are!


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