River adventurers enter Wisconsin

Forrest Schoessow and Alex Ross look out from a Bird Observation Post.
Photo by Shea Selsor

Alex Ross puts the final touches on a campfire dinner.
Photo by Forrest Schoessow

Alex Ross. Forrest Schoessow and Shea Selsorin front of Little Falls dam after a long portage.

Photo by Forrest Schoessow Alex Ross, in front, of Sidney, and Shea Selsor, of Piqua, are in front of the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant, which is eco-friendly.

Forrest Schoessow photo: Shea

Forrest Schoessow and Alex Ross catch a ride with the "Can Man" during a portage around a dam.
Photo by Shea Selsor

Monticello Nuclear Power Plant is veiled in coolant steam.
Photo by Forrest Schoessow

Shea Selsor and Forrest Schoessow pass the time at a dam portage sword-fighting.
Photo by Alex Ross

Photo by Forrest Schoessow Shea Selsor scans a dangerous stretch of the Mississippi River. Selsor, of Piqua, Alex Ross and Forrest Schoessow, both of Sidney, are traveling down the river in a canoe as part of the Mississippi River Survey Expedition.

Shea Selsor in the canoe.
Photo by Forrest Schoessow

PRESCOTT, Wis. — Goodbye, whooping crane! Hello, long-eared bat.

The three adventurers from Ohio — Forrest Schoessow, 25, of Sidney, Shea Selsor, 25, of Piqua, and Alex Ross, 26, of Sidney — left the state of Minnesota and entered Wisconsin Saturday. During their journey down the Mississippi River, they have adopted an endangered species for each state and that species is being displayed by the three. The whooping crane was their selection for Minnesota and the long-eared bat is for Wisconsin.

“We’ve made it out of the great state of Minnesota,” said Schoessow during his weekly phone call to Sidney. “We’re really happy to be in the next state.

“In the pristine waters, we sighted two whooping cranes,” he said. “They have a prehistoric sound and we heard them long before we saw them flying away in the distance.”

“The people of Minnesota were very friendly and hospitable,” said Selsor. “The people are very outdoor-oriented and they were impressed with what we’re doing and want to help the river. It’s just been fantastic so far.”

Schoessow said during the week, news of Ohio reached them in one of the towns they stopped in.

“We had stopped in a little town and went to the store,” said Schoessow. “They asked where we were from and when we said Ohio, they said, ‘That’s where all the pigs are running around.’ We hadn’t heard about it before then.”

The trio arrived in Prescott Saturday evening.

“We gone through lock and dam No. 3,” said Schoessow. “The locks are interesting. We’re done with portages (unloading the canoe and walking) around the dams.”

The locks, he said, are gigantic structures which are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“They have been very helpful,” said Schoessow. “They’ve given us some pointers and good advice. They’re very supportive of what we’re doing.”

There are a total of 28 locks on the Mississippi River, he said.

“We’ve dropped 65 feet going through the locks,” aid Schoessow. “They are amazing. They are 56 feet wide and 400 feet long. They can fit so many vessels inside of them. But most of the time, it’s just been use. They’ve been raising and lowering the water just for one canoe.”

They’ve encountered 14 dams so far and made 14 portages during the 500 miles they’ve traveled.

“We dropped 833 feet in elevation while traveling through Minnesota,” he said. “We have been through three locks so far and dropped 65 feet in them. A lock and dam system enables a large ship to move from a body of water at one level to another body of water at another level. This helps us avoid getting the canoe out of water.”

“We’ve gone 500 miles and we have a long way to go. We are really deadline-oriented now,” said Selsor. “We are spending as much time on the water as we can to meet our goal by August.”

The team of paddlers, he said, is coming together.

“The paddling has been great,” said Selsor. “It’s all coming together.”

The three, he said, change seats in the canoe.

“We mix it up for the scenery and to do something different,” said Selsor. “It also give you a mental break.”

Before arriving in Prescott, they were in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“The day before we got there, they closed the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock because of the Asian Carp, which is an invasive species,” said Schoessow. “They are destroying the ecosystem and they decided to close the biggest lock to prevent it from moving upstream. This is really big news up here and the St. Anthony Lock is the most famous lock and dam on the river.”

During their trip from Ohio to Minnesota, the trio stopped and talked with some Army Corps of Engineers who were on a ship. They passed the same group of engineers on the river — they were on their way to install bulk heads to prevent the Asian Carp from traveling upstream.

“We stopped and talked to them when we were driving up to Minnesota,” said Ross, “and saw the barge they were on. Three weeks later, they were coming through the lower locks.

“Above the Falls Sports (Minn.) helped with the portages in town,” he said. “They took good care of us.”

When they were in Little Falls, the trio received help from a local resident with a portage.

“The ‘Can Man’ helped us through a portage which was a long one,” said Ross. “He’s known for collecting and recycling cans around town.”

The portages, he said, turned out to be a lot longer than they had anticipated before the trip began.

“In the back water where we started, we saw no one else,” said Schoessow. “When we got to the Twin Cities, it was such a shock to get into a big city. We saw our first nuclear power plant. It was interesting to see it and go past it.”

The barges on the river, are “gigantic and intimidating,” said Schoessow. “We are steering clear of them. We also saw a sewage processing plant where raw sewage was being pumped into the river.”

As they traveled down the river, they suddenly heard heavy gunfire and explosions. Little did they know that they were close to Camp Ripley, which is a giant military base in Minnesota.

“As we reached a clearing, nine tanks flew past us and opened fire,” he said.

“Camp Ripley was built in 1930, and is home to the Minnesota National Guard and a game refuge,” said Schoessow. “Many special operations forces train there, along with the DNR and the Norwegian Home Guard sends troops to train in America. America’s main winter warfare training course is there. There is also tank ranges, drop zones, and combat fields. The base is used as a model for sustainability in the military. It is very environmentally friendly and works closely with Mississippi River conservation groups.”

The water quality of the river keeps changing, he said.

“We’re on the muddy Mississippi,” he said. “There are a lot of tributaries coming into the river. The other rivers are different colors — some of crystal blues, others are dark colors and there are some red ones. They all mix together with the Mississippi and it’s beautiful to see.”

Schoessow said they have received many emails from readers of the Sidney Daily News asking questions about the river. His parents are also reading his mail to him when he calls home so he can keep up on what people are asking.

At Lake Itasca, the start of the river, he said, the average water flow rate is 6 cubic feet per second. At Upper St. Anthony Falls, the northern most lock and dam, the average flow rate is 12,000 cubic feet per second or 89,869 gallons per second. In New Orleans, the aver flow rate is 600,000 cubic feet per second.

“There are 7.489 gallons of water in a cubic foot. One cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. A 48-foot semi-truck trailer is a 3,600-cubic foot container,” said Schoessow. “Therefore … At Lake Itasca, it would take 10 minutes for one semi-trailer of water to flow out of the lake into the Mississippi. At St. Anthony Falls, the equivalent of three semi-trailers full of water go over the falls every second. At New Orleans, the equivalent of 166 semi-trailers of water flow past Algiers Point each second.”

Schoessow said they are trying to keep on track to meet their goal of reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s difficult to find time to do all the things we want to do,” he said. “We have some fun things planned on behalf of the people who have supported us. We’ll be planting some trees for our supporters. And we’re going to send out messages in bottles.”

When the day is done, Schoessow finds him self preparing for the next journey in his life — graduate school in the fall.

“I stay up late at night studying to get ready for graduate school. I’ve got a lot of textbooks to read.”

One night, he said, they saw lights on the river and wondered if they had somehow entered the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

“There’s a sport that’s very popular on the rivers and lakes,” said Schoessow. “It’s night fishing with a compound bow. We weren’t expecting that at all.”

The fly boat, he said, is covered with search lights.

“It looked like the sun was flying past us,” said Schoessow. “There were a bunch of guys with compound bows and they were shooting at the fish with the bows. It was very interesting to watch.”

Ross said he’s had a little bit of time to draw during the week. He’s been taking reference photos so he can complete his paintings when he gets back to New Orleans.

“Our schedule is tight,” he said. “Our goal is to go 50 miles a day. The water is now moving faster, so we’ll be moving faster, too.”

Ross aid he planned to do a “couple of faces” on Sunday before they began their journey again. He’ll keep doing his sketches as they travel down the river.

At the end of the long day on the river, the trio relaxes around a fire to prepare their evening meal.

“We’re eating fairly well,” said Ross. “We have sausage and rice. We’ve been eating a lot of peanut butter.”

Because of the quality of the river water, they no longer are purifying it to drink.

“We carry a five-gallon jug of water and have a two- or three-gallon one, too,” said Ross. “As it’s starting to warm up, we’ll need more water.”

Ross said they are experiencing about the same type of weather as the residents in Shelby County.

“It’s been warming up quickly,” said Ross. “Some nights, we’ve been able to sleep outside of our sleeping bags. Saturday, we had some rain. The climate is similar to Ohio.”

Selsor said everyone they have met wants more information about their trip and seek their website information.

“Out website numbers keep going up and up,” said Selsor. “There’s interest not only in Ohio, but from everyone we meet along the way.”

The trio and their Mississippi River Survey Expedition have traveled more than 500 miles of the journey, which is 2,340 miles from their starting point on May 20 from Lake Itasca, Minn., and will end at the Gulf of Mexico in August.

The trip can be followed on their website, http://mrexpedition.squarespace.com and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/m.r.s.expedition. The Sidney Daily News has also linked up with the expedition’s Facebook account on its site, https://www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.

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