Exploring the Prairie River

A new year and (maybe) a new project!

If you go to the bottom of any of my posts, just above the comments section, you’ll see a list of attributes – the little folder icon indicates a category that the post belongs to. In addition to the Photography folder, this one will fall into Projects & Studies; Prairie River. I hope to visit the river often during the coming year. When I lived in NH, I had one going for the Piscataquog River and it was a lot of fun to observe the river through all the seasons and different weather conditions.

One of the first preserves I visited when I moved to Wisconsin was The Prairie Dells Scenic Area on route 17 just south of Gleason. Weirdly, it was one of the places my husband stopped while spending a weekend here after his job interview. He texted me a couple of pictures and I suppose that was one of the reasons I went.

Here is a shot from the other side from that park. It’s a separate recreation area that is dominated by bike trails and logging roads. Instead of a short 10-minute stroll to the river, it’s a 5-mile round trip, but worth it. Luckily I went when the leaves were down because I don’t think you’d see much river with them on the trees. And the plants on the rocks were also down and dormant so it made walking easier.

Prairie Dells

As you can see, we’re quite a way up from the water itself – these are the dells – relatively narrow rocky areas that are almost canyons. You can get down to them with some work and some nerve on this side, although there might be easier ways. I know there are on the other side. The light wasn’t great the day I took this shot, but it’s on my radar now.

Ever since I first saw the Prairie, I’ve been casually interested in getting into more of it and in different places. I have visited a few fly fishing sites designated by the DNR. They’re great for that purpose, but the banks are crowded and messy and difficult to work with from a photography perspective. I guess some hip waders should be in my future. Only recently have I found a location that I think I can work with both in and out of the water. It isn’t a park per se, and neither does it seem to be private property, but I liked what I saw so far.

Where you can find me

There was still a bit of snow on the ground which added a lot of depth and contrast to the scenes. After the foliage is gone I think it’s needed to keep everything from looking flat. Not that it would have in this light, but it definitely makes things more visually interesting.

The groove from up north

From my rocky perches I could tell that even though the river still roared, the level was down from spring and summer highs.

Let it never be said
It sings to my heart

The best part was that I arrived at the perfect time for these –

Setting up
Gone for the season

Oh how I love ice formations and these were so perfectly lit that I had to snap away until the light was gone. I also played a little in Lightroom.

She likes the rush
Limned in light

Yup. I do go on a bit with these.

Temporary crown

And one in monochrome just to be different.


And then the earth turned and there was shade.

This time you got it

So much fun. I used a combination of polarizer and neutral density filters to get different shutter speeds, something I’m getting more into rather than just doing straight-up long exposures. My 100-300 mm lens doesn’t have filters, but I might get one or two just for this kind of thing. Sometimes the 35-100 mm doesn’t have the reach I need and the 100-400 mm is too heavy to hike with, so I’ve been taking the lighter 100-300.

But that wasn’t my only time with the Prairie when I was out that day. Here’s another section that is further north –

Alders gone by

Isn’t that amazing? It’s such a changeable waterway. And again I think the snow on the ground was really helpful with adding light and depth to this shot. I found this little scene by driving around back roads that cross the river. It’s how I found the area with the ice. Anywhere I can get in is fair game and I’ve seen a few other places I just need to stop and explore. I know folks get into them because I’ve seen people fishing there. One is official with a Fisheries’ sign and everything, the other is just a bridge with parking on the side of the road.

So as overcast days come upon us I know where I’ll be heading!

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