The Bark River Chronicles

Stories from a Wisconsin Watershed 

For more information about “The Bark River Chronicles,” visit the book’s webpage.

FEATURE ON NPR’S All Things Considered

Paperback: $18.95

Available at your local bookstore or buy now online here.

The Bark River valley in southeastern Wisconsin is a microcosm of the state’s and Great Lakes region’s natural and human history. The Bark River Chronicles: Stories from a Wisconsin Watershed (Paperback: $18.95; 978-0-87020-502-6) recounts one couple’s journey by canoe from the river’s headwaters to its confluence with the Rock River and downstream to Lake Koshkonong.

Along the way, author Milton Bates tells the stories of Ice Age glaciation, the Black Hawk War, early settlement, a scheme to link the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River by canal, the murder of a Chicago mobster, controversies over race and social class in Waukesha County’s lake country, the recent efforts to remove old dams and mitigate water pollution and invasive species. These and many other stories belong to the Bark River chronicles.

The book uses Bates’ poetic recollections and meticulous research - as well as maps and historical photographs - to take readers on their own journey of rediscovery and exploration along this historic and still significant Wisconsin river.

The canoe party paddles past ‘Sugar Island,’ where the Bark River flows through Nemahbin. Photo credit Liam O’Leary. From NPR 

Milton J. Bates has lived most of his life in Wisconsin. After completing a doctorate in English at the University of California–Berkeley, he taught at Williams College and Marquette University, retiring in 2010. He has held a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and Fulbright lectureships in China and Spain. His previous books include studies of the poet Wallace Stevens and of the Vietnam War. He lives with his wife in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Margaret Zerwekh, who has lived in the mill house for half a century, listens to Milton Bates read from ’Bark River Chronicles.’ Photo credit Liam O’Leary.From NPR