River Voices: Gale Julius

I grew up in Iowa, around many lakes but far from a river. I loved to fish in lakes and boat on them. I always felt a sense of belonging in nature, like it was a space where I could be calm and let nature take over my thoughts. My family would go on hikes sometimes and my mom remarked more than once about “all that we have been entrusted with.” I struggled to understand back then.

At the age of 10, my folks said we were moving to Minnesota for a job my dad had found. I didn’t want to go but was coerced by my folks telling me about all the things Minnesota had to offer, in my mind the best was the Mississippi River. We had been learning in class about the working river that it had been and continued to be, so I asked my parents to take me to there. Once we had settled in Minnesota and got things unpacked, Mom and Dad announced we were going on a weekend trip to Itasca. This was where the Mississippi River began. When we arrived and walked to the river, it did not disappoint and I let out a big “whoa, this is awesome!” It was then my mom remarked again, “look what we have been entrusted with.” We spent the day and part of the next exploring and then headed back home, but I was hooked.

Gale climbing along by a stream

I now think I fully understand what my mom meant when she said, “Look what we have been entrusted with”

I lived for times when Dad and I would fish on the river or go hike near it. I still love to fish on and hike around the Mississippi. But I’ve noticed that it’s not as clear in southern Minnesota as it was in Itasca, and I didn’t catch the same colorful fish in it that I used to. Now having children of my own, I wanted to give them an experience with nature that they might also have for years to come. I bought a place on the Root River. The Root flows for 80 miles through the Driftless Area of southeastern Minnesota and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It’s an excellent river for canoeing, kayaking and just lazy tubing. It is also great fishing there!

Unfortunately, eating the fish caught from this part of the Mississippi is not a safe option. The river is at a compromised level of pollution from urban and agricultural runoff around the area. The Nature Conservancy is already doing some great work on the Root River to protect and keep it clean. I love being a part of this work and knowing I am giving back to the Mississippi. I now think I fully understand what my mom meant when she said, “Look what we have been entrusted with”. It is important work we are doing across Minnesota to give back to the river. It has always been there for me, now I’m going to be there for it. I hope you will join me!

Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River
Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River

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How has your connection to water shaped your life path? Do you have a favorite Minnesota lake or river? How are you sharing your love of Minnesota waters with others? Whatever motivates you to take action for Our Mississippi, we want to hear about it!