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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 1

Sub-chapter - Physical and Political Geography

Topography 1

-As transcribed from pages 1 & 2

In the beautiful new capital of the state of Wisconsin a noted artist has portrayed the commonwealth as a strong and beautiful woman, embraced and encircled by the guardian figures of the Mississippi River, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan.  Thus in symbolic form the painter has vividly portrayed the truth that Wisconsin's position at the head-waters of the two great valleys of North America - the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi - has been of supreme importance in the history of the State.  To these advantages of position is due its early discovery, its thorough exploration and its value as a link in the penetration of the Old Northwest.  The area of the present State is 56, 066 square miles, somewhat larger than the whole of England.  In extreme length from north to south it is 320 miles, with a maximum width almost as great.  Its distance from the Atlantic coast is about a thousand miles - one-third of the entire distance across the continent.  The eastern and northern portions of the State drain into the two upper Great Lakes by short streams with rapid courses.  The larger portion of the area belongs to the Mississippi system, into which it drains by a series of large rivers; the largest and most important of these is the one from which the State takes its name.  The Wisconsin River, rising on the northeastern boundary of the State, cuts across it to the southwest, making a great trough which at the elbow in south-central Wisconsin approaches within three-quarters of a mile of the eastward-flowing Fox River.  The Fox, in its upper courses a sluggish stream, winding slowly through lakes and wide spreads of wild rice, after passing trough Lake Winnebago, the largest lake wholly within the State, rushes with great force down a series of rapids into the upper end of Green Bay, the V-shaped western extremity of Lake Michigan.  Thus a natural waterway crosses the State, uniting by means of a short portage the Atlantic waters with those of the Gulf of Mexico, and dividing the State into a northern and southern portion, which have had widely differing courses of development.

The southeastern half of the State, with plentiful harbors on Lake Michigan and Green Bay, opens unobstructedly towards the south and east.  It was therefore the first portion to be permanently settled, and has partaken of the civilization and progress of the Middle West.  The northern and western part of the State faces toward the farther West, and its development was delayed by the tardy growth of population at the head of Lake Superior and along the headwaters of the Mississippi.  Waterways connecting these two drainage systems pass through this part of Wisconsin, the earliest known of which was that via the Bois Brule of Lake Superior and the St. Croix of the Mississippi.  Other streams connect with the headwaters of the Chippewa, the Black and the Wisconsin.  All these routes were explored during the early years of Wisconsin's history, but their rapid flow and difficult portages have made them impractical as commercial routes.

The heavy forestation of the northern portion of the State has been until recent times the main fact in its history; while as carriers of timber, and as sources of water power the rapid rivers of northwestern Wisconsin have played their part in the production of its wealth and prosperity.

Resources for the above information:

1 - This chapter is adapted by permission from a manuscript history prepared by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 

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