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Mississippi Islands

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If God had asked for advice from Minnesotans and Wisconsinites when he set about designing Mississippi islands, those islands would have been a lot more comfortable. Beautiful as those thousands of green pincushions are, sprinkled along the channel, every single one of them is plagued by mosquitos and cockleburs. Most have shorelines too shallow to fish from and not a single one has an icebox to keep beer cool.

Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, are not states to hold a grudge. They have quietly gone about designing useful islands the way they should be—seven of them scattered near locks and dams where the fishing is at its best. They can’t be called islands, of course, God having already trademarked that name. Instead, they are called fishing floats. On these anchored islands, for five to fifteen dollars, an angler can spend the day comfortably waiting for “the big one.”

One of the largest is the great Alma fishing float near Lock and Dam Four. As with the other floats, a shuttle boat provides a comfortable ride out from shore and back. The float itself is complete with restrooms, benches, a sheltered shady area, and a café. On the float, one can rent minnow buckets and landing nets. Live bait is available.

The other floats offer similar amenities not available on God’s islands. Downriver from Fountain City, Wisconsin, near Lock and Dam Five A, the Dam Saloon offers a full bar and pay telephones. The Trempealeau Fishing Float near Lock and Dam Six, with picnic tables and an enclosed shelter, is designed for families. Night fishing, complete with bunks, is available at the Bailey and Son Fishing Float, while the covered float at Gutenberg near Lock and Dam Ten is designed for ice fishing in the winter, with a stove and a fish cleaning station.

I think by now you’ll agree that those imaginative folks up in Minnesota and Wisconsin have really made something out of the basic idea of an island. Just think what they could have done with Eden.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Humanities Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, with additional funding from Humanities Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.