The Baraboo River
A Cultural History
Winding over 100 miles through Wisconsin’s driftless region, the Baraboo River has nurtured mankind in this area for thousands of years. It takes its current name from the surname of French-Canadian fur trader Francois Baribeau who set up a trading post at the mouth of the river over 250 years ago. As many as 1,000 years before that the native people of the area constructed burial mounds along the banks of the river which were still there when white settlement started in the 1830s. The river was eventually harnessed with eleven dams and provided water power for a variety of industries that fueled the growth of ten communities along its path. Today all the dams are gone and the river has once again returned to a free-flowing state. Taking on a new role as a recreational corridor, the river and its story continue as sure as its eastward flow.
The cultural history of the Baraboo River will be presented by SCHS Executive Director Paul Wolter at the Sauk County History Center in Baraboo on Thursday, February 22 at 6 p.m. and again at the Reedsburg Public Library on Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. The presentation will cover evidence left by mankind along the river in prehistoric times, the settlements and water powers along the river, the coming of the railroad through the Baraboo River valley and the flooding of the river.