Augsburg University River Semester students begin their 100-day river journey on August 24, 2018 from B'dote, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Photo credit: Augsburg University/Courtney Perry.
We are delighted to offer this special Write to the River edition featuring student writing from Augsburg University's River Semester program and Minnehaha Academy's Environmental Science class.
A very special thanks to the students who contributed to this edition and to their educators — Augsburg University professor and River Semester Program Director Joe Underhill and Minnehaha Academy science teacher Carmella Whaley — for inspiring our next generation to know, appreciate and guard our beloved Mississippi River. We hope their writing will inspire you too.
Augsburg University River Semester writing
During fall 2018, 15 students plus faculty from Augsburg University River Semester spent 100 days traveling the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to Memphis in 24-foot voyageur canoes. They camped at night and completed a full semester of college courses. This low-carbon, high-impact educational experience immerses students in authentic, multidisciplinary inquiry of the Mississippi River, its watershed and river communities.
How are you, ever flowing?
Energy only evolving
roving along the river bottom
Nothing in your path is immune to you
How does it feel to be unstoppable?
For towns to follow you wherever you pass?
For railways to harness your banks, keeping you eternally shaking
How does it feel to become a highway?
No longer a path for an endless conversation between water and land
Then in a stretch hidden perfectly from the eyes of industry and its version of progress, to travel back in time?
How does it feel
To hold opposites inside you?
Centuries of change controlled by the earth,
And now all of a sudden a new player in the local game?
One that spans 10 states
With countless livelihoods that you ultimately face the consequences of?
When I look at you,
I think of flowing,
After 100 days of your currents encouraging us along,
You taught me how to move
to travel through the unknowns and ever changingness with a self-assured momentum
but do you feel flowing?
Levied in the south and dammed in the north
Do you feel free?
By Espoir DelMain
Minnehaha Academy writing
Minnehaha Academy Environmental Science teacher Carmella Whaley challenged her 12th grade students to submit a writing piece on what the river means to them. As a class they reflected about how they missed being close to the river since relocating temporarily to another space while their regular campus is rebuilt.
Through the land, ever winding
By Ki Albinson
It looks like a slow, smooth ride to wherever you want to go. A cool drink for the animals, and
home for the fishes.
It sounds like a home for the birds. It sounds like a soda being poured on a hot summer day.
It smells like nature. Nothing bothering me, just the water and trees around.
It feels like an exotic ocean. Relaxing and free.
It feels like home.
By Will Berlin
The river flows fast and slow.
The river brings new life.
The river is beautiful.
In the summer the river brings warmth.
In the winter the river brings cold.
Birds and fish live on and in the river.
The river is of great use to man and nature.
The river is important for all.
We must protect the river.
By Manny Cerkvenik
The flowing blue water,
On the surface there is a sea otter,
Swimming so gracefully across the waves,
Going in and out of caves,
I sit in the sand,
Observing the water and the land,
So calm and peaceful,
Overhead flies a bald eagle,
The smell of the water is fresh,
I see a fish jump out of the water in the flesh
By Noah Dehne
The Mississippi is Alive
From far away, the still river looks dead
It’s stagnant and its at peace
Closer up to the calm river
One sees, it will never cease
The river moves with much might, proving it’s alive
It allows us to thrive
Always changing, forever flows
Glistens like prisms when the sun arose
Restless, zealous, it’s full of life
It’s the definition of the word rife
There it flows, there it goes
Majestic and beautiful
There it flows, there it goes
That river is viable
Thank you for the 2,320 miles of river flow
That starts in Lake Itasca
And pours into the Gulf of Mexico
Thank you for being the world's fourth longest
And the 15th biggest river
You provide a lot space for us to discover
A fortress that’s constantly new
The Mississippi River,
On behalf of the Laughing Waters’ school,
By Anna Forslund
The life-line of our country,
I am so grateful
By Connor Trempe Goehring
I’m sitting at the river,
I’m watching, feeling, listening
The wind whispers
An egret paces
A heron hunts
A duck and her ducklings
A pair of mourning doves perch together nearby
Their coo a low tremolo
I wish you were here
By Olivia Hansing
Standing nearby the river, it is always a good time to relax. Hearing the sound come from all directions,
that makes me feel peace and calm. It is a river which go through all the places and contains people's
emotion. Whenever, I have something that makes me happy or sad, it is always a way to share with the
river. River is also a life container. Species sleep by the river or under the river. The ice on the surface of
the river only shows the "physical" part of it. While you really spend time to feel it, the under icy part
contains emotion, warm, and peaceful. The river for me is a container which is large enough to contain
whatever I want to share with it without any complaints.
By Han He
Blue as an ocean and not as deep as the sea
The Mississippi River means a lot to me
On the other Side of river road
Through tons of trees and toads
Is where a long life of water lies
And a ton of wildlife resides
With freezing temperatures below zero
The wildlife in the water are on the edge
The wildlife that live next to the river are in need of a hero
A hero to provide shelter and heat without them being dredged
By Siegel Howard
Ode to the River
So if my house was taller or the river was higher
I could see it without even stepping outside.
We say if the river ever reaches my house we would need an ark.
Sometimes I hear the barges going through the lock and damn
and we walk down and watch the water rising and falling as they head downstream.
In the summer it has a fishy odor, and I would never swim in it
the water rushes past brown and swift.
It fools you, a still surface but underneath the current is strong.
Throw a stick in and watch it disappear. My Mom used to walk us down the bank and
show us the birds and wildlife
Don’t Go In!
Mark Twain was obsessed with it and on summer evenings you can watch the old
riverboats with the tourists and party goers on them heading down and back to the
landing by where the bridge collapsed.
The river looks beautiful from above but sometimes that is deceiving.
By Ben Keller
The Mississippi River has made an impact on my life by granting me with
memories of going down to the river and having a great time with friends. When driving
over the river I always look and see the beauty that is invoked by the gorgeous blue and
splashes of orange from the morning sunshine. One of my most fond memories is
when my friend Bennett and I went down to the river and had the chance to meet some
other people who where down there that we wouldn’t be able to meet anywhere else.
When I was a freshman my English teacher, Mr. Johnson, brought the class down to the
river to read from our books and it made reading much more comprehensible. On my
mornings, back when we were at North campus, I would drive over the bridge
connecting two great cities St. Paul and Minneapolis. Of which I would see water as far
as the eye could go and to think that it reaches all the way to the Gulf of Mexico is
insane for me to think. The Mississippi is one of America's great rivers and needs to be
recognized as such. It is important that the river remains clean and intact so future
generations can enjoy it just as much as I can.
By Winston Law
laugh of the river, rushing
By Evalin Olson
The soft trickling of the water
as it beats against the rocks
birthplace and home to otters
and hunting place of hawks
The separator of two major cities
yet something that bring them so close
at night it reflects the lights
such a calming sound to listen to how it flows
By Avery New
I remember the first time I walked across the headwaters.
Five years old, unbalanced, holding my dad’s hands,
our bare feet upon slippery stones.
His clothes got all wet that day.
I found the perfect walking stick;
it was a head taller than me,
perfect for Itasca adventures.
I wanted to take it home, but my mom said
“Leave it here so a beaver can build its dam.”
Its shallow waters are home to stones once skipped,
and a sandy bank holds my second kiss.
Shadow Falls reminds me of my best friend,
we hiked one afternoon under yellowing leaves.
Stone Arch Bridge reminds me of my cousin,
heat radiating off the pavement
and sun glinting off the churning waters below.
The Mississippi guards memories
in its water and on its shore,
frozen moments in the winter
and languid creeks in the summer.
Sometimes I wonder,
Do the memories I make in Minnesota
flow all the way to the ocean?
I hope so,
because then others could experience
the same joy the Mississippi brings to me.
By Carolyn Rowley
Mississippi River – a haiku
The roaring waters
A beautiful sight to see
By Alicia Saporito
R I V E R
Into the distance
Vibrating with life
Eclipsing the nature surrounding it
Rendering everything in sight to stand by as it passes
By Bitya Tefera
The river is great
I love spending time down there
Even if it’s cold
At Shadow Falls Park
I spent an afternoon there
With my best-est friend
The leaves were golden
Just like a whole different world
I won’t forget that
Running down the creeks
With my skiing team for fun
Adventure runs, yay
The water is nice
Makes me want to go and swim
It’s too cold right now
By Luke Wasson
As with all writing submitted to Write to the River, we are deeply grateful to receive and share these pieces. Write to the River is a creative writing project to inspire artistic engagement with our river environment. Each season, we invite all readers to share an original poem or short prose response to seasonal images along the Upper Mississippi River. Our next photo prompt and call for creative writing submissions will be included in our e-newsletter "Mississippi Messages."