Monday, October 2, 2023

This Giant Floating Island Has to Be Pushed by Boats Almost Every Year

A massive floating island in Lake Chippewa, Wisconsin, occasionally drifts around and blocks a vital bridge, requiring the coordinated efforts of local boat owners.

In 1923, a sizable marsh was flooded to form Lake Chippewa, also known as the Chippewa Flowage. Not long after that, many of the peat bogs began to rise to the surface, providing ideal conditions for the germination of plant seeds dispersed by wind and birds. 

Plants of many kinds, from grasses to trees, took root over the years, expanding the floating bogs. Present-day bogs range in size from a parking spot to 40 acres, with the largest being the “Forty Acre Bog” on the western shore of the lake. Dozens of boat owners from the area get together almost annually to push it away from a bridge that connects the eastern and western sides of the lake.

Nearly annually, in fact. One local man told Northern News Now that “it takes a community effort and you have to have the winds at your back in order to push them in.”

Chippewa Flowage’s distinctive floating islands start off as mud flats rising from the marsh at the lake’s base, but as time goes on, vegetation begins to develop, and the oldest islands even have trees that act as sails when the wind blows, moving the entire floating mass around the lake.

When you first enter the building in the morning, one of the first things you want to know is, “Where’s the bog?” Denny Reyes, a local man, stated.

The decades-old floating island is rarely in motion, but when it is, it may cause problems for the people by blocking a bridge that connects the lake’s eastern and western shores. It can only be transported by boat if that occurs. With the wind at their backs, it takes not just one large boat but a fleet of them to make progress. Twenty-five vessels were utilized to move the island last year.

According to local resident Greg Kopke, “When we move it, we gotta get it kind of in the right spot,” or else it can be back in within a couple of days.

Floating islands like the Forty Acre Bog are legally protected as a habitat for numerous animal species.

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