Founding of the Upper Miss Refuge in 1924: Will Dilg and the Ikes
The incredible story of creating the nations longest (261 miles!) and most-visited refuge begins with Winona businessman and philanthopist John Latsch in the early 20th century, and his friendship with Chicago businessman Will Dilg, an avid bass fisherman who foresaw development threats to the rich backwater areas he loved to fish. Dilg then founded the Izaak Walton League in 1922 and in a short span of 2 years propelled the League to national prominence in the largest-ever citizens movement to preserve public lands. Dilg's bill to create the "Upper Mississippi Wild-Life Refuge" made it all the way through Congress (with unanimous approval!) to signing by President Coolidge in just 11 months!
A visit from Will Dilg: Trailer for an upcoming movie and live performances by Steve Marking
A Long Refuge History (Big River Magazine article)
Will Dilg and the Ikes (YouTube video with Mike Kennedy)
We All Need a Refuge (Big River Magazine article)
Forging the Refuge and "The Will of Dilg" (Izaak Walton League publication)
1923-24 news articles about forming the "Great Preserve":
- Nature's Playground Or Sanatorium? "… a jewel of virgin wilderness in the heart of intensive cultivation"
- Two Million Women in Defense of the League's Proposed National Preserve "What surer benefit of life can there be than that exemplified in the preserving for all time of our priceless American outdoor heritage? …. Have you visited this region of gleaming bayous, encircled with drooping vines and trees, of gentle little streams that find their way to the great river, of sheets of lotus bloom and waving swamp grasses? Then you know that we would be justified in asking that this should be left unspoiled for its beauty along. But do you know that this is one of the best feeding-places for water-fowl, the most prolific spawning grounds for black bass and other food and game fish in the country? "
- La Crosse Government Fish Hatchery and Aquarium to be Center and Headquarters of Great Wild Life Preserve
- An Appeal to The Outdoor Woman for a Great New National Preserve "One of the most magnificent vacation spots of our whole United States is now in danger of extinction. Three hundred miles of river lands along the Mississippi from Lake Pepin, Minnesota to Rock Island, Illinois, are threatened with drainage, that octopus-like, commercial dragon which has ruthlessly, pitilessly, and utterly uselessly destroyed so much of our beloved outdoorland."
- Drainage Crime of the Century
- We Want a National Preserve in the Heart of the Mississippi Valley
- A National Preserve Along The Great Upper River Is Worth A Fight