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Upper Mississippi River
National Wildlife and Fish Refuge 1924   —— The First 100 Years ——  2024

Founding of the Upper Miss Refuge in 1924: Will Dilg and the Ikes

map showing location of refuge along Mississippi

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!