"The River" not only depicts one of the defining characteristics of the Drifless Area, the many rivers that cut deep into the ancient bedrock, but also the contour of the landscape shaped by the mightiest of these, the Mississippi. It starts as a trickle out of Lake Itasca, a glacial lake in MN, about six hours north of where I grew up in La Crosse, WI. It is a massive force that defines the Driftless Area and obviously an important player in the history of settlement in the area. It makes its presence known as it widens and spreads itself out between the rocky bluffs. Its water is dotted with sandbars and islands, depicted by the green smalti, as it flows southward. It's a refuge and resting place for thousands of migrating and resident birds alike, from the tundra swan to the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. During the winter, massive ice blocks form on its surface, forcing barges, boaters and paddleboats to wait for the spring thaw to make use of its water once again. Along its course, it accepts the flow from the many rivers defining the Driftless, including the Wisconsin, the Chippewa, and the Rock, to name just a few.