Dean Klinkenberg

is creating fiction and non-fiction about life along the Mississippi River

Select a membership level

Lake Itasca
per month
Thank you! Your support unlocks access to updates about works in progress and to Patreon-only content.
Wisconsin River
per month
You get the above benefits (and more thanks!), plus a set of four greeting cards with original photos of the Mississippi River. You'll get one set after your first contribution and a new set of four cards after each 12 months of support at this level.
Illinois River
per month
You're awesome! You get the above benefits (and even more thanks!), plus an invitation to participate in a monthly Q&A about the Mississippi River and/or my current projects. 




Mark Twain screwed up the Mississippi, or at least what we think of it. We all think we know the Mississippi River, because we read Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. What more could there be to know? Twain was a great writer (and an even better marketer), but his books describe the Mississippi River as it existed 150 years ago. 150 years! If all we knew about medicine was what we read in a 150-year-old textbook, I’d fear for our health.

So much has happened along the Mississippi River since Mark Twain wrote about it. It’s about time we started hearing those stories, too. That’s what I’m doing: telling stories about the whole river and its long and fascinating (but complicated) history.

I fell under the spell of the Mississippi River when I started college in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I could bike to the riverfront in less than ten minutes, which I did regularly. I was a moody college kid, and there was no better place to brood than next to the Mississippi.

The first time I put a canoe in the Mississippi was in La Crosse. My friend and I paddled upstream, because we were young and didn’t know better. I have since learned to paddle downstream (most of the time).

The river captured my heart (and imagination) during those years, but a lot of time passed before I dug into researching the cultural and historical significance of America’s Greatest River. Now I spend much of my time writing and speaking about the amazing river that we often take for granted. (Or don't know nearly as well as we think we do.)

I have an agenda.
Yes, Twain is the reason so many of us know something about the Mississippi, but our focus on Twain has left the river vulnerable. When we think of the river, if we think of it, we think about the river as it was, as Twain described it. Our communities, though, turned away from Twain’s river, and we turned it over to engineers and a couple of big industries.

If you paddle on the Mississippi today—which you should—the biggest hazards are man-made: engineering structures like wing dams that line the river and the barges carrying tons of cargo that those wing dams were built to serve.

If you think of the river today, you probably think of those barges and not much else. Shipping interests have a pretty good PR machine, and they do their best to remind people that the Mississippi is their river. I’m not against shipping, but in the absence of voices since Twain, we’ve let engineers and shippers define what the river is today. I'm telling stories to remind us that of a fundamental truth: that the Mississippi is everyone’s river.

Stories like:
I want people to feel connected to the Mississippi River.
As communities turned away from the Mississippi, the river got dirtier. It was easier to pollute something that most people ignored. We’ve cleaned up the most visible kinds of pollution in the river, but there are other threats that we’re having a hard time getting a handle on.

One of the biggest threats to the river’s health, though, is that we forget that the Mississippi exists. We can’t take care of something we don’t know about.

So I’m not just here to entertain and educate with folksy yarns (although I hope to do some of that, too!). I I want to share stories about the Mississippi River--past, present, and future.

Stories about the varied (and sometimes odd) boats that have floated up and down the river (and still do). Stories about the river as the perfect place for a lazy summer Sunday afternoon or as an arena to test your endurance and figure out what you're made of. Stories about the river's role as both a source of freedom and a path to brutal enslavement. Stories about how we have venerated the river (and have sometimes treated it like a sewer). 

I want you (and everyone else) to know that the Mississippi River exists, and that it’s your river, too. I hope to entice you to visit the Mississippi Valley, to look around and ask a few questions. I'm out to convince you that's it worth your time to get to know this river better.

About the Mississippi Valley Traveler
I’ve been writing about the Mississippi for over ten years and maintaining a website about the river nearly as long. As you might guess, it has a lot of content now. If you aren’t familiar with the website, please check it out: I’ve organized it into several sections:

Facts about the Mississippi: Posts about the river’s geology, plant and animal life, habit of flooding, and more.

River Town Profiles: These profiles include a lot of local history but they also include a few tips for travelers. I’m not creating a comprehensive travel guide, though. There are other places (with more resources) that offer that. I write profiles to help you understand what defines the river towns along the Mississippi and to give you ideas about how you might experience it for yourself. I have posted profiles for every river town in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and about half of Illinois. I plan to add more profiles as support grows, not stopping until I’ve covered them all.

Music about the Mississippi River: There's a rich musical heritage along the Mississippi River, more so than most people realize. Read a brief history of the musical genres native to the Mississippi Valley, then scan through the surprisingly long (and growing) list of songs that are about the Mississippi (currently over 1,000 strong!).

Photo Galleries: Hundreds of pictures from places along the Mississippi Valley.

Why I’m Asking for Your Support
Frankly, I’ve reached critical mass. My readership is growing steadily (thank you!), which means it’s more and more demanding to put in the time and money to continue to research and write about the river. I can’t do it well while working unrelated day jobs anymore. If I can’t keep up with the work of creating new content, then I can’t help people connect to the Mississippi River.

With your support, I can continue to add:
More stories about the amazing people, places, and events along the river.
More river town profiles (until I’ve covered them all).
More features about river music and musicians.
Expanded coverage of the whole river, all 2,350 miles of it.

My promises to you.
The content at is currently free and will remain so. With your support, I’ll be able to add more content, as I mentioned above. I’ve also set some specific goals.

Once I reach $200 a month in Patreon support, I’ll remove Google ads from the website.

Get me to $500 a month in Patreon support, and I’ll remove the Amazon affiliate links, too.

If we can get to $1,000 a month in support, I will post at least one new river town profile every month.

Besides that, every month I’ll create a blog or video post just for Patreon supporters.

I can't thank you enough for your support (but I'll try!).

Together we'll let the world know that there's so much more to this river than dreams about rafting and the transportation of bulk goods. This is our Mississippi, and all our stories need to be told.
21% complete
Once I reach $200 a month in Patreon support, I’ll remove Google ads from the website (
1 of 3
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 7 exclusive posts
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 7 exclusive posts

Recent posts by Dean Klinkenberg

How it works

Get started in 2 minutes

Choose a membership
Sign up
Add a payment method
Get benefits