America by Air: Dog’s Prairie

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Kristopher Murphy

A reader sends a scene where it’s hard to tell at first glance what’s land and what’s water:

I love this idea. Here’s a photo taken from my home-built plane over the upper Mississippi River near Prairie duChen, WI. I’m sending from my cell phone, so let me know if it doesn’t turn out right.

Just right. More on the scene:

Often referred to as Wisconsin’s second oldest city, Prairie du Chien was established as a European settlement by French voyageurs in the late seventeenth century. The city is located near the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, a strategic point along the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway that connects the Great Lakes with the Mississippi.

Early French visitors to the site found it occupied by a group of Fox Indians led by a chief whose name Alim meant Chien in French (Dog in English). The French explorers named the location Prairie du Chien, French for “Dog’s Prairie.” The American anglicized pronunciation is “prairie doo sheen.”