A Record of the River

photographer seeks to document Chippewa River and its surrounding towns

Haley Wright

In one of his latest projects, prolific photographer Travis Dewitz is profiling towns up and down the Chippewa River. Above: An abandoned theater in Bruce, Wisconsin.
In one of his latest projects, prolific photographer Travis Dewitz is profiling towns up and down the Chippewa River. Above: An abandoned theater in Bruce, Wisconsin.

Eau Claire photographer Travis Dewitz is working on a new project featuring the Chippewa River and many of the communities along the river, big and small, called The Chippewa River Heritage Series. The project captures the natural beauty and movement of the river itself, the history and charm of larger cities such as Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, and the nooks and crannies of smaller communities like Caryville and Meridean. He expects to spend at least a couple of years completing the project, which is ongoing.

“Growing up around the Chippewa River and seeing it almost every day has made this river special to me and I bet most of the people that have grown up here probably feel the same sentiment.” – photographer Travis Dewitz

Dewitz’s fascination with the Chippewa River dates back to his childhood growing up along its banks, and an interest in the historical role the river played in the logging industry and development of the Chippewa Valley. He has spent the last few years working on a way to document the river. From the get-go he knew this was going to be a large project, so he decided to break up the documentation into individual parts along the 183 miles the river covers.

“Growing up around the Chippewa River and seeing it almost every day has made this river special to me, and I bet most of the people that have grown up here probably feel the same sentiment,” Dewitz said. “The project covers the history of the area and how important the Chippewa River was to the formation of the Chippewa Valley and the logging industry in Wisconsin. Depending on the communities’ history with the river, I plan to document people, buildings, day-to-day life, railroads, or anything else that can help tell the story.”

According to Dewitz, the beauty of the Mighty Chip’ is seen in the places that adorn its edges and knowing the role the river played in forming these communities. He says each community is unique, and visually appealing in its own way. “Every town has its own charm. I love looking at the old buildings that can take you back a century in time, so much character to be seen,” he said. “It is interesting how each town or city incorporates new with old. Some of the communities haven’t changed much and are slowly fading away. I love looking for the beauty hidden in these places, much of the time in plain sight, where many only see decay.”

It’s important to capture the charm and beauty of the communities adorning the river in the state they are in now, considering that they will likely continue to change. “I know much of what I document today will look completely different 10 or 20 years later when looking back at my images,” he said.

Dewitz remains very busy doing portraits and commercial photography, but feels it is important for him to continue his personal photography series as a creative outlet for himself  – an others can enjoy. tpp.

To learn more about Travis Dewitz and to see his photos, check out travisdewitz.com.

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