Since humans populated Black River’s watershed, it’s been an important aspect of the lives of those residing along its banks. Since European settlers arrived in the area, the economic value of the river and its watershed has been significant.

This economic impact will be the topic of the Wednesday, Jan. 10 Friends of the Black River meeting program. The meeting will be held in the Jackson County Bank community room beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Chris Hardie, chief executive officer of the 7 Rivers Alliance and former executive director of the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce, will present a program about the river and its watershed’s economic value.

The Black River flows for 190 miles from its headwaters in Taylor County before draining into the Mississippi River in La Crosse.

“The river has long had an economic impact on the region, especially during the lumber era when billions of board feet of pine were harvested and floated down the Black River to saw mills in La Crosse,” said Hardie. “Today, the river’s main importance is recreational, providing the base for a variety of activities from fishing to boating and canoeing and kayaking.”

But Hardie suggests there could be more. He will present information about how the recreational base of the river could be expanded and the monetary impact that silent sport activities can bring to a region. He will also discuss the concept of state water trails and how the Black River could fit into that category.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, water trails provide a network of access points, resting places and attractions for water craft users on the state’s lakes and rivers. Some water trails are interpretive routes, while others take paddlers to campsites and connect communities. All allow visitors to experience the natural beauty of the state through a mode of travel used since before recorded history.

“The Black River and its watershed is a true gem,” Hardie said. “We’re fortunate to live in a region where we have such a wonderful asset in our backyard.”

Hardie, a longtime journalist in the region and a business owner in Jackson County, the former publisher of the Jackson County Chronicle and executive editor of the La Crosse Tribune, has received dozens of state and national journalism awards during his more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Those include a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000.

He has also served on various regional boards, including the Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce, the Village People in West Salem, the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, the La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and served as president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

The meeting is free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, email