What The Heck Is Big Driftless?



        Hello Folks! I’m so glad that you decided to check out this here website. Welcome to a thing I’m calling Big Driftless. Many of you probably already know and love the Driftless Area, as I do, and are here because you’re curious about what we do at Big Driftless. Some of you may be here because you heard about a company making cool things, but aren’t familiar with all the “driftless” stuff. Great! Let me tell you what that means.

        The Driftless Area is a geographical region in the upper Midwest that makes up a tract of land approximately 24,000 square miles in size. It lies mostly within southwest Wisconsin but also enters into Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Northwest Illinois. While understanding the geography is important for a proper description of where this area is on the map, it is its geological significance that places it in our hearts and the natural-history books.

        The term “Driftless” was first used to describe the area by geologists in the 1800’s and refers to the lack of glacial drift found in the region. Glacial drift is the sediment left behind when glaciers have finished bulldozing everything flat. After these massive sheets of ice grind up all of the pre-existing bedrock and stone into fine silt, they leave behind clay and randomly placed boulders upon retreat. We don’t have that, thus, we are drift-less. The glaciers of the last four ice ages are the reason why most people envision a flat and featureless landscape when they think of the Midwest.

        But not this place, friends! The powers-that-be diverted the glaciers away from this particular area each time, effectively sparing it from demolition. Fortunately for us, and native people for thousands of years before us, this left behind a nice little geological island of awesome. The result is an epic landscape and distinctive topography, of bluffs, deep valleys, and rugged ridgelines, sculpted by flowing water through ancient bedrock of sandstone, limestone, and dolomite. This bedrock is made from sediment and calcium deposits left behind by the remains of Paleozoic sea life that lived and died when this area of North America was covered in a shallow sea. The region is also referred to as the Paleozoic Plateau for this reason.

        Here in the Driftless Area there are steep rolling hillsides covered in temperate deciduous forest, incredible rock formations and outcroppings, complex cave systems with natural springs of subterranean water flows, and more rivers and cold water streams than you can wave a paddle or a pole at. It is a special place that has inspired the likes of Mark Twain, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold.

        While this alone could be the end of our description of the natural importance that lies within the Driftless Area, much can be said about the people who live here and the role that they play in its energy. It would seem that wonderful people are drawn to beautiful places and it is the folks who either call this place home, or seek to explore its natural landscape and communities from elsewhere, who have helped breathe new life into the small valley towns and river cities scattered throughout the area. This revitalization embraces creativity, craftsmanship, and the DIY principles that have been growing throughout American culture for the last couple of decades. Add to this the work ethic and friendly nature of Midwesterners and you have a winning combination of epic natural beauty and authentic people.

        It is my goal to help promote this spirit with Big Driftless. A passion for design and enthusiasm for the sanctity of our natural environment will guide us in developing more products that we love, so that you can love them too! Then we'll put all of the good vibrations that we get from you back into doing things that benefit this area and the people who love it. A continuous cycle of growth, gratitude, and progressive community development through shared pride in good things.

        So, join us! Follow us! Explore with us! Help us build this thing that we call BIG DRIFTLESS.


Cody Whittle – Founder


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