The name Vieth is synonymous with Evansville sports — so much that Vieth Lane skirts Deaconess Sports Park north of the city — but patriarch Bill Vieth’s love of the wild took center stage this year.
Published this summer, “In Awesome Wonder” chronicles Vieth’s float trips to Alaska, Canada, and eastern Russia. In 10 journeys across 21 years, the nature enthusiast and former Boy Scout — often accompanied by his son Tim, brother Phil, and nephew Mark — trekked into the remote wilderness of Arctic refuges, navigated strong river currents, and came face-to- face with wildlife.
“Every time I look at the book, I want to go back into the wilderness,” he says. “It’s made me appreciate those experiences more. The wilderness we now have is all we shall ever have.”
Let’s start at the beginning. In 1965, Vieth and his wife Mary Ellen moved to Evansville from Saint Louis, Missouri. Through the years, they had four children and, while raising their family, he settled into a 35-year banking career with occasional float, fishing, and camping trips with his family sprinkled in.
Then in 1990, his brother Phil, a retired forester in Minnesota, called with the idea of visiting the Koktuli and Mulchatkna Rivers in southwest Alaska. Vieth — a longtime nature lover and photography enthusiast — was in.
The brothers and their sons were deposited by float plane onto a tundra pond and ventured onto Alaska’s Koktuli and Mulchatna rivers, fishing for wild salmon, observing bald eagles and caribou, and camping along the wild rivers.
“I remember those trips like they happened yesterday,” Vieth says.
The rewards — and the risks — only increased with each journey. On the edge of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1992, the group was on its own for 10 days while reaching a remote pick-up spot 90 miles away. While visiting Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in 2005, a curious grizzly bear crept within 10 feet of Vieth and his camera.
Vieth returned to the Arctic Circle in 2021, this time sharing the experience with his daughters Vicky and Megan. Vieth committed to creating a keepsake for himself, his family, and anyone interested in wilderness.
“I did a log when I returned from the first trip, so that helped jog my memory. I checked with Phil, and the more we talked about it, the more memories popped back into our minds,” he says. “It was a precious, great experience.”