Author Archives: Pamela

Southwest Iowa will be home to 14 new trumpeter swans on May 9 and 10


The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will release 14 trumpeter swans at three locations in southwest Iowa as part of the effort to create a self-sustaining population of swans south of Interstate 80. All releases will occur rain or shine.

  • Six swans will be released on the north side of Lake Icaria at the east boat ramp on May 9 at 9:30 a.m., in partnership with the Adams County Conservation Board.
  • Two swans will be released at Viking Lake near the restaurant/beach area on May 9 at 1 p.m.
  • Six swans will be released at Lake Anita on May 10 at 1:30 p.m., in partnership with the Cass County Conservation Board.

These releases are part of the Iowa DNR’s statewide effort to restore trumpeter swans to Iowa that began in 1993. Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s. By the early 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states.

It takes six years, on average, before trumpeter swans successfully nest. Last year, Iowa was home to 54 pairs of nesting trumpeter swans; however, only two of those nesting pairs were south of I-80. Dave Hoffman, wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR, said the goal is to raise that number to eight, which would likely create a self-sustaining population.

“We are hopeful to get them nesting here in a year or two,” Hoffman said. “We had swans displaying some territorial signs at Lake Icaria, which is encouraging.”

As the largest North American waterfowl, these all-white birds can weigh up to 32 pounds and have an 8-foot wingspan. The trumpeter swans being released are young and flightless and will imprint on the area where they learn to fly, returning each year as open water is available. The swans were donated to the project from zoos in Cleveland, Kansas City, Green Bay, Wis., Oklahoma City, Bronx, Anchorage, Alaska and Maryland.

Each event includes a swan and wetland presentation, an opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a photo opportunity with the kids. Staff from the Kansas City Zoo will be on hand offering educational activities, and filmmaker Steve Harryman may be at these releases collecting footage for an upcoming documentary “Return of the Trumpeter Swans, in partnership with the Trumpeter Swan Society.

For more information, contact David Hoffman at David.Hoffman@dnr.iowa.gov or 641-425-0737.

Explore Iowa’s Beautiful Trout Streams and Rivers

Explore some of the most beautiful trout streams in the Upper Midwest, here in Iowa. A true angler’s paradise, hundreds of miles of cold water trout streams meander through Northeast Iowa. Some streams are easily accessible in parks, and others are in wild and remote natural places. Catch wild and stocked Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout.

Plenty of opportunities await trout anglers in Iowa:
50 catchable-stocked rainbow and brook trout fisheries on publicly-accessible streams
9 special trout fisheries with restrictive regulations
17 community trout fisheries

Over 50 wild, self-sustaining trout fisheries throughout northeast Iowa
Schedule time during your next trip to northeast Iowa to visit one of Iowa’s three trout hatcheries – Manchester, Decorah, or Big Springs. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.

Find your favorite trout stream and when it will be stocked with the Trout Stream Stocking Calendar at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Trout-Fishing or call 563-927-5736 for current trout stream or urban stocking information.

The past 20 years, northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. Over 75 streams now have some level of natural reproduction and provide an excellent opportunity for anglers to pursue wild trout. These increases occurred as watersheds were improved, in-stream habitat was installed, improved trout genetics were used, and Iowa had an extended period of above average annual rainfall.

Iowa’s put-and-grow streams are stocked with fingerling brown trout. These streams are entirely on private property – you need permission from the landowner to fish them. Fingerling trout are also stocked into streams open to public fishing.

Brook Trout from South Pine Creek are the only know population of native Iowa Brook Trout. In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started to spawn trout from South Pine Creek to restore populations in other NE Iowa cold water streams.

Adult Brown Trout from French Creek are spawned and their offspring stocked as fingerlings into cold water streams with suitable water temperatures and habitat conditions. Several populations of naturally reproducing Brown Trout have been established in northeast Iowa streams using this stocking approach.

Fisheries staff play an active role in trout stream projects to improve and maintain quality water and habitat that benefit both trout and trout anglers. They have worked with 18 landowners to protect over 10 miles of streams in Northeast Iowa with Angler Conservation Easements.

Successful water quality improvement projects are led by groups and communities that partner with the DNR to create and implement long-term plans to improve the land and water. Using conservation practices on the land upstream is key to help stop sediment, nutrients and bacteria from entering into the stream.

Several projects are currently ongoing in Northeast Iowa. The longest running project was implemented in 2000 on the Upper Iowa River. It continues to secure funding for additional tributaries within its watershed and on the immediate corridor.

Watershed improvement projects have helped many trout streams by changing the way water flows through them. Bank stabilization projects occur on public and private owned properties. Cut banks are stabilized by bank shaping, armoring with rock, seeding, willow stake planting and cedar tree or root-wad revetments.

Landowners who want to improve the habitat in their trout streams should contact the Decorah or Manchester fish management biologist for help with project plans and potential funding sources.

Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Children under 16 may possess or fish for trout without having paid the Trout Fee if they fish with a properly licensed adult who has paid the Trout Fee and together they limit their catch to the one person daily limit of five (5) trout. Children under 16 can buy their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).

Length Limits: None, except a 14-inch minimum length limit applies to all trout in Spring Branch Creek (Delaware Co.), from the spring source to County Hwy. D5X as posted, and on brown trout only in portions of Bloody Run Creek (Clayton Co.) where posted.

Daily Bag & Possession: All waters – Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10.

Annual Fishing License*
Resident: $22
Nonresident: $48

Trout Fee
Resident: $14.50
Nonresident: $17.50

Info and photo credits to Iowa DNR

For more info and trout stream locations, go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Where-to-Fish/Trout-Streams

Full Moon Paddling Adventures: “How To” Considerations

Full moon paddling is a fun and surreal experience.  If you are observant, watching the day critters go to bed and the night time critters take over, is part of the fun and excitement of paddling after dark. There is always a lot of beaver activity after sunset that is serendipitous to happen upon.

Finding a small lake to get started building confidence in night time paddling is a great idea for a first time event. If it is a State or County Park, finding out what time the park closes is one step in the preparations. Find out the Sunset and Moon rise times. The IWTA  Newsletter provides the times each newsletter or you can Google it.

Here is a planning list of considerations: 
 
  • Paddle with a buddy or group for safety
  • Dress for cooler night time temps
  • Avoid areas that have snags. Scout out the lake in advance.
  • Wear a head lamp plus pack a spare and/or batteries.
  • Whistles are a great safety accessory for attendees. Discuss signals in advance. S-O-S is typically three quick blasts.
  • Wear and securely zip your PFD
  • Paddle to the furthest eastern section of the lake for the closest view of the moon as it rises. It can take 30 minutes before you see the moon rise over the horizon. Be patient. If it is a cloudy night, you may not see the moon at all. Find out in advance if it will be a cloudy night. It gets very dark on the lake if the moon is not visible. Be prepared with extra lighting.   Be prepared for vessel reloading after dark. A lantern stored in your vehicle works great for the extra lighting needed to make the job easier.

Make an adventure out of it. Enjoy the night sky and full moon over a campfire with friends.  After you exit the water, go to the fire pit you pre-scouted for a campfire, post paddling. Supplies needed can include glow-sticks, local firewood, lighter and lawn chairs.

Food could be as simple as snacks, s’mores, marshmallows or hot dogs. Another option for a cooler evening; bring and warm chili over the fire. If you have unlimited time, a dutch oven inspired meal or dessert would provide a great late night activity.

Have fun!  Let me know how it turns out at iowawta@gmail.com.

 

Local Iowa Groups Can Receive Financial Assistance To Launch Clean Water Campaigns

DES MOINES- Iowa groups looking for help implementing innovative, regional and locally led Clean Water Awareness and Education Campaigns can apply for funding from the Iowa DNR Watershed Improvement Section.

Through a grant program, the DNR looks for proposals that clearly demonstrate an ability to put in place innovative, targeted, impactful and sustainable Clean Water Awareness and Education Campaigns.

The DNR seeks to award grants to eligible local entities to develop and implement locally led Clean Water Awareness and Education programs. Educational campaigns will improve public knowledge of and promote actions to reduce non-point source pollution and improve water quality. The DNR seeks projects that will use innovative methods for reaching diverse audiences and stakeholder groups.

Campaigns must be achievable in the grant’s 18-month time frame and within the funding amount requested.

Applications are due by close of business May 31. Successful applicants will be awarded contracts beginning no later than Oct. 15, 2019, and ending no later than Apr. 30, 2021 (18 months).

These grants were developed after the DNR contracted with the University of Northern Iowa to survey Iowa’s residents in 2015 to measure their knowledge of water quality and identify potential behavior changes. This is the next step in the Non-point Source Management Plan. (For more details, see Objective 2.5 of Goal 2 of Iowa’s Non-point Source Management Plan and the results of the survey).

The survey will be repeated when grant-based educational campaigns are completed to track progress. The first round of Education Campaign contracts were awarded in Dec. 2018 and projects are ongoing.

For more information and grant application materials, visit http://iowadnr.gov/watershed. Contact Steve Konrady, DNR, at 515-725-8388 or  http://Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov with your questions.

Stay Safe This Paddling Season

As Iowans start to thaw out from a brutal winter, paddlers and other boaters are itching to hit the water.  While some river levels have dropped, others remain high and unsafe.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends that paddlers wait for warmer weather to let the water temperatures rise slowly. It could be several weeks before water temperatures are ideal and safe.

“Regardless of how warm the air may feel in first weeks of spring, the water is still dangerously cold and can be deadly to boaters,” said Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs Water Trails coordinator.  “Cold water shock and hypothermia can set in fast if you are not dressed for cold water immersion. “

After snowmelt and heavy rains, water levels can rise quickly and produce strong and fast current. “Strainers” are numerous on most rivers, especially after high water events. A “strainer” can be a pile of tree limbs and debris, usually found on the outside of river bends where they continue to collect and pile up. The river’s current can suck you under a deadly “strainer” and hold you underwater with little chance of escape.

Review these simple safety tips before you head out on the water.

  • Check your canoe or kayak for any needed repairs or maintenance after being stored for several months. Look for holes and leaks, make sure all hatch lids fit snug and securely and check your paddle blades for signs of cracking or splitting.
  • Dust off your life jacket and make sure all buckles and zippers work properly and look for holes and tears. Replace the life jacket if it has damage that cannot be repaired. Wear a life jacket at all times while on the water, regardless of your swimming ability. “We encourage all boaters to wear their lifejackets and not just store them on board. When you need it, it won’t be there,” said Robertson. “Put the lifejacket on, if not for you, for the ones you love.”
  • If paddling in colder conditions, wear a wetsuit or dry suit, along with layers, to help avoid hypothermia or cold water shock. Do not wear cotton. Dress for water immersion, not the air temperature. You can adjust your clothing needs as the water heats up over the next several weeks.
  • Always bring along a dry bag with a set of extra clothes you can change into if you get wet, a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.

Explore the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddling map at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle to help you plan your first paddling trip this year.

Public invited to discuss future options for the Mon-Maq Dam on the Maquoketa River, April 4

Monticello – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will host a public open house and meeting from 6 to 8:30 p.m., April 4, at the Durgin Pavilion at Camp Courageous, near Monticello, to discuss the future of the Mon-Maq Dam and Maquoketa River.

“The Maquoketa River from Monticello to Pictured Rocks Park is a Midwest regional destination with the scenic canyon the river flows through,” said Nate Hoogeveen, Iowa DNR River Programs Director. “People visit from as far as Chicago. The future of this river is important to locals and Iowans more broadly… we’ve received e-mails from as far away as Indianola concerning this project.”

Jones County Conservation board owns the dam, and is studying it for modifications that would reduce safety hazards and eliminate barriers to fish movement.  Options could include removing the dam, replacing it with rapids, leaving much of the dam in place, or leaving the dam as it is.

Design options and results of Monticello-area focus groups and Jones County mail-in surveys to date will be presented at the meeting, along with an opportunity for the public to express their comments and concerns and ask questions.

The first half hour of the meeting will be an open house from 6:00-6:30 p.m. The public will be able to talk with the project consultant and project participants about design alternatives, dam history, dam safety, fish passage/river ecology, and recreational interests.

Any person attending the public meeting and has special requirements such as those related to mobility or hearing impairments should contact the DNR or ADA Coordinator at 515-725-8200, Relay Iowa TTY Service 800-735-7942, or Webmaster@dnr.iowa.gov, and advise of specific needs.

Find more information about the Mon-Maq Dam at http://www.iowawhitewater.org/lhd/ LHDmonmaq.htmlor. or https://friendsmonmaqdam.com/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Explore Iowa Rivers and Plan Trips from your Desktop

 

The Iowa DNR has an active and ready for use interactive paddling map that helps with trip planning, getting directions, and just exploring rivers from your desktop. Go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle to view it. You can also download a PDF that offers detailed instructions on how to use the map at this same page.

Last year a number of bridge construction projects located on popular stretches of river created barriers to navigation. Projects, to name a few, were reported at North Trailhead Access on the West Fork of the Des Moines River, just downstream of Bever’s Bridge Access on the Boone River, and at I-35 on the South Skunk River. These projects employ coffer dams that behave no differently from a typical low-head dam so it became critical to get the word out. A one-time press release just wasn’t enough, as some of these projects are under construction throughout the paddling season.

The River Programs utilized ESRI’s ArcGIS Online tools and functionality to deploy an online interactive map to display river data so it could be used in relation to these temporary hazards. While some data have discrepancies, the team continues to improve data quality and add more functionality to the map. It’s a work in progress, but offers a lot of information to assist paddlers in trip planning or exploring Iowa’s rivers.

All features of the map are clickable, providing more information. You can click on river or portage lines to get distances, or click on access symbols to find out maximum slope or the number of parking spaces. You can also change the map under the data (basemap) from a topo map to aerial photo coverage-there are more than six different maps to choose from. Lastly, you can get street directions between two or more points, which makes it easy to determine your shuttle route.

There is more to come. As we improve the quality of the data with the help of field workers and volunteers, we will also add more functionality, like the ability to print maps and add stream gauge information. If you’d like to assist the DNR in making our data more accurate and useful, please contact:John Wenck, DNR Water Trails Coordinator at john.wenck@dnr.iowa.gov  or 515-725-8465.

Dam Mitigations All Around Iowa

Sure. You may be delighted those frigid temperatures are a thing of the past. But in a wet year, the low temperatures from January through March kept water levels low enough in rivers around Iowa to get contractors moving on dam removal and mitigation projects statewide. These projects were each years in the making, and the latest wave of them will change how Iowans recreate and navigate. Here’s a run-down:

Ames

https://www.cityofames.org/government/departments-divisions-i-z/water-pollution-control/construction-projects/north-river-valley-low-head-dam

This project replaces the River Valley Park Dam with a divided channel, half for whitewater waves and half for fishing and fish passage. It also preserves the dams water supply function.

 

Fort Dodge (2 dams)

Little Dam (also called Lower Dam) was removed in February, completing the project. Paddlers can safety float from the Phinney Park Access on Lizard Creek down to Dolliver State Park unimpeded, and fish can move freely as needed as far upriver to the remaining portion of Hydroelectric Dam. A rocky bed was uncovered in this area.

Hydroelectric Dam, formerly a 16-high dam, is removed down to a few feet high through summer, when it is expected to be completely removed. The removal is staged into 2 steps in order to prevent all sediment in the impoundment from being released at the same time. HOWEVER, recirculating currents will continue to be a safety hazard remaining portion of the dam until the dam is fully removed because the dam’s height will still be about 5 feet. All boaters should avoid the stretch between the Hydroelectric Park Access and mouth of Lizard Creek until the rest of the dam can be removed – most likely later this summer.

Speaking of that first stage of removal, check out this time lapse video:

https://www.facebook.com/115815355132446/videos/349587482317072/

 

Quaker Mill Dam

Phase 2 of the project was completed this winter and the Maquoketa River takes a meandering course through the former bed of the Quaker Mill Pond.

 

Littleton Dam

The Littleton Dam on the Wapsipinicon River is completely removed. High water after ice-out prevented completion of the rock arch rapids that will take the place of the dam, and contractors will resume work after flows are reasonable for work to be done.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: American White Pelican

Photo by Pam Wolter 
Sweet Marsh, Bremer County

 

The American White Pelican can be seen this spring in fresh water lakes and marshes across Iowa and North America on their way to their summer grounds up north. They have the second largest wingspan of  North American birds with a span of nine foot, only behind the California Condor in size. They can weigh up to 30 pounds with 11 -20 an average.  They are bright white except for blacks edges on their wing ends. They eat around four pounds of fish and crayfish daily by fishing for it as the fish swim by. They are unlike the Brown Pelican who dives for their dinner.

The spring migration to the breeding grounds occurs in March and April. During spring breeding both male and females develop a small horn on their top beak that later falls off after breeding and egg laying.

Nesting begins early April through early June. After one week of courtship and egg laying, the male assists the female with incubating the nest of 2 to 3 eggs with 6 the maximum laid. They incubate for a period of one month. The juveniles leave the parents care around three weeks after learning to fly. The Pelicans leave for their winter grounds along the Mississippi River (south of Saint Louis), Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastal lakes in September and October.

Currently the North American Pelican has a stable population. However, due to human impact, they suffer habitat loss, nest abandonment, fishing gear entanglements, poaching and boating disturbances.

Credits to and for additional detailed info, click onto this link.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_white_pelican

Monthly Feature: Get Acquainted with a Water Trail This Month: Wapsipinicon River Water Trail: Buchanan County

 

The Wapsipinicon River has a romantic past as the local Wapsi Folklore has several stories about how the Wapsipinicon got its name. A common story has the young Indian maiden named Wapsi and the son of an Indian chief named Pinicon canoeing on the river on the eve of their wedding day. The jealous Fleat Foot sneaks along the shoreline, and shoots Pinicon through the heart. As Wapsi jumps to the aid of Pinicon, the canoe overturns, and the two lovers drown in the swift current. To commemorate the sad event, the Indians combined the names and called the river Wapsipinicon.*

Classified: a navigable “non-meandered” stream. That means that the State of Iowa owns the water flowing through it, but not the land adjacent to it or under it. Except at access sites and public areas marked on the map, the land adjacent to and underneath the river is private. Please respect it and do not trespass.*

Access Points: 11 access points with 40 total miles of river corridor

Skills Needed: Beginner and intermediate, section dependent, check map at
https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Water-Trail-Maps-Brochures

River drop: < 2 feet

Features: quality backwaters, wetlands, woodland habitat, scenic forests, oxbows, backwater sloughs, 10-80′ limestone bluffs, numerous sandbars

Possible wildlife views of: Beaver, muskrat, river otter, painted, soft-shell and snapping turtles, 15 species of mussels

Birding: Designated Bird Conservation Area (2007) due to extensive diversity of bird species

Fish: One of the best fishing rivers in the state. Species found: northern pike, channel catfish, crappies, bluegill, smallmouth bass, walleye

Tree species: Silver Maple, Oaks, Willows

* Credits: Excerpts taken from the Iowa DNR Water Trail brochure: Wapsipinicon, Buchanan County

To learn more specific information, connect to these links.
http://iowawatertrails.org

Brochures and maps:
Can be downloaded and paper copies can be picked up at assorted Conservation offices and Nature Centers. Go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/ for online viewing.

A good way to plan your trip is by using the IDNR Interactive Mapping Services resource. Go to the IMS Guide for instructions on how to use the Interactive Mapping Services, or access the IMS directly by going to Recreation Map at https://www.iowadnr.gov/or at
http://iowawatertrails.org/?p=2864