Author Archives: Pamela

River Reading: Hazards and Obstacles: What to do?

 

Photo: Maquoketa River Water Trail: Whitewater feature

There are many hazards and obstacles in the rivers we paddle and it is essential you become proficient in your river reading skills if you plan to spend time on the water. Striving to be a learner will help keep you and others safe. Here are a few of the hazards and obstacles you may encounter on a typical river trip.

Obstacles/Hazards:

Low-head dam:
You can be trapped in a hydraulic and unable to escape. If trapped, try to dive below the surface when the downstream current is flowing beneath the reversal. These low head dam hydraulics are called “drowning machines”. ALWAYS portage around them. When planning a trip, know what hazard features exist on the stretch you paddle.

High water:
High water can exist when a river narrows or when recent rain has increased the current flow and depth. Consider these conditions before making the decision to paddle as an individual, even if the trip leader decides to paddle under these conditions. YOU are responsible for your own decision to make the trip. Knowing what is happening up or down stream can also be important.

Strainer:
Anything that blocks passage, but allows water to flow through. These items can be brush or fallen trees, bridge pilings, or undercut rocks. They can allow the river current to sweep through and can cause capsize and/or pinning or can hold you under the water trapping you. Avoid these obstacles and be able to know and have the paddle skills to avoid these. Allow enough space to pass by the obstacle safely as the hydraulic may pull you in closer.

Sweeper:
branches hanging low over or into water that can sweep a paddler from the boat. Avoid these when paddling and refrain from reaching out to grab them when passing by.

Broaching/Pinning: When a boat is pushed sideways against a rock, bridge structure, or other hazard by a strong current. It may collapse and wrap around you and trap you inside your boat.This is especially true for kayaks. To avoid pinning, it is best to throw your weight downstream towards the rock or hazard.This may allow the current to slide underneath your boat hull. “Love and lean” toward the obstacle, typically, that is facing downstream. It allows water under your vessel to help dislodge it.

If you capsize:

Try to hold onto your boat if possible by keeping your boat in front of you, (heading down river). Never allow the boat behind you or the weight and current pushing on you can cause safety issues such as pinning, foot entrapment, broken bones, etc.
If you can not hold onto your boat, LET GO!

Do NOT ever try to stand up in fast moving current. Stay floating on your back with your feet held high and pointed downstream and try to navigate to shore. You may need to swim at times to avoid obstacles.If you try to stand, it is possible for your foot to become trapped in an underwater obstacle causing a pinning hazard that can result in drowning. Only stand up in moving water if it is shallow (less than knee deep) or in “slow” moving water.
Other paddlers should try to help get your boat and gear for you.
Bilge or drain the water from your vessel.
Change clothes from your dry bag supplies.

Learn rescue and other life saving techniques:

Learn self rescue and two person rescue techniques.
Learn how to use a “paddle float” and bring it on trips
Learn how to throw a “throw bag”, then bring it on paddle trips. It could save a life.
Take a class, attend a pool session.
Watching YouTube rescue technique videos can help increase skill level.
Learn to be a competent swimmer.
Take a CPR and first aid class.

When helping another paddler, help in this priority order:

Help paddler first.
Locate paddle.
Try to catch boat floating downstream, or pull to shore if possible and remove water by bilge pumping out or turning upside down over your kayak or on shore.
Locating lost gear is last priority.

Please note: the information, terms, and misc information was sourced through assorted publications, various online sites, assorted DNR brochures, “Paddling Iowa” by Nate Hoogeveen, www.paddling.com, and extensive readings.

Paddling Verbiage

Kayak and Paddle Terms: 

Stern: the back portion of the boat
Bow: the front of the boat
Cockpit: the opening where you sit
Deck: top of the boat
Foot braces: pedals or ridges feet rest on
Blade: the flat section of the paddle
Tip: the end of your paddle
Shaft: the section between the blades of your paddle
Powerface: the side of the blade catching the water on your paddle
Backface: side opposite the powerface

Safety Gear:

PFD: personal flotation device (lifejacket): is a piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water. It is required by law to be in your boat.
Paddle float: a paddle float may be used for re-entry into a kayak after a capsize in open water.
Throw bag: a throw bag or throw line is a rescue device with a length of rope stuffed loosely into a bag so it can come out through the top when the bag is thrown to a swimmer. A throw bag is standard rescue equipment for kayaking and other outdoor river recreational activities.
Bilge Pump: a pump to remove water out of a vessel
Whistle: attach it to your PFD. One blast is for attention; three blasts is “help.” (SOS)
Helmet: good for use when play boating or surfing waves or when flipping is possible
Knife: for use during river paddling where the danger of entanglement can be very real, it makes sense to carry a sheath knife on your PFD.
Tow rope: tow system is great to have when boating with kids or inexperienced paddlers who may become fatigued during long paddles.

River Features:

Eddyline– boundary between the circular eddy and the downward current flow.
Eddy: water rushing around obstacles, circulating downstream, towards shore in a reverse current. Current flows to fill void created by flow of water. It can be a good location to get out of the rivers current to take a break or to wait for others.
Ledge drop: any drop-off where the depth of the bottom goes from shallow to deep in a short distance. It can be caused from a former dam site.
Volume: the volume of a river is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). Cfs is determined by calculating the number of cubic feet of water that passes a single point on a river over the course of a second.
Pillow: pillows are created when water hits a rock head on and folds back on itself creating a cushion like bumper against the face of the rock wall.
Riffle: the riffles of rivers tend to be where water is shallow and the current is strong. A riffle is a rocky, shallow area in a stream where water cascading over rocks creates a noticeable surface disturbance.To identify a riffle, look for a choppy surface or whitewater spilling over shallow rocks into deeper water.
Friendly V: a V pattern in the river that points away from you. It is a good path to take.
Unfriendly V: a V pattern that points toward you warns of an obstruction, avoid this.
Gradient: the steepness of the river bed, expressed in feet per mile.
if less than 2 feet: slow river, few riffles ( can paddle 3 miles per hour)
over 5 feet, expect fast water and riffles

Please note: the information, terms, and misc information was sourced through assorted publications, various online sites, assorted DNR brochures,”Paddling Iowa” by Nate Hoogeveen, www.paddling.com, and extensive readings.

Forgotten Endangered Species: Freshwater Mussels

Photo courtesy of Cedar Valley Paddlers Club

Article by Alexandria Vollman. Originally published on ModernConservationist.com.
Reprinted with permission.

The phrase “endangered species” elicits many images: fluffy grizzly bears, majestic gray wolves, stealthy panthers, lovable manatees. But many of the 1,467 current endangered or threatened species on the endangered species list (ESL) are unfamiliar to the average American.
In a 2018 survey conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the majority of respondents said they believed there were approximately 100 species on the ESL. Young people were even more off, with most putting the number at 80.
Out of sight and mind, the other 1,300-plus animals on the ESL garner less public support and thus fewer funds for their recovery. Yet these less flashy, cuddly and majestic creatures – like all flora and fauna – play a critical role in the ecosystems they are a part of and are deserving of the time, energy and money necessary for them to once again thrive.
Freshwater mussels, for instance.
With nearly 300 subspecies in North America, mussels make up an important component of the biodiversity of America’s rivers and streams.

Their Contributions:

Although North America has the largest number of species of freshwater mussels – or clams – in the world, approximately 72 percent of those are endangered, threatened or designated as a special concern by the states in which they are located. The majority are found in the Midwest, where more than half of the region’s 78 species are classified as such. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “No other group of animals in the Midwest is so gravely imperiled.”
Compared to 16.5 percent of mammalian and 14.6 percent of bird species, 70 percent of mussels in North America are extinct or imperiled, according to The Nature Conservancy. This is particularly alarming as they are such hardy creatures capable of surviving harsh conditions.
Because they act as a purification system, filtering water for food, mussels are vulnerable to water pollution – from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, mining waste and residential and livestock sewage. Although they can close their shells for short periods of time to avoid toxins, long-term exposure is often what kills them.

“The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways,” the FWS website reads. “And those changes have been so dramatic that these aquatic animals have trouble surviving.”
The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways.
Easy to overlook, mussels line the bottom of rivers, streams or lakes in large groups called “beds,” covering as much as several acres. Beyond purifying bodies of water, they act as a food source for a variety of animals, including otters, egrets, herons and raccoons.

Their Demise:

In addition to the conditions caused by pollution – sedimented, muddy and contaminated river bottoms – many elements have contributed to the demise of mussel species, with dams being another leading cause.
Because of the way in which mussels reproduce – larvae attach to the gills or fins of certain fish, where they remain for several weeks as they transform into juvenile mussels before detaching – dams have been a large impediment to their existence. Present on most large waterways, dams limit fish movement and thus the ability of mussels to reproduce. They also affect the water flow, harming some subspecies that are unable to survive in slower-moving or lower-water conditions.

Non-native, invasive species are another threat to freshwater mussels. The invader currently wreaking havoc on native species is the zebra mussel, which is believed to have been introduced in the Great Lakes by large European ships. By attaching to boats, the zebra mussel has spread to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

“They increase in numbers faster than non-native mussels and attach to almost any hard surface, including native mussels,” the FWS website reads. “They reproduce so fast and in such abundance that the native mussels’ movement, feeding, and reproductive behaviors are stifled.”
Although they may not be as endearing as other endangered species, mussels contribute in considerable ways to our aquatic ecosystems, and their presence is indicative of healthy water – good for both humans and wildlife. And while the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts have done much to aid in the recovery of mussels, much work remains to ensure they will thrive again one day.

Speaking Up For Wildlife: How To Report Wildlife Crime:

 

Blanding’s Turtle crossing the road. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for protecting America’s wildlife from poaching, illegal commercialization and other kinds of wildlife crime. While our special agents and wildlife inspectors within the Office of Law Enforcement work with our federal, state and tribal conservation partners across the country to investigate these crimes, we also depend on tips from concerned citizens. People just like you step up and share information that helps us protect everything from native turtles and pallid sturgeon to bald eagles and white-tailed deer. Help us close the next case and you may be eligible for a monetary reward.

Wildlife crime is much more than elephant ivory and rhino horns. America’s native plants and animals need your help across the country. While it’s true that we are actively fighting illegal commercialization, commonly referred to as wildlife trafficking, wildlife crime is far more domestic than you may realize. It can happen in your local parks, wildlife refuges and even on your own land. Many of our law enforcement investigations are solved because people who see unlawful activities reach out to us or their local game warden. In tandem to this community effort, we established the use of financial rewards to people who provide critical information. This program allows us to thank everyday people who help us investigate and stop these crimes, all while protecting their anonymity in the process.

Be situationally aware and trust your gut when things just don’t seem right. This happened to a woman in Minnesota while she was on a bike ride and saw someone putting Blanding’s turtles in their trunk. She knew that these mild-mannered turtles are protected and extremely vulnerable during breeding season as they move to nesting habitat to lay eggs. She reported the vehicle’s license plate number and other identifiable information to an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and her tip ultimately helped to uncover a multi-state, illegal trafficking scheme based in Wisconsin. The man involved pleaded guilty to a felony Lacey Act violation, served time in prison and paid heavy fines. During the investigation, officers recovered an incubator with 120 native map, painted and softshell turtle eggs that he had illegally collected in the wild. This wildlife trafficker also left an incriminating digital footprint, using online retailers to traffic additional wild reptile and amphibian species. Just one person speaking for a couple of turtles made a positive impact on local wildlife. In this case, we were able to recognize her contributions with a $1,500 reward through the Lacey Act Reward Account, all while maintaining her anonymity. You can remain anonymous when reporting.

Know the law:

Another way you can help is by knowing the laws that protect wildlife. Migratory birds native to the U.S., including their nests and eggs, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. Knowing what’s in season under state and tribal law is important too, because poaching isn’t the only wildlife crime, hunting out of season and falsifying records are also criminal offenses. Ethical hunters and anglers respect the biological reasoning behind bag limits and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.
Do you have a wildlife crime to report?
If you believe you have information related to a wildlife crime, email or call us with information about where and when it occurred, along with what you witnessed. Include any photos or videos you may have.

How to report a wildlife crime:

If you think you’re witnessing a crime in progress, maintain a safe distance and protect yourself.
Make use of your cell phone and take photos or videos, if you can do so safely.
Write down any information about the person committing the crime, including any vehicle information, what you witnessed and where the event took place.
If you suspect that someone is trafficking in wildlife online, include the full website URL and take screen captures of the potentially illegal sale. Send us an email with all related information or call us using the FWS TIPs line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (1-844-397-8477).
Please discuss the possibility of a reward with the special agent receiving your information.
Together, we can make a positive difference in the health of America’s fish, wildlife and iconic habitats.

Learn more about the federal conservation laws that guide our law enforcement work on behalf of America’s fish and wildlife. For more information, contact https://www.fws.gov/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.

Iowa Project Aware: Year 17! Boone River in Hamilton and Wright Counties

Registrations are now available online for sign up at http://www.iowaprojectaware.org.

HAMILTON & WRIGHT COUNTIES – The Boone River in north-central Iowa will be a lot lighter, and arguably prettier, in just a few short months. This July, hundreds of volunteers will spend their vacations muscling trash from sixty-one contiguous miles of the river between Goldfield and the Boone Forks Wildlife Area near Stratford.

Iowa Project AWARE, an abbreviation for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is scheduled for July 7-12. Now in its seventeenth year, Iowa Project AWARE is a one of a kind, multi-day, family friendly annual river cleanup. It is one of the few opportunities in Iowa for outdoor recreation and environmental education fully coordinated by volunteers, for volunteers.

“We are excited to be part of this year’s project on the Boone River,” explained Hamilton County Conservation Director Brian Lammers. “Not only will the cleanup directly benefit our local river ecosystem and improve water quality and recreation potential, the event also brings awareness to the community and brings volunteers together to work on the effort.”

During the cleanup, participants paddle canoes searching for river and riverbank trash by day and camping in local campgrounds and communities by night. Throughout the week volunteers also attend educational programs emphasizing local history, culture and nature. While the expedition lasts six days, participants can register for as few or as many days as they choose. Paddling equipment, boats, and daily meals are included with daily registration fees.

N-Compass, Inc. is the nonprofit organization who produces Iowa Project AWARE. The group is working with the Webster City-based Boone River Cleanup Committee, which has organized local cleanups in Hamilton County since 2007. Despite years of successful local cleanup efforts, local organizers report there is always trash to be found. With the expedition starting in the Wright County hamlet of Goldfield, cleanup volunteers will traverse nearly the entire navigable portion of the Boone River.

In the past 16 years, more than 2,610 volunteers from across the country have participated in the multi-day river cleanup. This includes paddling 1,200 river miles of Iowa waters, removing 436 tons of trash with more than three-quarters of which has been recycled.

For more information about Iowa Project AWARE, N-Compass, Inc. and to register as a river cleanup volunteer for the 2019 event please visit http://www.iowaprojectaware.org.

Iowa Great Lakes Curlyleaf Pondweed Management Plans

Spirit Lake – Invasive curlyleaf pondweed has become a common site in the spring on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes in recent years. The 2019 plan for managing this plant will be similar to 2018, but treat more acres.

A team of leaders from the county, local cities, lake associations, drinking water utilities, Iowa Lakeside Lab, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have been working together over the past two years to manage this invasive aquatic plant that has caused water access and navigation issues on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes.

“Curlyleaf pondweed has been in our lakes since the middle of the last century, but conditions have allowed it to gain a foothold growing to form dense mats impacting recreation and access,” said Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR fisheries biologist. “This plant is common throughout the Midwest, causing similar issues on hundreds of lakes.” Unlike native plants, curlyleaf pondweed germinates in the fall, grows under the ice and hits the surface by early May. It dies back naturally in late June.

Terry Wilts, with the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation, has helped spearhead the management effort over the past few years and explains there are no easy options to solve this problem.

“This plant impacts hundreds of acres. As a team, we realize we can’t treat all of it, but should prioritize our funds and efforts,” Wilts said. “The 2019 plan builds on efforts from past years. We’ve taken what we’ve learned and are applying this knowledge to maximize our impact.”

The 2018 project treated 61 acres of curlyleaf with a combination of mechanical harvesting and the use of an aquatic herbicide. The 2019 plan includes a similar combination, but an increase in treatment area to 85 acres. The team was able to increase the number of acres while keeping the overall cost the same.

The 2018 project was considered successful. Boater access was improved and the project stayed on budget and on-time despite the late ice out. Twenty acres along the shoreline was treated with an aquatic herbicide and 41 acres (1 million pounds) was harvested using a mechanical plant harvester. The herbicide was used more than five miles from any drinking water intake even though water testing at the treatment area showed levels well below the drinking water standard right after treatment. The 2019 plan increases the herbicide treatment to 60 acres while still proposing mechanical harvesting of 25 acres.

The DNR and project partners want to emphasize the importance of not illegally applying herbicides.

“We can’t tolerate lakeshore residents illegally applying herbicides. Iowa law restricts their use and only the DNR has the authority to treat plants in the lake with a herbicide. Everyone living or vacationing in this area gets their drinking water from our lakes. Not following the law endangers that precious resource,” said Eric Stoll, with Milford Utilities, which supplies drinking water for thousands of customers in the region states.

Funding for the project will come from local contributions to the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation and the DNR’s Marine Fuel Tax Fund which is dedicated to improving boater access in Iowa.

Media Contact: Mike Hawkins, Fisheries Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-336-1840.

Curlyleaf Pondweed:
Photo credits to Wikipedia 

Spring Urban Trout Stocking Starts Soon!

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff will release between 1,000 to 2,000 rainbow trout in ten lakes across Iowa in March and April as part of its cool weather trout program.

The spring urban trout stockings are a great place to take kids to catch their first fish. A small hook with a night crawler or corn under a small bobber to casting small simple spinners such as a panther martin or mepps is all you need to get in on the fun.

Bringing trout to cities and towns offers a “close to home” option for Iowans who might not travel to northeast Iowa to experience trout fishing. Most locations also host a family friendly event to help anglers have success and fun while fishing.

The popular program is supported by the sales of the trout fee. Anglers need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.

Children age 15 or younger can fish for trout with a properly licensed adult, but they must limit their catch to one daily limit. The child can buy a trout fee which will allow them to catch their own limit.Once you buy your trout fee, you can fish for trout all year-long at any of the community trout lakes and trout streams in northeast Iowa.

Find tips on how to fish for trout on the DNR website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/trout.

2019 Spring Urban Trout Stocking Schedule:

March 22
Noon: Wilson Lake, east of Donnellson

March 30
11 a.m.: Ottumwa Park Pond, Ottumwa
11 a.m.: Liberty Centre Pond, North Liberty

April 6
Noon: Banner Lake South, north of Indianola
1 p.m.: Terra Lake, Johnston

April 13
10 a.m.: Heritage Pond, Dubuque
11 a.m.: North Prairie Lake, Cedar Falls

April 20
10 a.m.: Prairie Park (Cedar Bend), Cedar Rapids
Noon: Sand Lake, Marshalltown

Media Contact: Mike Steuck, Regional Fisheries Supervisor, Northeast Iowa, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 563-927-3276.

Rainbow Trout

Photo credits to Wikipedia

Littleton Dam removal on the Wapsipinicon River may create hazardous ice conditions

MEDIA CONTACT: Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator at 515-243-3714.

LITTLETON, Iowa — A construction project on the Wapsipinicon River in Buchanan County to replace the Littleton Dam with a rapids, may create hazardous ice conditions on the river upstream. Work is expected to start on Monday, Feb. 11th.

Snowmobilers, ice anglers, and any other use of the Wapsipinicon River should avoid the area from the Cutshall Access to the Littleton Dam.

The first step of the project removes the dam, which lowers the water level supporting the ice by about five feet. The ice may appear to be stable, but may have several feet of empty space below it and collapse unpredictably.

“This is a temporary, but hazardous condition,” said Todd Robertson, River Programs Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “The water level will go back up as the rapids are built, but ice probably won’t be around anymore by then.”

The rapids will be built so the water will pool to about the same level as it was before. Nine fatalities have occurred in the Littleton Dam’s dangerous currents since it was built.

Monthly Feature: Get Acquainted with a Water Trail: Lower Des Moines River Water Trail

The Lower Des Moines River Water Trail from Eldon to Farmington is approx. 43 miles with 8 access points for put in’s and take outs. It flows through lowland lush forests of large sycamore and cottonwood trees. There are limestone cliffs with interesting geology and archaeological features. The first 14 miles are straight corridors with steep banks, then several 90 degree and horseshoe bends occur downstream.There are several historic river villages along the river on the lower sections in Van Buren County.

Classified:
Meandered Stream: Meandered means private property begins at the high water mark, typically where vegetation grows. Sandbar camping is allowed.

Skills Needed: Beginner, Intermediate and advanced levels, section dependent. It is important to download or acquire a map (see below) so you can be aware of the changes in difficulty.

River drop:
< 2 feet per mile

Features:
Lowland forests, limestone cliffs, sandstone outcrops, interesting geology features, historic towns. Will need to be aware of upstream water releases at Lake Red Rock before paddle trip begins.

Possible wildlife views of:
Great Blue Heron, Eagles, rare bird species, warblers, vireos, tanagers, whip-poor-wills.

Fish:
Invasive Asian carp that reach up to 60 pounds with 4-15 pounds as average. They can be a safety hazard, if struck.

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/

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Diversity News! Eagles of Iowa!

Eagles of Iowa


Eagles are essentially massive hawks that are often seen perched in the open or soaring on very long broad wings.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)


  • The most common eagle in Iowa. As an adult it is easily identifiable by the white head and tail, large yellow bill, and a 70″-90″ wingspan.
  • Juveniles are mostly dark with blotchy white on its underwing and tail. They take 4-5 years to reach full adult plumage.
  • They nest and overwinter in Iowa and are regularly found near rivers.
  • Feed mainly on fish, carrion, and roadkill.
  • For most, the nesting season begins in late February and March. If you see a nest, be sure not to disturb the birds and report the nest to the DNR.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)


  • Most common in the bluff country of Northeastern Iowa, golden eagles can be found from November through March.
  • Golden eagles are brown with a variable yellow to tawny brown wash over the back of the head and neck. Adults have a faintly banded tail. Their wingspan is 80″-88″.
  • Immature bald eagles are frequently misidentified as golden eagles but the golden eagle juveniles have well defined white patches at the base of their primary feathers.
  • It takes 4 years for adult plumage to be acquired.

For more information, go to: DNR CONTACT:

Stephanie Shepherd | 515-230-6599 | stephanie.shepherd@dnr.iowa.gov