Category Archives: News

Jefferson County Conservation and Iowa DNR Water Trails Events

Birmingham, with the State Hygienic Laboratory, allows participants to carefully touch
or closely investigate the fish from the river.

With Bike Van Buren drawing people to Van Buren County, Jefferson County Conservation and the DNR Water Trails planned two additional programs to enhance the weekend. On Friday, August 16th the Full Moon Float was held at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park on the lake. Saturday morning, August 17th was the Aquatic Life of the River program at the Boat Ramp at Bonaparte along the Des Moines River.

Naturalist, Brittney Tiller led the Full Moon Float as she discussed the stories of the night sky. The sky was overall cloudy but there were enough breaks in the clouds to see several different constellations. Nineteen people attended the paddle with an even mix of kayaks and canoes. Tiller led participants across the lake, stopping several times. With each stop, participants heard stories of various constellations, stars, and planets.  Participants were able to see the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Jupiter. Tiller shared stories of the constellations even though they were not able to be seen through the clouds.   The stories behind the constellations spanned several thousand years and many different cultures. Participants were held captive by the oral history of the stars, much like the people groups who created the stories or the nations that once called the Des Moines River home.

The following morning, Mike Birmingham and his team from the State Hygienic Lab brought their equipment to sample the river. They used various techniques to sample the river, but the most exciting was the electroshocking boat. While using this boat, they were able to net several different fish species such as flathead catfish, walleye, bigmouth buffalo, smallmouth buffalo, quillback, shortnose gar and sturgeon. After shocking the river, the boat returned to shore to allow participants an up-close view of the fish. Over forty participants were able to watch from the boat ramp as Mike brought up the different species of fish. Participants from various ages, locations, and backgrounds all attended the program.

Overall both programs were successful at educating the public on two different topics both while getting people outside.

Article provided by Jefferson County Conservation

Clean Water Advocates and Experts Gathered at Iowa Water Quality Summit

Clean Water Advocates and Experts Gathered at Iowa Water Quality Summit
Izaak Walton League Brings Community Together To Address Water Pollution Across Iowa

Des Moines, IA – Water pollution is a persistent threat in communities across Iowa. Last weekend, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) brought together advocates, academics, and agency staff to discuss water quality challenges specific to Iowa and map out steps to create a state-wide volunteer network to monitor water quality and push for changes to improve water quality.

“Monitoring is the first step to improving water quality,” says Sam Briggs, IWLA Clean Water Program Director. “You have to know what’s wrong to be able to fix it. Our goal is to train more stream monitors across Iowa and provide a home for their monitoring results that the public can use to find water quality information for their communities.”

IOWATER, the state’s volunteer water quality monitoring program, no longer has funding to continue, so the League is working to find other ways for individuals and organizations to collaborate on a state-wide volunteer water quality monitoring program. The League partnered with our local Des Moines Chapter to host an Iowa Water Quality Summit.

“Iowa has over 750 impaired waterways and is one of the main contributors to the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Mike Delaney, Conservation Director for the IWLA Iowa Division. “Public health and recreation continue to be threatened by polluted waters. Monitoring waterways is critical to gauge how we are doing – for better or worse.”

Delaney opened the summit, followed by a warm welcome from Richard Galloway, President of the IWLA Des Moines Chapter. Sam Briggs shared information about how the League’s Clean Water Hub (cleanwaterhub.org) provides a nationwide database to share local water quality monitoring results. Due to the urgency of Iowa’s water quality problems, the League recently dedicated a full-time position staff person to Iowa to serve as the Midwest Save our Streams Coordinator. This is a huge step forward to help expand water quality monitoring efforts in Iowa.

Speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions incorporated knowledge, experience, challenges, and successes based on long-term programs. Presenters and panel members included Mary Skopec (Iowa Lakeside Laboratory), Steve Konrady (Iowa DNR), Chris Jones (IIHR), Dan Haug (Prairie Rivers of Iowa), Ted Corrigan (Des Moines Water Works), Susan Judkins (President, Watershed Management Association), and Rich Leopold (Polk County Conservation). Attendees left the summit feeling optimistic that collaboration will continue and expand with the support of the Izaak Walton League of America.

The Iowa Water Quality Summit followed two other important water quality events in Des Moines this summer. The League’s annual National Convention was held in West Des Moines July 16-19, and the Iowa Water Festival was held at the League’s Des Moines Chapter on June 23.

To learn more about how to get involved in improving water quality in Iowa, contact Save Our Streams Coordinator Zach Moss (zmoss@iwla.org) or visit www.iwla.org/cleanwater.

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Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America (www.iwla.org) protects America’s outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.

Geode Paddle Event by Jefferson County Conservation

Article by Jefferson County Conservation

Photo by Jefferson County Conservation: Two participants paddle for the takeout. You can see the rocks weighing down the back end of the kayaks.

Over twenty people took to the water in search of geodes along the Des Moines River. The ‘Geode Paddle’ was held on Friday, August 9th starting at 10:00am. Although the paddle was only 3.6 river miles, participants enjoyed the shorter route which allowed them to spend most of their time searching rock bars for fossils and geodes.  The paddle began at Bentonsport and ended in Bonaparte. Ryan Clark, geologist with the Iowa Geological Survey, led the paddle as he discussed the geology of Iowa and why we find geodes in this stretch of river.

Clark began by sharing an overview of Iowa’s geologic history. This timeline helped for participants to have a better understanding of why the geodes are found in this area and what rock layer to be looking in. Once Clark completed his talk, Brittney Tiller, Naturalist with Jefferson County Conservation gave a brief safety talk and summary of the day. Participants began launching shortly after the talk wrapped up.

Clark explained that the geodes came from the Warsaw Formation which is a grayish shale that can easily be eroded. Participants would paddle a short distance down river before stopping at a rock bar to search for nature’s treasures. After two stops of searching for geodes, participants stopped at another rock bar. This one had more limestone present which meant geodes were not as prevalent however fossils could be found in nearly every rock. From horn coral, crinoids, and brachiopods, the fossils were in abundance. Participants were excited to have a great mix of both fossils and geodes in their boats to take home. Two more rock bars were hit before taking out at Bonaparte.

With a very long waiting list, high interest, and participants which had such a great time, this topic is clearly a participant favorite. Participants seemed to be amazed that this stretch of river had so much to offer. Overall this was an extremely successful program which should be offered again.

News from Genoa National Fish Hatchery

The Higgins’ eye pearlymussel is native to the Mississippi River and some of its northern tributaries. It is usually found in areas of swift current and buries itself in mud-gravel bottoms in water up to 15 feet deep with only the edge of its shell and its feeding siphons exposed.
Higgins’ eye populations are in immediate danger of being eliminated in the Upper Mississippi River. One of the strategies to save the species is the propagation of the Higgins’ eye at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.
Article Credit to Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Photo Credit: Gary L. Wege, USFWS

Celebrate a Child’s First Fish

 Preserve the memory of your kid or grandkid hooking their first fish this summer with a special certificate. Print the certificate yourself from an electronic file posted online or request a printed certificate.

Apply for a first fish certificate online at http://www.iowadnr.gov/firstfish or complete the form in the Iowa Fishing Regulations and mail it in.

It’s easy and free to participate. There are no size, species or age requirements – only that it is the fish the angler has successfully landed.

Family and friends can join in on the celebration by viewing the first catch photos of their children and other budding anglers on the First Fish webpage once the entry is approved.

Fishing is a great way to enjoy being outdoors with families and friends. Follow the simple tips for taking kids fishing on the Iowa DNR website at http://fishing.iowadnr.govto help keep the experience fun and positive for the whole family.

Media Contact: Holly Luft, Fisheries Bureau, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-769-2587.

For the Iowa DNR article go to: https://www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/2479/Celebrate-a-child’s-first-fish

Heavy Rainfall Causes Multiple Wastewater and Manure Releases

Following heavy rainfall and flash flooding throughout much of Iowa, the DNR encourages Iowans to stay out of Iowa streams until after the waters recede.

While fast stream currents are the biggest risk for people, high waters can also carry dangerous debris and bacteria. “For their own safety, we encourage people to stay out of the water until several days after streams return to normal,” said Scott Wilson in the DNR’s Spencer field office.

“About 70 wastewater discharges have been reported over the Memorial Day weekend, and the calls are still coming in,” Wilson said. With more rain predicted, additional discharges are expected.

“Some cities have reported multiple wastewater discharges, and two have reported storm water backups into basements,” he added. Both the Iowa DNR and the Department of Public Health have helpful links for people dealing with disasters and flood cleanup.

Some livestock facilities, particularly in northwest Iowa, have had two to four or more inches of rain. “Most of these facilities are OK, but we are working with a few to stop runoff,” Wilson said.

Facilities that are discharging or expecting to discharge should contact their local DNR field office. “We’ll work with them to identify solutions and minimize impacts to nearby streams,” Wilson said.

After hours, facilities can call the DNR emergency spill line at 515-725-8694. The DNR website has more information about spill reporting requirements.

For the Iowa DNR article go to: https://www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/2470/Heavy-rainfall-causes-multiple-wastewater-and-manure-releases

Dam Safety Message by Iowa DNR

Paddling season has arrived and with it all the hazards that we need to watch out for. Low head dams are “drowning machines” and they are called that for a reason. Check out this Iowa DNR Facebook Live special for everything you need to know!

This is a great video experiment from right at the top of Iowa’s deadliest low head dam, the Center Street dam in Des Moines, Iowa.

Be safe this paddling season and without a doubt, stay away from low head dams on rivers!

https://www.facebook.com/iowadnr/videos/10155353595452111/

Check the Iowa DNR Interactive Map Before You Go!

The new interactive paddling map displays any major river hazards the Iowa DNR knows or learns about. A major river hazard is typically one that requires walking your boat around (portaging) the obstruction. These could be river wide log jams, bridge construction projects where a coffer dam was built, or debris or hazardous materials in the water, etc. So before you go paddling this season be sure to check the map at http://www.iowadnr.gov/paddlingmap.
Realize, too, that major hazards can pop up anywhere without us knowing. In fact, most hazards we learn about come from paddlers who first encountered them. This map does not account for common or general hazards, and it’s always important to scout or be vigilant when paddling anywhere.

New Report of a River-wide Logjam on Upper Iowa

Just recently an Iowa paddler reported a river-wide logjam on the Upper Iowa River while paddling upstream of Kendallville. He described it well and explained how difficult it was to portage around it. It was located right around a bend in the river so he and his friends had very little time to respond. A couple of his friends were pulled under by the strainer, but managed to make it out okay. He also included a photo and Lat/Long coordinates. This was very helpful, as
I was able to quickly add the hazard to the map in less than 5 minutes.

Our default view or map extent shows dams in red squares and other major hazards in orange diamonds with white exclamation points.

Default View of DNR Interactive Paddling Map. Red circle and arrow shows location of river wide log jam on Upper Iowa River.

In order to learn more about the Upper Iowa River hazard, you can zoom in and click on the hazard icon:

Click on the photo link “IMG_0012.JPG “under the heading “Attachments” to view the photo(s):

You can also change the basemap from topographic to aerial photo view:

Green Mill Ford Bridge Collapse

Earlier this year an historic bridge, the Green Mill Ford Bridge on the Cedar River (upstream of Janesville), washed out and remnants of the bridge created a number of hazards downstream for boaters. Debris from the bridge’s steel spans punctured a motor boat, and parts of the bridge have acted as strainers and obstacles in different areas. The emergency
management coordinator reached out to us and gave updated reports on the location of the debris, which we added to the interactive map. Try using the interactive paddling map on your own to locate those hazards on the Cedar River in Black Hawk County and review the photos and information for each location.

Cedar River upstream of Janesville in Black Hawk County

If you encounter a dangerous hazard, such as a river wide log jam, email me at john.wenck@dnr.iowa.gov. Remember to provide a detailed description of the hazard, the difficulty in avoiding or portaging around it. Also include photos and
location coordinates (latitude/longitude, UTM, etc).

If you’re new to using the interactive map, you can download instructions on how to use it here:
http://www.iowadnr/paddlingmap. Click on “Interactive Paddling Map – How To”—as shown below.

Paddling Safety Reminders

 

Yes, we all get the “spring fidgets”. It was such a long and brutal winter and some of the coolness continues to hang on. Since it will be a few weeks before water temps get to a safe level, this is a good time to review a few safety tips from the Iowa DNR. There are paddlers out now but thankfully most are wearing proper clothing including wetsuits when needed and many of them are seasoned paddlers with decent boat control skills. Let this review be not only for them, but more importantly, for all of the newer paddlers that come on board every year after discovering the beauty and abundance of places to paddle in Iowa. Paddling is an inherently dangerous activity but can be much safer by following simple guidelines.

1. Before you head out on the water for your first trip of the year, make sure you check your canoe or kayak for any needed repairs or maintenance after being stored for several months. Check for holes and leaks, make sure all hatch lids fit snug and securely and check your paddle blades for signs of cracking or splitting.

2. Dust off your lifejacket and make sure all buckles and zippers work properly and examine for holes and tears. If there is damage that cannot be repaired, replace the lifejacket. Wearing a lifejacket will only protect you if worn and secured properly. A lifejacket should be worn at all times while on the water, regardless of your swimming ability. Remember, it is law that you have a lifejacket in your kayak or canoe or even on your paddleboard at ALL times. You can be cited for this. That said, if it is not worn, what good is it really going to do? If using it as a butt cushion, think again. If stowing it under deck rigging or behind the seat, you might want to re-evaluate. The life jacket will NOT be there when you need it. It will be flying down river with the rest of your unsecured items. Wear the life jacket. If not for you, maybe for your family.

3. Water temperatures are still cool and with water and air still colder on several days, there has been little opportunity of water warming up much. It could be several weeks before that ideal temperature is in place. Do NOT wear cotton. As the water heats up over the next several weeks, you’ll be able to adjust your clothing needs. Regardless of weather, always take a dry bag with a set of extra clothes for changing into. You can include a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio. Remember, dress for water immersion not the air temperature. Don’t forget to take plenty of water and stay hydrated. Paddling can be physically demanding at times so stretching before entering your boat can help prevent injuries.

4. Be sure to file a “float plan” with a friend or loved one. This plan is as simple as telling someone when and where you are going and when you are expected to return. Should you need assistance, it will be easier to find you.

5. A word about HAZARDS: Be very aware of changing conditions while on the water, especially while paddling our many rivers. 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 rivers current can take you directly towards the deadly “strainer” and without proper boat control skills; a paddler can be sucked in and held underwater with little chance of escape. A “sweeper” is found above the water’s surface and can be a tree that is ready to fall into the river. Hanging tree limbs can knock a paddler out of their boat or even grab them by the lifejacket or clothing and not let go.

Always be aware of where low head dams are on the river you are paddling. Watch for warning signs as well as signs telling you where and when to get off the river and portage. Put back in well downstream of the low head dam. The hydraulics of the dam will not let you escape as the turbulence of the water will be strong enough to keep pulling a person and their boat under the water over and over again. NEVER go over a low head dam. They are called drowning machines for a reason.

As the summer arrives, you will encounter more water traffic especially on the larger rivers and lakes. Jet skis, motorboats, water skiers and anglers can all be found on water when the weather is nice and you’ll have to follow proper navigation laws and practice good behavior and river etiquette. Give everyone plenty of room and use manners. If a “wake” is approaching your boat, remember to point the front of your boat into the wave and not get sideways. This will prevent your boat from tipping when the wave strikes.

Finally, you can review reported real-time hazards by visiting the paddler’s interactive map on the Iowa DNR website: Interactive Paddling Map This can also be used for all things related to trip planning. Check it out and explore the tools! It can also be found at
https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle

Boaters advised to use caution at former Green Mill Ford Bridge site in Bremer County on the Cedar River

Fishing boaters and paddlers should use extreme caution if navigating the Cedar River between Waverly and Janesville, where ice jams destroyed the Green Mill Ford Bridge in mid-March.

The remaining debris has traveled down river and clearing it could take some time, according to the Bremer County Emergency Management System. Temporary buoys have been placed on the river and signs mark areas to avoid. Most of the bridge deck has been located, with some sections found nearly two miles downstream from where the bridge once stood. Steel and bridge pilings are also visible.

On April 5, two anglers in a fishing boat struck some debris that punctured the boat and caused it to leak. Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs outreach coordinator, said the anglers were fortunate to get the boat to shore safely.

“But results can be tragic if boaters, regardless of their swimming skills and experience, get caught in the debris after being thrown into the water,” Robertson said.

Strong current, combined with the debris stretching from the old bridge site downstream up to a few miles, will require strong boat control and navigation skills to safely get through this area of the Cedar River.

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