Keep It Clean! Keep It Fun! By Guest Author Ruth Dunlevy of “Back Water Paddlers”

The following is a “guest article” contribution to the IWTA about how anyone can help create a more positive culture on the river and focusing on how to politely get would-be litterers to take and use a Keep It Clean /Keep It Fun mesh litter bag! A brief description of the Iowa DNR campaign will follow the article.

” I started paddling at a young age in Ohio and fell in love with rivers. Living in Iowa, I started working at Sea-ta-Sea Watersports in 2007. I was doing kayak demonstrations, sales and volunteering as a kayaker for local triathlons. Now I work with Eric at Up a Creek in Central City doing pretty much the same thing.

We started Backwater Paddlers right after Sea-ta-Sea closed down. We were meeting so many people on the river and our group has now grown to over 700 followers. People appreciate that we let the river determine when and where we are going to paddle every Sunday, usually starting in April every year.

We post on Facebook where and what time we are going and people show up.
I started speaking at Paddle Day at Indian Creek and I met up with Todd Robertson from the Iowa DNR. He had these amazing blue Keep it Clean, Keep it Fun bags that we could tether to our outside rigging on our kayaks so we didn’t have to bring yuck into our boats. I have used the same bag over and over again for cans and bottles and other trash.

At the start of every event when we have new paddlers to the group, I offer them a blue bag and show them how to use it. I also give them to fisherman, tubers and others enjoying our rivers to keep the garbage out of our waterways.

Last year I started a fund with all the cans we collect. We just sent our first check into Iowa Rivers Revival. I chose this nonprofit group because our watersheds are being neglected and underfunded by our state. Our water is one of our greatest resources we have here in Iowa to promote a lifestyle and tourism. IRR works endlessly on keeping our watersheds clean. Making that small effort every time we paddle helps to keep our water ways cleaner. ”

Keep It Clean! Keep It Fun! 

The campaign goal: To improve behavior on Iowa’s rivers and lakes. An Iowa DNR public relations campaign to improve that behavior called Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun, was initiated on a limited scale in 2013.

“We want people to have fun on the river, but not at the expense of others, ” says Nate Hoogeveen, director of the Iowa DNR’s river programs.

The message is simple:

Keep It Clean. Pick up trash as you go and pack out the trash you bring in.
Keep It Fun. Use respectful language and behavior.
For Everyone! Respect private property.

“More and more livery businesses are handing out litter bags to all of their customers who go out to enjoy a day on the river”, says Todd Robertson, outreach coordinator for rivers programs at the Iowa DNR. “To see anglers and boaters wanting one for their tackle boxes and boats is so awesome, it really makes a difference.”

Later in 2019 there will be many County Conservation Boards and more retail stores stocking bags that can be picked up for free on a limited basis. Bait stores across the state will also be stocking a few.

For now, you can email todd.robertson@dnr.iowa.gov and request a bag starting now and either pick it up at the Iowa DNR in Des Moines or it can be mailed to you.

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.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: North American River Otter

Photos Courtesy of Steven Niewoehner

 

 

 

 

 

The North American River Otter is a playful and curious semi-aquatic mammal found in rivers, lakes and marsh habitats of quality water. Luckily, Iowa enjoys populations of river otters. Many states in the mid-west do not enjoy this delightful member of the weasel family as it is very sensitive to environmental pollution and habitat losses and its range has been reduced across its former habitats.Through some reintroduction programs, the otter has enjoyed a stable population in its current range.

Their thick water-repellent coat helps them swim up to 6 mph. They can hold their breath for up to 4 minutes and typically weigh in at 11 to 30 pounds. They live in family groups in late fall through winter during breeding season, then the female is alone with the babies from spring until late fall.

The female establishes a burrowed den along the waters edge with numerous tunnels connecting under water where litters consist of 1-6 babies with 1-3 an average. Interestingly, they are very near-sighted and can get too close to boats and people.

They are very active year round, typically at night during the spring through fall seasons, then are active mostly during the daylight hours in the wintertime.

Their diet consists mainly of fish and crustaceans. However, they will eat small mammals, young ducklings, aquatic insects, mussels and hibernating turtles.

Info credits to Wikipedia

Iowa Sunset to Sunrise Paddling Regulations: Visibility

Manually Powered Vessels When Underway:

(Manually powered vessels are boats that are paddled, poled, or rowed)

  • If less than 23.0 feet long, these vessels should exhibit a white light visible for 360° around the horizon and visible from a distance of at least one mile away if operating on natural lakes, Corps of Engineers impoundments, border rivers, or impoundments on inland rivers.
  • If this light is partially obscured due to the nature of the vessel, an additional white light must be on hand to be shown in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
  • Regardless of length, these vessels must have on board a white light to be used when necessary between sunset and sunrise when operated on bodies of water other than those listed above.
  • To prevent a collision, vessel operators should never leave shore without a flashlight. Even if you plan to return before dark, unforeseen developments might delay your return past nightfall.

 

    All Vessels When Not Underway:

    • All vessels are required to display a white light visible for 360° around the horizon whenever they are moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area between sunset and sunrise.
    For more info:

    Iowa PFD (Personal Flotation Device) Regulations:

    • All vessels must have at least one USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD (life jacket) for each person on board.
    • In addition to the above requirement, one Type IV (throwable) USCG-approved PFD must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer, except canoes or kayaks.
    • All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition.
    • All PFDs must be readily accessible and of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
    • While underway on a recreational vessel on any Iowa waters, a child under 13 years old must wear a USCG-approved life jacket unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
    • Each person being towed behind a vessel on water skis, a surfboard, or similar device must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for persons being towed.
    • Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use on PWCs.
    • Windsurfers are not required to wear a life jacket.
    • Inflatable life jackets are not approved for use by persons under the age of 16.

    Read and follow the label restrictions on all PFDs

    For more info: http://publications.iowa.gov/15950/1/ia_handbook_entire.pdf

    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.