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.

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

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.

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.

Brochures and maps: can be downloaded and paper copies can be picked up at assorted Conservation offices and Nature Centers.
Go to 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

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 |

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Diversity News! Eagle Survey Completed!

Photo Courtesy of Steven Niewoehner


Iowa is one of the most important wintering grounds for Bald Eagles with thousands of the huge raptors moving into the state from the north to join our resident breeding birds. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan all have some of the highest densities of nesting Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states and many of those eagles, especially from MN and WI move into Iowa during the winter months and frequently gather in large numbers around areas of open water to feed and roost.

Since the early 1990s, the Iowa DNR, plus a small army of volunteers has recorded this phenomenon during the Bald Eagle Midwinter Survey that takes place in the first two weeks of every year.  Surveyors scope the trees, air and ice for Iowa’s largest raptor while driving snowy roads which wind along next to many of Iowa’s biggest rivers.  There are 52 set routes in Iowa that cover over 1500 miles in 45 counties and along at least 13 rivers.  The 2019 survey was run from January 2nd through the 16th and was mostly characterised by extremely mild winter temperatures and weather leading up to the survey.  The average percentage of river covered with ice was only 18%, the lowest since 2007 and most surveyors indicated that the weather was “mild” to “very mild”. Hard to believe coming out of the polar vortex!

What did all this mild weather mean for the eagles?  There were fewer than last year’s close to record numbers but at 2,924 there were still plenty of birds counted.  When the weather is mild and rivers are open, we expect fewer birds to be counted because birds from up north may not feel driven to move south to look for food and the birds that are here are more spread out, making them harder to count. Also, at least four routes could not be surveyed because of the federal government shutdown.

The count of birds is usually split into adult and immature (and some unidentified) and those totaled 1,893 adults and 952 immatures.  This is important because the percentage of immatures in the population is a metric we use to make sure that successful reproduction is happening.  The percentage this year was 32.6%, almost identical to 2018’s percentage and it has been stable since 1994.

Notable this year, was the Missouri River, which had its highest count ever with 498 bald eagles counted!  The second highest count was in 2012 and was only 195.  The Mississippi and Des Moines rivers tend to have the most birds and while they were highest again this year, the Missouri came in a close third.

The data collected on Iowa’s bald eagle midwinter survey show an upward climb of eagle numbers from 1994 to 2019.  It’s an important survey for the annual trend it provides and along with eagle nest monitoring helps the Iowa DNR keep an eagle eye on this important species!

The Bald Eagle Midwinter survey is a national survey, currently coordinated at that level by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps analyzes data from the many states that participate which allows them to have an idea about eagle population trends at the regional and national scale. These type of data played a key role in determining in 2007 that the Bald Eagle was doing well enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

For more information, contact

Spring Migration Paddling


Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms

Photo Courtesy of Central Iowa Paddlers

There are many area’s in Iowa that are perfect opportunities to paddle plus view returning or migrating water fowl. One such area is Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms, located 30 minutes from Des Moines.

Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms is a 24-mile stretch of the old meandering Skunk River channel between the northwest end of the park boundary and the Polk-Jasper County line. It’s not just the birds that make it special.

Since 1960, Polk County Conservation in partnership with other organizations acquired more than 9,000 acres of land along the old Skunk River River corridor, preserving and protecting wetlands, such as, old river channels, backwaters, marshes, upland potholes, side hill seeps, alluvial floodplains, and upland drainage ways.

Marsh habitats are great for birds, especially migrating waterfowl that stage and rest while traveling through our state. Bring along a camera, dry bag and bird book and enjoy a day on the water identifying non-resident spring visitor species.

Two other great Marsh areas are in Northern Iowa in the Sunken Grove/Shimon Marsh Wetland Complex in Pocahontas County near Fonda. It is a birding/paddlers paradise in early to mid April. They are located 1-2 miles west of Fonda, just off of Hwy 7.

Another great paddling and birding area is Sweet Marsh, located in Bremer County in the Northeast part of Iowa between Tripoli and Sumner. It has a summer breeding population of Sand Hill Crane as well as large flocks of migrating, breeding White Pelican, Trumpeter Swan and large populations of water fowl that can be seen from March end when the marsh waters thaw until April end when migration wraps up.

Frog and Toad Survey Workshop

All across the state of Iowa, citizen scientists are making enormous contributions to wildlife conservation with some training through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.

“The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for adults who love the outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and monitoring of Iowa’s resources. The work done is crucial to the well-being of these species,” said Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program.

Every March and April, Shepherd travels around the state to lead training workshops that ready folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife. So what are these critical wildlife species?
Volunteers are trained to listen to and recognize the 16 species of frogs and toads in Iowa based on their breeding calls. In 2018, volunteers surveyed 54 survey routes which translate into more than 400 wetland sites monitored for frog and toad activity.

“The frog and toad surveyors are particularly special because to perform the surveys volunteers have to drive back country roads at night along a specific route using only their ears to collect data,” Shepherd said. “I think most feel that exploring the Iowa wilds at night is a unique experience and opportunity.”

Interested volunteers must register for and attend a training workshop.

Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshops

April 2: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, 1339 Highway 63, Bloomfield
Hosted by Wapello County Conservation

April 8: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Wapsi River Environmental Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon
Hosted by Scott County Conservation

April 9: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Boone Wildlife Research Station by Ledges State Park, 1436 255th St., Boone

April 13: 1 to 4 p.m.
Oak Grove Lodge at Oak Grove Park, 4051 Cherry Ave., Hawarden

Hosted by Sioux County Conservation

There is a $5 fee to cover workshop materials.

For more information, go to e-mail

Trumpeter Swans 101

Photo Courtesy of Steven Niewoehner



Trumpeter Swans were once common in Iowa, but the last wild mated pair nested in Iowa in 1883. They were completely gone from the state by the late 1880s. They were prized for their meat, skin and beautiful pure white feathers. By the early 1930s, only 69 remained in the lower 48 states.

In 1998, a wild pair were spotted in Dubuque County and hatched 3 that year.  In 1999, the pair hatched 5 and again in 2000.  Iowa DNR have been active in Trumpeter Swan releases. Interestingly, it has been found that released Swans do not migrate far from their release site. It has only been the past twenty years that they have rebounded through many conservation efforts. Trumpeter Swans are considered a conservation success story by many. However, they do have current threats with habitat loss, lead poisoning, power line accidents and are occasionally shot. It is illegal to hunt Trumpeter Swans.

These beautiful all-white birds are the largest North American waterfowl species. They can weigh from 25- 32 pounds with an average 8-9 foot wingspan. They have black beaks and black legs. They are often confused with Tundra Swan. The Trumpeter Swan’s scientific name, Cygnus buccinator, is from the Latin Cygnus (swan) and buccinare (to trumpet).

The male and female mate for life. If the male loses his mate, he often does not take a mate again. In the wild, they live to be up to 24 years old and in captivity around 33 years. Mating does not occur until they are at least three years old. Egg laying begins in late April or May with 4-6 eggs hatched being average. The eggs take 32-37 days to incubate and young take 90-120 days to fly after hatching. Their breeding habitat consists of large shallow ponds, undisturbed lakes, pristine wetlands and marshes. They use the same nesting site year after year. Their adult summer diet consists of aquatic plants with a winter diet of farm field grains and grasses. In a group, they fly in a V-shaped pattern. They are very affected by human disturbance and will abandon a nest if disturbed. They typically will nest within 600 feet of shore and need at least 100 yards of open water for take off to fly.

An estimated 160 trumpeter swans are currently wintering at the Dale Maffitt Reservoir and surrounding area southwest of Des Moines. This provides a rare opportunity to view good numbers of free flying Trumpeter Swans. Visit them soon before they move onto other areas.

Trumpeter Swan can also be spotted while paddling or hiking at Sweet Marsh Wildlife Area in Bremer County in the early spring.

To listen to Trumpeter Swan sounds, go
Information credits:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Wikipedia, Iowa DNR, Trumpeter Swan Society.

Full Moon Dates 2019

Mar 20: Wed., Sunrise 7:10, Sunset 7:21, MR 7:04 CDT: Worm Moon
Apr 19: Fri., Sunrise 6:20, Sunset 7:56, MR 8:21 CDT: Pink Moon
May 18: Sat., Sunrise 5:43, Sunset 8:28, MR 8:22 CDT: Flower Moon
Jun 17: Mon., Sunrise 5:30, Sunset 8:49, MR 9:17 CDT: Strawberry Moon
Jul 16: Tue., Sunrise 5:46, Sunset 8:44, MR 8:31 CDT: Buck Moon
Aug 15: Thu., Sunrise 6:16, Sunset 8:10, MR 8:39 CDT: Sturgeon Moon
Sep 14: Fri., Sunrise 6:48, Sunset 7:20, MR 8:02 CDT: Harvest Moon
Oct 13: Sun., Sunrise 7:20, Sunset 6:29, MR 6:54 CDT: Hunter’s Moon
Nov 12: Tue., Sunrise 6:57, Sunset 4:49, MR 5:17 CST: Beaver Moon
Dec 12: Wed.,Sunrise 7:30, Sunset 4:36, MR 5:13 CST: Cold Moon
MR= Moonrise

Becoming An Outdoors Woman: Save the Date: May 3-5, 2019

Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop now accepting registrations

Registration is open for spring Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop, May 3-5, originating from the PZAZZ! Convention and Events Center, in Burlington.


While the focus of BOW is primarily for women, the workshop is an opportunity for anyone 18 years or older to learn outdoor skills.”This workshop is all about introducing new participants to the outdoors and building social support networks so skills learned can be applied to other outdoor opportunities throughout the year,” said Rachel Ladd, with the Iowa Departments of Natural Resources.  “It’s an excellent opportunity to try activities under the guidance of our top-notch instructors.”
Workshop courses include wilderness survival, outdoor photography, intro to archery, kayaking basics, orienteering, pistol basics, Dutch oven cooking, kayak fishing, explore bow hunting, backpacking and hiking, intro to fishing, canning, wild game and fish care, boater education and more. Attendees taking intro to fishing, kayak fishing or talking turkey hunt are required to have purchased a valid Iowa license prior to arrival.


A Friday evening auto tour through Heritage Hill National Historic District will highlight many architectural periods and styles in nearly 160 structures in the northern sector of downtown Burlington, and its most famous landmark, Snake Alley.


A Friday night reception, sponsored by Aldo Leopold Pheasants Forever Chapter and Parkside Brewing, will connect Iowa’s wild pheasant population and bees, and pollinators role in the art of brewing.


The cost of the workshop is $330 (single occupancy), $280 (double occupancy), and $250 (no lodging) before March 29. After March 29, registration is $300 and will not include lodging. The fee includes program materials, equipment, lodging and meals. Enrollment is limited to 115 participants. A limited number of $140 scholarships are available.


“Make sure to choose one class for each session, each class will show the number of seats still available and once a class has filled, it will be closed. Attendees will know what sessions they are in at the completion of the registration process,” Ladd said.


Early registration is encouraged as enrollment is limited and workshop spaces and lodging fill quickly.  Go to to download a registration form, select classes and for more information on applying for a scholarship.


The event is being held in partnership with the Greater Burlington Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Des Moines County Conservation Board and the Iowa DNR.


For more information, contact Rachel Ladd at 515-729-6037 or

“Chickadee Check Off” or Fish / Wildlife Diversity Fund

Last year, a little over 7,500 Iowa taxpayers helped boost wildlife conservation with donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their state tax form. This is roughly 400 fewer contributors than in 2016. Donators represent about 0.4% of total tax payers in Iowa.
“We are so thankful to all the people who choose to donate to wildlife conservation with their tax refunds,” said Shepherd. “I have a hope that we can do even better to increase funding levels which go directly to habitat development and restoration programs for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species. The funds are so important for natural resources.”

The Fish and Wildlife Fund, known popularly as the “Chickadee Check-off,” is a mechanism the Iowa Legislature created in the 1980s for Iowa citizens to donate to wildlife conservation on the Iowa state tax form. Before this time, so called “non-game” wildlife had no dedicated funding. Non-game wildlife are the 1000+ species such as songbirds, bald eagles, salamanders, turtles, monarchs and bees that make up the majority of wildlife in Iowa. It is one of the only funding sources for the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program which is responsible for all these species. The program uses the funding to help improve wildlife habit, restore native wildlife, provide opportunities for citizens to learn about our natural resources and much more

According to Shepherd, Iowans donated roughly $145,000 last spring when completing their 2017 tax forms. This translates to an average gift of $19.25 per donor. The number of donors has mostly stayed level or decreased but thanks to more generous giving, the amount donated has also stayed level or even increased.

The tax check-off line is pretty inconspicuous and can be easy to pass over or forget. “Many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or make a point of looking for it whether they are doing their form on paper or electronically.”
Once you find the check-off, donating is easy, according to Shepherd: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off, line 57 on Form 1040, and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes.

If every Iowa taxpayer donated just $1, it would mean $1.5 million for wildlife and natural resource conservation!

Stephanie Shepherd | 515-230-6599 |