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Iowa Water Trails Association 
October 2012  
What Is It? Quiz
What "Water Trail" Means to Mike Delaney
Oct 6 Johnson Co Iowa River WT Cleanup--UPDATED
Oct 6-7 Clinton Co Overnight on Pool 14, Mississippi River
Oct 7 Jones Co Fall Colors Canoe Outing, Maquoketa River WT
Oct 6-Nov 4 Skunk River WT Designation Project Events
Nov 3 Louisa Co Fall Colors on Mississippi River
Migration Mysteries: Disappearing Neotropicals
IDNR Dam Grant Application Deadline Oct 19
IRR River Town of the Year Nominations Due Nov 1
Genesis of a New Paddling (New Paddler) Event
Sep 6-7 Canoe School Report
Sep 8 West Nishnabotna WT Stream Stomp Report
Sep 8 Paddle Odessa WT Report
Sep 22-23 Iowa Outdoor EXPO Report
Sep 22-23 Clinton Co Lower Wapsi WT Cleanup Report
Sep 28-29 Hardin Co Iowa River WT Cleanup--POSTPONED
What Is It? Answer
IWTA Needs Your Input



Report Kills & Spills Logo  

The unusual weather of 2012 continues to impact Water Trails and WT activities.  Cleanups have struggled to float boatloads of trash, 
with some events postponed to next year.  The fall colors are arriving one to two weeks ahead of normal.  In spite of the cooler temperatures, the drought continues, leaving us to wonder about next spring's soil moisture and river levels.
Wapsi Cleanup 2012 Thin Water
"Thin" water challenges recent Lower Wapsi River Cleanup


This issue includes items about remaining on-water events during Oct and Nov, neotropical bird migrations, nominating a River Town of the Year, the genesis of a new paddler event, a huge turnout for the Outdoor Expo, and successes & lessons learned from recent WT events around Iowa.  From migration to mitigation, it's all in here, plus our regular "What Is It?" quiz and "What a Water Trail Means to Mike Delaney."  We encourage you to use the "article links" in the left column to select from among the coming events, general interest stories, and reports. 


The fall colors are upon us.  The leaves are beginning to drop, revealing rock bluffs and other features kept secret through the summer.  Legions of woodland plants, wounded by frost, stand with yellow leaves hanging limp at their sides.  Crisp air carries the distinctive scent of fall in Iowa, and awakens all of our senses.  It's a great time to get out and escape those political TV ads.  We hope that you and your Water Trail can make the most of this spectacular season.


Photo by Melisa Jacobsen

What Is It? Quiz
Berries Orange Tight

The grape vines had already been picked clean, but these three types of colorful berries were still available, catching our attention along the lakeshore at Pleasant Creek State Park in mid-September.  


Some of these berries may have already been eaten by various "critters," while others may provide a source of food for hungry birds later in the winter.  


Can you identify the plants which produce these orange, red, and blue berries?


  Berries Red Tight

Berries Blue Tight  


What Is It?  What are they? 


Make your best guess, then click on

Photos by Gregg Stark
What "Water Trail" Means to Mike Delaney

While Mike Delaney is a native of Fort Wayne, IN, and a retired sociology teacher from Des Moines Area Community College, many of you know him as a dedicated advocate for Iowa streams and watersheds.  Mike organized the North Raccoon Watershed Association in 2005, and it has grown to over 200 members.  Mike was also active in creating the North Raccoon River Water Trail, and provided this brief summary of how that WT came to be:


Raccoon WT Bridge "Jim Riggs, a founding board member, had paddled the North Raccoon from Nemaha to Des Moines. He suggested that canoeists would benefit from from labeling the bridges over the river. We invited Nate Hoogeveen to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the North Raccoon River canoe trail. It usually has water in it, and is a long enough river that folks could spend a week on it. It has a sand and gravel bottom, great sand bars and high glacial till bluffs. It holds Walleye, Small Mouth Bass, Channel Catfish and Flatheads. We advocated for a canoe trail. Dan Towers of Greene County Conservation eagerly went to work on a plan and a brochure. Dallas and Carroll Counties committed to the plan and other counties came along. Polk County has not joined in as yet."


Mike was kind enough to share some of his personal observations on water trails in general, and the Raccoon River WT in specific:


"Water trails are opportunities to improve our rivers by educating paddlers about the ecosystem and instilling an environmental ethic.  Rivers are unlike lakes in that they can clean themselves-- if we just stop polluting them.  Paddling can and should leave no trace.  Paddling is cheap--almost free. 


"ATVs are trying to destroy the Raccoon River. They can't-- but they can kill a lot of turtle eggs, mussels and destroy macro-invertebrate and fish habitat. The riders need to be educated.


"Much of my time and energy has been invested in the North Raccoon Watershed Association and the Raccoon Water Trail.  The many attributes of the Raccoon WT include:

  • One can paddle 180 miles from Vogel Access above Sac City to the DM Waterworks. Jim Riggs, Don Propst and I did it in a week a few years ago.
  • There are no dams impeding fish migration on the North Raccoon. The Adel dam is being bypassed because the river is back in the pre-dam channel now.
  • There are rock dams from Sac City to Squirrel Hollow that are fun to shoot in high water and create good fishing holes along the way. I caught a nice Walleye this spring at one of them.
  • The North Raccoon is entirely in the Des Moines Lobe Glacial deposition. Therefore, the bottom is all sand, gravel and rock and it cuts bluffs up to 100 feet out of the glacial till along most of its course.
  • The limestone ledges at Commerce are exciting. Family paddlers nRaccoon WT Bluffseed to beware. Play Boaters can have a ball.
  • When water levels are just right, a float down Walnut Creek to the Raccoon and on to the Waterworks can be fun.
  • You can put in at Blue Heron Lake in West Des Moines and portage over to the Raccoon. It is about a hundred yard portage.
  • The North Raccoon is blessed with hundreds of nice sand bars. Some land owners welcome clean camper/paddlers.

Photos courtesy Mike Delaney

Oct 6 Johnson County Iowa River WT Cleanup -- UPDATED INFO

In spite of lower water levels, organizers are moving ahead with this Saturday, October 6 cleanup along 9.5 miles of the Iowa River WT from Sturgis Ferry Park to Hills Access.  Prior to the event, route length decisions will be made to ensure that everybody is off the river in a reasonable amount of time.  At current levels, it is certain that the route will be shortened.  Please arrive with a good attitude and the flexibility river conditions will warrant.  

Iowa River Cleanup
Tired Canoe

Leading up to the event, please check this website often to be current on the latest announcements:


There will be free primitive camping at the Izaak Walton League access for the weekend.  More info at 


Photo by Dan Ceynar

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Oct 6 & 7 Clinton County Overnight on Pool 14, Lock & Dam 13
Logo Clinton Co Con


Paddle campers will meet at Lock & Dam #13, load boats and depart downstream by 9 AM. The group will cover approximately 15 miles of the Mississippi River's gentle, mainly backwater, currents, and travel through its largest island. We will camp in the vicinity of the mouth of the Wapsipinicon River and continue on early Sunday morning to L&D 14.


We have a limited number of paddle craft and equipment, 2 person tents, dry bags, cook sets and mess kits, free for your use. Call 563-847-7202 to register/reserve county equipment


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Oct 7 Jones County Annual Fall Colors Canoe Outing, Maquoketa River


Invitation from Michele Olson, Jones County Naturalist:


Pictured Rocks Access, Maquoketa WT
Sunday, October 7, Maquoketa River, Pictured Rocks to Hwy 136 Access.

8:30 AM:  Meet to shuttle vehicles to take out.

9:30 AM:  Introductions, orientation, and launch from Pictured Rocks Access.


This year's outing will cover approximately 12 river miles on the scenic Maquoketa River.  You will pass boulders, cliffs, and forested limestone bluffs as you travel through the Pictured Rocks and Indian Bluffs Wildlife Areas.   


Participants will need to bring lunch and snacks, beverages, camera, warm aquatic footwear, dry-bags, extra clothing, sunscreen, etc.  Paddlers will also need to bring their own canoes and kayaks or contact local canoe outfitters to inquire about canoe rentals and shuttle service.  Maps, information on rental businesses, etc. can be found at by clicking on conservation and downloads and links.  


Anyone planning on attending should contact Michele (by noon October 4) at (319)481-7987 or  to pre-register. 


Photo by Gregg Stark

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Oct 6-Nov 4 Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project Fall 2012 Confirmed Public Events
Skunk River group claims to be first Iowa WT aspirants with a banner

From Mimi Wagner, Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project:

Attached is a list of events organized for the Designate the Skunk project. There are two more events that will likely be added, and I will forward those as soon as they are available.    


These seven events are opportunities for the people of the Story County community to (re)connect with the Skunk River. Each program or activity includes a topic of discussion that local residents and landowners mentioned in landowner listening sessions earlier this spring. Note that some are activities while others are purely listening. Fishing demonstrations and teaching is also included where possible. Participants at the events will also provide feedback and direction about use of the Skunk as a state designated water trail. 


Once this schedule of events is completed, in early November, a vision for the water trail in Story County will be finalized. These events are co-sponsored by Story County Conservation, Skunk River Navy, Skunk River Paddlers and Iowa DNR.

Thanks to everyone who's been active and helpful with this project. Also--thanks to Story County Conservation, we may be the first state designation effort with our own banner!! See the group photo from the event at Soper's Mill. 


(Completed) Sunday, Sep 16, 1:30 pm @ Soper's Mill: Dr. Jim Colbert and the Skunk River Navy. Meet at the rock dam. Fishing demonstration & assistance provided.


(Completed) Thursday, Sep 27, 5:15pm @ River Valley Park: Hydrogeologist Dr. Bill Simpkins discusses the drought, groundwater, flooding and the low head dam on the Skunk River. Meet at the dam near the east shelter at 5:15pm. Fishing demonstration & assistance provided.


Saturday, Oct 6, 2:00pm @ General Filter / Hannum's Mill site: Local historian Jim Graham discusses the history of the dam and interprets remaining elements visible due to low water conditions. Meet at the Sleepy Hollow Boat Launch on Riverside Drive at 2pm for the 10-minute hike to the site. Closed-toe shoes and long pants recommended due to poison ivy. Fishing demonstration & assistance provided.


Sunday, Oct 14, 2:00pm Float the Skunk: Skunk River Paddlers (SRP) organizing a public float trip between Sleepy Hollow Access and River Valley Park. Participants bring their own boats and life jackets. Meet at 2pm at Sleepy Hollow Access on Riverside Drive; plan on a 5pm end time.


Sunday, Nov 4, 2:00pm near Anderson Access: DNR State River Programs Director Nate Hoogeveen interprets the oversized log jam (the largest anyone can remember on the Skunk) on the Skunk and DNR's recent work to alleviate impacts of the jam. We will also transplant trees, prepare the site and seed native grass on the banks. Meet at 2pm at the parking area at the end of xxxx.


Photo by Marty Jacobs

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Nov 3 Louisa County Fall Colors Paddle on the Mississippi River

Invitation from Katie Hammond, Director, Louisa County Conservation Board:


Fall Colors Paddle on the Mississippi from 9am-3pm starting at the Port Louisa Access and going to the Toolesboro access.  View the splendor of the fall colors as we paddle down the Mississippi River Trail of the Odessa Water Trail.  We will stay near the Iowa shoreline and paddle mostly backwaters, away from the main channel.  There is a short portage around the spillway at Lock and Dam 17.  This beautiful stretch of the Mississippi River will offer great wildlife viewing and scenery as we pass behind several islands.  Bring a sack lunch and plenty of water to drink.  A shuttle will be provided, but you must register for shuttle service.  Registration available online at


When: Saturday, November 3, 2012, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm 
Where: Odessa Water Trail - Mississippi River Route, put in at Port Louisa NWR and take out at Toolesboro Landing 
Who: Experienced paddlers 
Cost: $20/kayak (solo) or $25/canoe (double) includes shuttle; no fee if you bring your own boat but donations are accepted 
To register : Registration required if you want to borrow a boat or need a shuttle. Register online beginning October 1 or call 319-523-8381     
Migration Mysteries: Disappearing Neotropicals


Editor's note: The following article, originally written by James Pease over 15 years ago, has been reprinted in many different forms over the years.  When I asked Jim for permission to include the article in the IWTA Newsletter, I also asked him whether the situation has improved, and he replied:


"I doubt it.  For grassland birds, for example, things got temporarily better with CRP.  As CRP acres have increasingly been converted back to cropland in recent years, I expect the decline to return.  Concern by the public waxes and wanes with the publicity the issue gets.  "Concern" does not, however, always translate into action.  We have had difficulty getting the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill included this time, though it is still in the Senate's version.  So, my suggestion for voters is to ask the US House and Senate candidates about their stand on the Conservation Title of the upcoming Farm Bill and how they'll vote on it.  Then, vote your conservation conscience in November."


Migration Mysteries: Disappearing Neotropicals   

By Dr. Jim Pease, Emeritus  Extension Wildlife Specialist (ISU-Retired) 

Migration is the movement of animals from one place to another. We are all familiar with the migration of birds like the American robin that arrives in our backyards with the coming of spring. These birds have returned from the places where they spend the winter, to our area where they will nest and raise young birds. 

People have been fascinated with this annual migration of birds for thousands of years. Aristotle was an ancient philosopher who wrote about the wintering habits of birds 3,000 years ago. He noticed that some birds traveled to warmer places to spend the winter. He also mistakenly believed that some birds like swallows hibernated to survive the harsh winter weather. This theory persisted for 2,000 years!

we know that birds do not hibernate. But it

neotropical flyways
does show how long people have been trying to understand the disappearance of many birds from northern climates in the fall. So what do we know now about migration? Where do the birds go? How? Why? Today, scientists know far more now about migration than they did even 25 years ago. 

When you see flocks of birds flying overhead in the fall, they usually are flying south toward their wintering grounds. How far south they go depends on the type, or species of bird. Some birds travel farther than others. For example, in some species females and young birds fly farther south than males.

The largest group of birds that we see during migrations are called neotropical migrants. They got this name because these species of birds migrate in the fall all the way to Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and other Central American and South American countries in the tropics. This means these birds fly thousands of miles every fall and spring. About 300 of the 650 bird species that nest in North America are neotropical migrants. They include warblers, vireos, orioles, hummingbirds, swallows, swifts, shorebirds, and some birds of prey. The neotropical migrants make up 50-70 percent of the bird species of deciduous forests and prairies in the central and eastern United States.

Migration of birds through the United States follows some bird highways known as flyways. The four main flyways are the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. These flyways run north and south. Many birds cross open ocean during their migration between North and South America. This means that birds need a lot of energy to migrate. This energy is stored in the form of body fat. Smaller birds can not store a lot of fat to use as energy during long flights. During migration, some birds lose as much as one fourth to one half of their entire body weight, so it is very important that they store up enough fat for energy. Just think how much weight you would lose if you lost half of your body weight! How smaller birds ever store enough to make these flights is still a wonder to scientists. It was once believed that little birds, like hummingbirds, migrated by riding on the backs of larger birds. However, this myth is not true. These little birds make it entirely on their own!

Scientists have been studying how birds find their way along these routes. To successfully migrate from wintering grounds to breeding grounds birds must be able to navigate (judge their position while traveling) and orient (determine compass direction). Birds do this by using a variety of different cues which allows them to find their way in different weather and habitat conditions. There are five main ways that birds navigate and orient themselves: 1) topographic features (things like mountains and rivers that can also influence wind direction), 2) stars, 3) sun, 4) earth's magnetic field, and 5) sense of smell.

Some birds need to stop to rest and feed during the day. This is when insects they eat are most active and available. These birds, then, migrate at night. They can find their way at night because they learn to follow the rotation of the stars. On cloudy nights, things like wind direction also help them to orient themselves. Other birds, like barn swallows, migrate during the day and feed on flying insects while they are in the air. That way, they are not limited to traveling at night because they can feed during flight.

When birds migrate is closely tied to why they migrate in the first place. Primarily, birds go south for the winter to find lots of insects and other food. However, these birds need more room and even more insects during the breeding season when they have a nest of young ones to feed. To solve this problem, the birds migrate north for the summer. As a result, when their bodies become ready to breed every spring birds know it is time to migrate north. In the fall, their body puts on fan and signals that it is time to begin their long journey south. Actual migration begins when the birds are triggered by some another stimulus, such as a change in temperature or weather.

So, as you can see, migration is a very complex behavior that has evolved over many years. But, we are losing many migrating birds, particularly the neotropical migrants. Does it have something to do with the dangers of migration or are we humans the culprits? Scientists have uncovered many clues, but so far the numbers of birds continue to drop at an alarming rate. Some birds in trouble are the scarlet tanager, Swainson's thrush, ovenbird, and black and white warbler. Read for more clues in the case of the disappearing migrants. Weigh the evidence and decide for yourself "who dunnit?"



Sidebar: Why should we care? 

  • Many neotropicals--like warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and swallows--are some of our best insect controllers, eating tons of insects annually.
  • Neotropical migrants--like thrushes, warblers, tanagers, and vireos--are among the most beautiful birds in the world, both in song and color. 
  • Neotropical migrants may be a indicators of the health of our environment. If their populations continue to decline, our quality of life declines with them. It is in our own best interest, then, to try to reverse it.

More info about our neotropical migrants:


"Checklist for Survival," Fall 2000 Iowa Natural Heritage magazine, Marlene Ehresman


"What is a Neotropical Migratory Bird?" Smithsonian National Zoo website


The official website of the Iowa Ornithologists' Union is a terrific resource for serious birders or those with a beginner's. The site includes reports on rare (at least to Iowa) sightings, bird photos and checklists, distribution maps, and info on how to report your sightings. Check it out: 


Iowa DNR Dam Mitigation Grants Application Deadline Oct 19


The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2013 for the development of dam mitigation and water trail projects. A portion the funds are available competitively for dam mitigation cost-share grants. Dam owners and other eligible entities are encouraged to apply for cost-share assistance for projects that reduce recreational hazards and enhance aquatic species connectivity. For guidance on how projects might be approached, please read "Solving Dam Problems: Iowa's 2010 Plan for Dam Mitigation" and/or "Developing Water Trails in Iowa."


Application form: Iowa Water Trails Program Grant Application

Application post-mark deadline: October 19, 2012

Total amount available: $380,000


Info and application forms at:


Nominations Due Nov 1 For The 2013 IRR "River Town of the Year"
Charles City Overview

Iowa Rivers Revival -- an organization committed to protecting Iowa's rivers and streams and watersheds -- invites you to nominate your city for IRR's River Town of the Year award.  The annual River Town of the Year award recognizes an Iowa town or city for outstanding efforts to reclaim river-fronts as anchors for economic development, recreation, and good ecological practices. Cities are invited to apply for the award, or citizens may nominate their town. 


Applications are due by November 1, 2012. The award will be presented in January 2013 at a reception hosted by Iowa Rivers Revival in the River Town of the Year community.


For a detailed application, go to www.iowarivers.orgThe web site has examples of towns' applications for the award, IRR news releases, and news coverage.  Previous "River Town" award recipients are Webster City, Elkader, Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, and Charles City.


The River Town of the Year award recognizes a city's outstanding work to enhance connections to its river.  For example, Charles City was honored for responding to severe floods in 1999 and 2008 "by embracing the Cedar River with new ideas and bold projects," including transforming a low-head dam into Iowa's first whitewater kayak course and installing the state's largest permeable paving system.


Applicants must demonstrate commitment to protecting and maintaining river water quality, and promoting the river as an asset to the town.  Examples might include: dam-safety efforts, river-oriented tourism efforts, river clean-up projects, Water Trail designation projects, innovative storm water and river protection projects, walking trails along the river, education and advocacy by local river or watershed groups, and efforts for river use and appreciation (restaurants, bed & breakfasts, bait shops, boat rentals).


Photo by Charles City

Genesis of a New Paddling (and New Paddler) Event

From John Wenck, Water Trails Coordinator, IDNR River Programs:

The charge was delivered from the director of Des Moines Parks & Recreation: "Get more people out on the rivers so they can appreciate the natural beauty they have to offer."   The group sitting around the table that day included members of Central Iowa Paddlers, Central Iowa Greenways, representatives from Polk County Conservation, Iowa DNR, but mostly the room was full of staff from Des Moines Parks and Recreation.


DM Paddle Training
Dry-land training in how to use a canoe paddle

Surprisingly, there isn't a private or public operation that offers canoes or kayaks for rent on rivers in Des Moines.  You can rent a canoe at Gray's Lake, but only to be used at Gray's Lake.  Someone recommended offering the county's and the city's canoes for use on one of the rivers, but concerns were raised about putting novices on the river without any training or experience.  Other concerns were raised about logistics and the ability to staff something that could quickly become a management nightmare.


What ultimately developed was a plan that worked!  Through a brainstorming process, the group quickly started looking for solutions.  They identified three Sunday afternoons in the summer of 2012 where 3 racks of canoes/kayaks would be offered free to the public on a first-come/first-served basis between noon and 4:00pm on a 1-mile stretch of the Des Moines River. 


When participants arrived they were led to a table where they registered and signed a waiver.  They were then routed to volunteers who fitted them with life jackets.  Finally, they received a 10-15 minute safety and instruction briefing from American Canoe Association certified instructors before getting on the water. 


Five volunteers from Central Iowa Paddlers were stationed in canoes and kayaks along the 1-mile section of river in case the participants needed assistance. 


When participants arrived at the landing, they were led to a table where they could access information about local paddling clubs, canoe classes, and water trails.   They then hitched a ride in a 15-passenger van back to the launch where their cars were waiting for them.  On the ride back they completed surveys about their experience.  When a rack filled up with canoes or kayaks at the landing it was routed back to the launch for others to use.  All moving parts worked very much like an assembly line, even the participants were ushered through what ultimately was a very positive and rewarding experience on the Des Moines River Water Trail.


Nearly 300 members of the community participated in the three events, 100 per day on average.  Each event required 15 staff, mostly from the City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation.  A total of 10 volunteers from Central Iowa Paddlers assisted, some of whom assisted on multiple days.  Biggest kudos however goes to event coordinator and planner, Kyra Jacobson.  She performed her job extremely well, making sure all the bases were covered with staff, volunteers, and equipment.  But more importantly, she made sure we all met on a regular basis, listened to our concerns and recommendations, and made improvements that will serve the event well in the future.

DM Canoe Carry
Sometimes the canoe carries you, sometimes you carry the canoe


The survey results were overwhelmingly positive--see attached.  Clic to see a map showing volunteer positions along the 1-mile stretch of the Des Moines River.


Link to example survey form with results: Survey


Link to route map with, volunteer positions:Map

Photos by John Wenck

Report on Sep 6-7 Canoe School by IDNR -- REPORT

The Sep 6-7 Canoe School had to be canceled, due to illness.  That was the final session for 2012, but a full schedule of 2013 Canoe School sessions will be published soon.  These have been very popular events, so consider registering as soon as dates and locations are available.


Each 2 day canoe class is targeted for specific groups, such as naturalists, trip leaders, outfitters, etc. and the cost is only $25.  Two certified American Canoe Association/IDNR instructors teach the skills to guide a group safely downriver, along with paddling skills to share with your participants.  Each class includes classroom learning, flat-water skills, and then moving-water skills on the final day. You will learn a lot and have a blast doing it.  


Contact instructor Todd Robertson with any questions: or 515-979-9538.


Sep 8 West Nishnabotna WT Stream Stomp -- REPORT
West Nish Stream Stomp Kids
Kids meet the fish of the West Nish


Report from Emily Haase, Project Manager, Golden Hills RC&D:


The stream stomp went well and was a success. The presenters did an excellent job. We had only 5 people in attendance, but made some good connections and I received a few phone calls the next week from schools that would like to do something very similar for their students before winter hits. Check out the "West Nishnabotna River Water Trail" facebook page for photographs from the event.


The weather was great, with temperatures in the 60s in the morning and up to the low 70s by the time we were done. The DNR biologists caught a number of fish species and had a fun time. The Iowa/Iowa State football game was that same day and I assume we didn't have the numbers we would have liked to see due to travel and "pre-parties."


If you have questions, please contact me in the Golden Hills office, 712-482-3029, via the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail facebook account, or the blog site found at         


Photo by Emily Haase
Sep 8 Paddle Odessa WT, Louisa County -- REPORT

Report from Katie Hammond, Director, Louisa County Conservation Board:


The Louisa County Trails event titled, "Paddle Odessa" took place on Saturday, September 8. Two deer welcomed paddlers to the area, swimming across just before we launched.  Paddlers enjoyed about a five-mile paddle on the Odessa Water Trail starting at the Burris Ditch parking lot and paddling the beautiful and winding Burris Ditch to the lookout at the old pumping station.  Even in low water conditions Burris Ditch offers paddlers a nice scenic trip. 


Thirty-five paddlers attended the canoe and kayak trip, some came from as far away as Grinnell, Cedar Rapids, and Keokuk to name a few.  Others live close enough to call Odessa their own front yard.  The view was great as paddlers viewed blooming cardinal flower, soaring white pelicans, and the wood ducks, great blue herons and blue winged teal took flight ahead of us all day.


For a map of the Odessa Water Trail visit and click on "Things to do", then "Paddle" then on the "Odessa Water Trail".  Keep in mind that Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge is closed to all visitors, except for migrating birds and waterfowl as of September 15.  Also the main Iowa duck hunting season begins on October 20 - paddling through the North end of Odessa during hunting season is not encouraged - there are typically a lot of waterfowl hunters in the area.


Louisa County is offering two more paddles this fall.  Register for either paddle at  


Night Paddle - Stories of the Night Sky, Saturday, October 6 from 7pm - 10pm.  Meet at Snively Campground.

Fall Colors Paddle, Saturday, November 3 from 9am - 3pm on the Mississippi River from Port Louisa Landing to Toolesboro Landing.


Sep 22-23 Iowa Outdoor EXPO For Kids & Families -- REPORT
Outdoor Expo 2012 Group Kayaks
Volunteers prepare paddlers for launch

Report from Todd Robertson, Outreach Coordinator, IDNR River Programs:


Each year I look forward to helping at the Iowa Outdoor Expo in Water Works Park. Each year the attendance has grown, especially within the water-sports program. With Iowa doubling the national average of total paddlers on water at 12%, it's no surprise that water sports, specifically paddling canoe, kayak and SUP, is exploding across the entire state.


The Des Moines chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America puts on the Expo every year with help from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other agencies. It is a partnership that strengthens with each new Expo. This was the best year ever as 1,000 kids with their families strolled (or rode the tractor tram) to the Water Sports Village and then "paddled" on one of three types of water craft. Some tried all three. At least 6,000 were on hand to enjoy the Expo as a whole, but it was obvious that the new paddlers had the most fun!


None of this would be possible if not for the awesome volunteers that help every single year. They worked nonstop getting people into boats (or on boards), fitting life jackets, giving instruction, providing on-water safety and a lot more. To deal with that many people for an activity like this is a challenge. Safety must be key. Making them feel welcome and comfortable is all part of the experience. The volunteer crew plus the staff earned A+ status for both Saturday and Sunday.


Outdoor Expo 2012 SUP
Stand Up Paddling gains a new fan

Although a little windy on Saturday morning, the afternoon and all of Sunday turned out to be ideal weather for the Iowa Outdoor Expo. Some will remember the constant rain and cold from three years ago. Not this year! Perfect weather for trying out a stand-up-paddleboard (SUP).


This is the tool to use to get young people hooked on our waters and water recreation. It's difficult to get a 10-year-old glued to just a canoe or just a kayak. A canoe can be hard to learn. But get these young people on a SUP and you will see a whole new world open for them. They feel as if they have FUN and are in-charge of what they are doing. SUP is easy for young people to learn. They have a better sense of balance it seems, and they are certainly have a lower center of gravity. If this is the way that they can connect to Iowa's lakes and be it. They may advance to the harder kayak and canoe later, and I'm betting they will. Advice? Get your kids onto boards! Their health will improve instantly!


Thanks to CanoeSport Outfitters of Indianola and paddling guru, Piper Wall, for bringing out the SUPs! I was happy to have my Boardworks Raven on hand for demo and water safety.


It was a very successful Expo 2012. I'm already looking forward to next year. Let's get 1,500 kids into boats and on boards in 2013!


Outdoor Expo 2012 West Lake
New paddlers and experienced volunteers begin to fill West Lake

Update from Volunteer Coordinator Mike Delaney:


The final numbers for the Outdoor Expo were 6,500 total attendees, with 1,000 on water boards or in canoes or kayaks. We worked with kids and adults of many nationalities, including those from Ethiopia, Sudan, Mexico, Bosnia, China, and Laos.  Special thanks to all the volunteers.  We will likely need even more volunteers for the 5th Annual Outdoor Expo in 2013!


Photos by Todd Robertson.  More photos on his Streamdreamer blog at

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Sep 22-23 Lower Wapsipinicon River Cleanup -- REPORT
Wapsi Cleanup 2012 Barrel
Half of a barrel comes ashore

Report from Melisa Jacobsen:


2012 Event Volunteers Remove 3.17 Tons of Trash.


Tenacity:  What it takes to commit to a river cleanup with extremely low river levels in unusually cold weather for September. Twenty-two people arrived ready for the challenges ahead for the Lower Wapsipinicon River Cleanup Project.  The cleanup is a two-day canoe-based cleanup with a goal to recycle as much as possible of the trash removed from the river.  Ironically, the event had historically been held in late August, but had been moved to a later date to avoid high water conditions experienced over the last few years.


Wapsi Cleanup 2012 Scrap Sorter
Sorting the scrap for recycling

Originally slated to cover the 22 miles from Walnut Grove access near Toronto to Allens Grove access near McCausland, current river conditions pushed back the possible miles that could be covered.  Over two days the cleanup volunteers were able to cover the 14 miles between Walnut Grove and Sherman Park near Calamus.  Low water levels meant many times these volunteers were walking while floating their canoes through shallow waters. By the time they had covered just over four miles to a halfway off-load point on Saturday they were already pushing their heavily loaded canoes over sandbars just below the water surface.


Each year the cleanup does a different section of the Lower Wapsi River.  Since 2006, the cleanup has removed just over 26 tons of trash from the Wapsi between the city of Anamosa and the Mississippi River.  The cleanup has an overall average recycle rate of 59%.  More than 14 tons of trash has been recycled and averted from the dump.


"None of this would happen if these amazing volunteers didn't have it in them to come and wear themselves out for a weekend!  They have a direct impact on the safety and beauty of our Wapsipinicon River." stated coordinator Melisa Jacobsen.  Co-coordinator Chuck Jacobsen commented "Whenever we drive over the Wapsi it seems to shine a little brighter knowing we had a hand in making it better. We hope more folks will be able to experience the same by adopting a bit of river in their own back yard."


The Lower Wapsipinicon River Cleanup Project is a grassroots effort bringing together volunteers and sponsors to clean the Lower Wapsipinicon River and backwaters in an effort to make the public aware of this precious natural resource. 

Wapsi Cleanup 2012 Chuck Canoe
Chuck brings in another boat load of treasure

Sponsors for this event included:  Clinton County Conservation Board; Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; Behr Metal Recycling; Allied Waste; Friends of the Wapsi Center, Inc.;  Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency; Theisen's; True Value; Target; Pepsi - G. Baker Distributing; and KA Screen Printing;

For further information, or to get on a mailing list for next year, please write to LWRCP, 2740 - 160th Avenue, Calamus, IA 52729, email, connect with us on Facebook, or visit the website at 


Photos by Melisa Jacobsen 

Sep 28-29 Iowa River Cleanup, Hardin County -- REPORT
Tree & Tire Stark
Tire waiting patiently for 2013

Report from Mary Hyland:


Unfortunately, our Iowa River Cleanup had to be postponed until spring/summer of next year due to LOW LOW LOW water levels!   


The section of the Iowa River between Eldora and Union still needs some serious cleaning, so we hope that volunteers will keep us in mind.  As plans are made, they will be posted on the Iowa River Greenbelt Resource Trust    


Photo by Gregg Stark

WhatIsItWhat Is It? Answer

Editor's note:  Admittedly motivated by fear of failure, I turned to our botanist-paddler-blogger friend John Pearson to identify the three types of colorful berries.  As expected, he provided a lot more information than my casual red-orange-blue observation.  Check out John's "Out About Iowa" blog at


Hi Gregg, I have been confirming my ID with other botanists while on the road, so it has taken a while for me to get back to you.  Your plants are identified below, with links to more information -- John


The orange ones are American bittersweet (Celastus scandens) with berries clustered at the ends of branches ("terminal"):

Berries Orange
American Bittersweet

This is a native species, but a similar-looking, introduced, invasive species is Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) with berries scattered along the length of branches where the leaves are attached ("axils"):



The red ones are Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii):

Berries Red
Amur Honeysuckle

This is a strongly invasive, non-native shrub.


The blue ones belong to one of the two species of creeper, either Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) orWoodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea); they look identical except for how they attach to the tree or object they are climbing on: with tendrils for true Virginia Creeper versus with discs (resembling "suction cups") for Woodbine.  Since that part of the plant is outside the scope of view in your photo, it is hard to tell which exact species it is.  I am leaning toward Woodbine for your specimen.  Both are common throughout the state.  

Berries Blue
Woodbine or Virginia Creeper


Photos by Gregg Stark

We Hope That You Enjoyed This Issue of the IWTA Newsletter


The mission of the IWTA is to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas and encouragement among Iowans who are working to create, enhance, or utilize our water trails, and your input has provided a great start.  


It takes a while to grow a network of Water Trail supporters, but we're on our way. We especially value your submissions of events, reports, photos, and ideas, and we hope that you will continue to email them to us at  We look forward to hearing from you.


Fall Colors Alcock Pk Frederika
Canopy of fall colors against a clear blue sky
in Alcock Park, northern Bremer County
This issue was made possible by announcements, reports, and photos provided by numerous dedicated WT supporters across the state.  Special thanks to Jim Pease, Mike Delaney, & John Pearson for sharing their experience and expertise.
If you are not a subscriber, please click on the "Join Our Mailing List" button to become one.  And, we would appreciate your sharing the IWTA Newsletter with your friends via the "Forward this email" or "Share on Social Media" buttons.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Gregg Stark
Editor, Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter


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