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Iowa Water Trails Association 
November, 2012  
IN THIS ISSUE - Click & Read!
Meaning of "Water Trail" to Longfellow in 1855
Nov 3 Fall Colors Paddle @ Odessa WT, Louisa Co
Nov 4 Skunk River WT Designation Project, View Logjam, Plant Trees
Nov 11 History Along Lower Des Moines River WT, Keosauqua
Planning with Purpose for Successful WT Events
West Nish WT Two Access Face-lifts Completed
New Web Page Wapsi WT Development Info, Linn County
Free Online Paddle Safety Course
Iowa City Riverfront Options
Rock River WT, 300 Miles Thru Wisconsin & Illinois
Report & Photos: Oct 6 Iowa River WT Cleanup
Report: Oct 6-7 Overnight on Mississippi River, Clinton Co
Report & Photos: Oct 7 Maquoketa WT Jones Co Float
Report: Oct 27 Mussel Corps Workshop at Kent Park
Report: Sep 16-Oct 14 Skunk River Designation Projects
"What Is It" Quiz Answer
We want to hear from you!



Iowa Rivers Revival, Protector of Rivers, Streams & Watersheds
Report Kills & Spills Logo  
Jones Co Maq Float 2012 Tall Schoon
Jones Co Fall Colors Float, Maquoketa River WT.
Photo by Joyce Schoon

After a long, hot, dry summer, and a flash of bright fall colors, it seems that we have abruptly arrived in November, with Father Winter lurking in the woods.
Reflecting the seasonal transition, this issue highlight's a late season paddling opportunity, a shoreline logjam viewing, and an indoor history interpretation. Plus, we have some reports and beautiful photos from fall colors floats in "balmy" October.  
Check out our feature articles on WT event planning, a free online paddling safety course, the 300 mile Rock River WT thru Wisconsin & Illinois, and efforts for a WT and a riverfront in Iowa.
Test yourself with the "What Is It" Quiz, and read what Longfellow had to say about a "water trail" in 1855.
The removal of Mother Nature's leafy camouflage makes this a good time to visit your WT accesses, check for erosion, gather litter, consider improvements, observe wildlife preparing for winter, & enjoy a few moments of quiet contemplation.  We hope that you & your WT can make the most of this particular season.
November 6 will be your opportunity to exercise a constitutional right and demonstrate appreciation for a valuable freedom. 
With American service members in harm's way 24/7, facing physical and mental hardships on the far side of the planet, it's not asking very much for us to get up from the couch, put on a jacket, and go vote. 
We'll feel better all day.

What Is It?
Mussel PG


What Is It?  Is it alive?  


While it may appear to be just another rock along the Water Trail, it has a key role in the WT environment.  And, this one exhibits a distinctive shape. 


What Is It? 


Make your best guess, then click on:

                   What Is It Answer

What "Water Trail" Might Have Meant to Longfellow
IWTA Logo edited jpg
Editor--From ancient times, long before paved accesses and designated "water trails," life and livelihood have been drawn to our streams, our "pleasant water-courses . . ."


Excerpt from "The Song of Hiawatha" 

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   1855


   "And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.
   "There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!"
   "Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;--
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!


Complete poem at


Nov 3 Fall Colors Paddle on Mississippi, Odessa WT, Louisa County

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


Fall Colors Paddle on the Mississippi from 9-3pm 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  


Nov 4 Interpreting Logjam, Planting Trees, Skunk River WT Designation Project Fall 2012

From Mimi Wagner, 

Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project:


Sunday, Nov 4, 2:00 pm 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.


This is the last of a series of events providing opportunities for the people of the Story County community to (re)connect with the Skunk River. Each program or activity included a topic of discussion that local residents and landowners mentioned in landowner listening sessions earlier this spring. Some were activities while others were purely listening. Fishing demonstrations and teaching were also included where possible. Participants at the events provided 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.

Photo by Marty Jacobs

Nov 11 Interpreting History Along Des Moines WT, Eldon to Farmington
Lower Des Moines
Paddling Lower Des Moines River near Keosauqua, 
Fall 2011

To begin understanding the natural and cultural history of the area for interpretation and conservation, the public is invited to a gathering, hosted by Pathfinders RC&D and the Iowa DNR, at 2:00 PM, Sunday, November 11, at the lodge at Lacey Keosauqua State Park near Keosauqua. 


The public is well-aware of the American Gothic House and the villages of Van Buren County, but far less-aware of the rich and deep natural and cultural history of the Des Moines River between Eldon and Farmington.


Each twist and turn of this largest of Iowa's interior waterways reveals scenic views, abundant wildlife, and large and small historical dramas that played out over 12 millennia. This corridor sustained American Indians from the Ice Age through historic times.  Just prior to Iowa's statehood, it was the site of a large Ioway tribal village, and later, the home of Sauk warrior Black Hawk. The waterway played integral roles in the emerging lock-and-dam system, steamboat travel, and the stoneware industry.


Archaeologists Cindy Peterson and Lynn M. Alex, from the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, will highlight the corridor's long history.  Detra Dettman of Pathfinders RC&D, and John Wenck of the Iowa DNR Water Trails Program, will be on hand to answer questions about the Des Moines River Water Trail.


The session will help determine what local residents of the area would like to learn, and tell others, about the river, its history, and its culture, and begin to outline opportunities for interpretation and conservation.  Attendees are encouraged to bring local artifacts and other historical items, including documents, which may assist in the identification of important corridor resources.


There is no fee, but preregistration is requested for this event.  Register online at: 


Pathfinders RC&D Logo


You may also visit the Pathfinders RC&D website at or call Detra Dettmann at 641-472-6177.


Photo by Gregg Stark


Planning with Purpose for Successful WT Events

With some planning, a successful WT Event can accomplish a lot more than entertaining and educating participants.  Employing common-sense planning in the early phases can increase

neotropical flyways

attendance, engage more volunteers, reduce panic and burnout for organizers, and project a professional image.  It will generate valuable lead time to get your message in monthly newsletters and weekly newspapers.  It will improve the odds of success for your future events, enhance your ability to recruit more volunteers, build coalitions with other individuals and groups for future support and publicity, and raise awareness among even those who do not participate.


The easier part is starting the planning function by asking your leadership core some common-sense questions.  The more difficult part is committing your time and focus to really document and implement the answers.


Why do we need a WT Event?  Increase public awareness?  Raise visibility of our efforts and our WT?  Build support for development or funding?  Grow the base of committed supporters?  Engage local subject matter experts (SMEs).  Recognize volunteers?  Celebrate an accomplishment?  Provide recreation opportunity?  Provide education opportunity re history, art, or sciences?  Engage youth in outdoor activities?  Clean up the WT or a specific access?  Construct or improve an access?


Early Iowa River Map c1837

What will be the topic and focus of the WT Event?  Why will people be motivated to attend or participate?  What will the participant receive for his/her time investment?  Who are the most likely people or groups to attend this event?  How large is our potential participant group?  Can we state the "value proposition" in a single sentence?  "This event will (insert action verbs) . . ."  "As a participant, you will (insert action verbs) . . ."  Who will be the presenters, facilitators, guides for this topic?


When should we schedule this WT Event?    Is it related to a particular season of the year?  Is it weather-dependent?  Weekday, weekend, daytime, or evening?  Should it coincide with a holiday, national observance, anniversary date, or other community events?  

Purckerbrush Golf CartAre we avoiding events which would compete for our audience?  Have we consulted with planners or planning calendars at area County Conservation Boards and other similar groups?

Where should we hold this WT Event?
 Is this event best held indoors or outdoors?  Does it require electricity, audio-visual support, light control, or kitchen facilities?  Do we need an indoor backup for an outdoor event?  Is there a budget for site rental? Is the facility available for desired times of the day or days of the week?   


West Nish Stream Stomp Kids
Who will be responsible for this WT Event?  Are we the lead organizer, a co-sponsor, or one of the participants in a community-wide event?  Who in our organization is best-suited to provide overall leadership?  Who will be best to lead parts of the effort?


How will we publicize and promote this WT Event?  Do we have a solid outline of What/When/Where, a short event description, and a long event description?  Do we have a news release and a media contact list?  Do we have photos to support the 

Charles City Overview

event (previous similar activities, locations, presenters).  Do we have email address lists for likely participants?  Will other groups include our event on their websites or in their newsletters?  Are there local event calendar websites for our area?  Are we connected with local media people?  Can we prepare and utilize posters?  Does our event have any budget for advertising?


What are the financial realities of this WT Event?  Will we need significant underwriting?  A funding co-sponsor?  A grant?  Small donations?  In-kind donations? 

Okee Dokee Roller Coaster

Can we offer donors 501 (c) 3 certification for their tax reporting through our group or a co-sponsor?  What would be our expense if the event is canceled?  Will we charge a fee for the event?


Are we prepared for possible contingencies during this WT Event?  What are our options if the event is threatened by weather or water levels?  What if presenters must cancel or become ill?  What if our planned facility loses heat, water, or electricity?  What if only a small number of people register?


TTAR 2012 08
While many of these questions may seem to magnify the complexity and risk of an event, increasing "up-front" planning can reduce surprises, increase volunteer leader confidence, and maximize the value and enjoyment of your WT Event for all concerned.  
It has been said that, "Nothing succeeds like success."  
Invest in planning to make your next WT Event a success, and pave the way for even more successful (and easier) WT Events in the future.

Leopard Frog



Editor--This is the first in a series about planning and executing your WT Events.  Future articles will include "Building a Checklist for your WT Event," "Creating the News Release for your WT Event," and "It Ain't Over When It's Over--Extending the Value of your WT Event."

Access Face-lifts Completed on the West Nishnabotna River WT

From Emily Haase:

W Nish Access Constr
Volunteers place concrete in forms.

Golden Hills Resource Conservation & Development, along with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) River Programs, gave face-lifts to two local river accesses on the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail in Pottawattamie County.


Funded by the Iowa DNR River Programs and the Iowa West Foundation, Golden Hills RC&D has a water trails coordinator for western Iowa. The coordinator works to enhance and promote the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail through community engagement, design work, local history, and inventory for future use and reference. The coordinator designed the new accesses for both Avoca and Carson based on specific site conditions.

W Nish Access Stain
Creating the stained-concrete paddle art.


Two grants were awarded to Golden Hills RC&D through the Iowa DNR River Programs.  The grants awarded the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail a crew of five young adults from the Conservation Corps of Iowa, as well as technical assistance from the DNR River Programs, to reconstruct the water access sites in Avoca and Carson, Iowa. 


Construction began the first week in October and was completed on Wednesday October 10th, 2012.

W Nish Access
Completed Avoca Access ramp.





Before construction began, both Carson and Avoca's accesses were nearly at 90-degree angles straight into the river, with Avoca's access including stair steps. With their tall banks and a high siltation load, maintenance was difficult and nearly impossible.  


The new river accesses are now paved ramps that angle 30-degrees downstream. With the new designs, water will be allowed to wash up on the ramps and wash back off more freely, leaving less siltation on the accesses. Both accesses will be able to be cleaned off with each City's maintenance equipment. The bare soil exposed from construction has been covered with cocoa fiber and seeded in with native vegetation. A native wild rye mix was used on top of the banks and a native forb/grass mix was used along the slopes down to the water's edge.


With Avoca and Carson having new accesses, all of the accesses along the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail are currently paved ramps.


Photos by Golden Hills RC&D

Volunteers in photos include Emily Haase (WT Coordinator), Liz Birkel-Leddy (Exec Director of Golden Hills RC&D, Zach Kopriva (Field Specialist Conservation Corps of Iowa), & Nate Hogeveen (IDNR River Programs).


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New Web Page for Wapsipinicon River WT Info, Linn County
Wapsi Paddle 2012
Paddling Wapsi above Central City, summer 2012


Linn County Conservation has issued a follow-up letter to participants in the July 17 meeting at Pinicon Ridge Park and other landowners along the Wapsi.  In the letter, Deputy Director Dennis Goemaat provided information relating to questions raised during the meeting and the process for continuing to receive input about a potential Wapsi River Water Trail through Linn County.


Goemaat stressed that no decisions have been made regarding the status of a Wapsi Water Trail, and that the process will continue to involve landowners.  He explained that Linn County Conservation understands landowner concerns and has shared them with the Iowa DNR.  Immediate actions being undertaken include meetings with local law enforcement agencies and issuing reusable trash bags on all canoe shuttles.


Goemaat stated, "We believe the Wapsipinicon River is important and worth protecting.  We continue to believe that the best way to encourage stewardship of our important river resources is to engage people in this resource.  Creating water trails is one way to connect people to our rivers for quality outdoor recreation experiences.  Ultimately, people need to care about the river in order to value and protect it."


You can find more info about the water trail concept, frequently-asked questions with answers, timelines, and an opportunity to sign up for free email updates at 


Photo by Gregg Stark 

Free Online Paddle Safety Course
Logo Wear It

From Susan Stocker, 

IDNR Boating Law Administrator/Education Coordinator


I wanted to make your IWTA subscribers aware of our NASBLA approved FREE Paddle Safety Course which we recently launched as a free resource for students interested in paddle sports safety. Check it out at  


It's the only course of its kind, teaching basic safety information for paddlers. The mini-course is a great resource for all paddlers, new and experienced. Please feel free to share this link with others in the paddling community to help promote paddle sport safety in Iowa.


Developed by, America's leading provider of online boating safety education, the mini-course will guide you through the basic safety information required to safely use a canoe or kayak. The course material covers paddling terminology, equipment, trip planning, marine environment, safe operation, and emergency preparedness. The course was developed according to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Paddlesports Education Standards and is NASBLA approved. 


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Iowa City Exploring Iowa Riverfront & Burlington Street Dam Options

From the City of Iowa City website:

Iowa City Burlington St Bridge
Iowa City Burlington Street Bridge over Iowa River

Since the flood of 2008, there are a number of areas along the Iowa River that are in various stages of rebuilding. The Iowa River is ideally located to benefit from initiatives to repair and enhance the riverfront. These efforts will include flood mitigation, habitat restoration, and new recreation opportunities in this under-utilized area in close proximity to Iowa City's downtown core.


EPA has worked closely with Iowa City officials and University of Iowa officials to initiate numerous environmental partnerships. One of the goals is related to increasing awareness about the shared value of Iowa's water resources and the impact of land use in rivers. From 2009 to 2011, EPA provided technical assistance to Iowa City in the form of market analysis and a transit development study in the Riverfront Crossings District.


Funding from the EPA Urban Waters Grant will allow for the planning and design necessary to modify Iowa City's Burlington Street Dam.


Public safety is a chief concern as the Iowa River connects the east and west side of the University of Iowa campus and its 31,000 students and more than 20,000 employees. Thousands walk and bike daily just above or adjacent to the dam.


Modifications to the Burlington Street Dam will:

  • Address public safety concerns;                                           
  • Improve water quality;
  • Improve riverbank stability;
  • Improve fish habitat;
  • Incorporate the City's designation as a UNESCO City of Literature; and
  • Create recreation opportunities such as integration with the Iowa River Water Trail                    

More info at  and 

 Rock River WT Thru Wisconsin & Illinois; Checking on Our Neighbors
Rock River WT Logo

Editor-The Rock River Water Trail is coming together, section by section, portage by portage, access by access.  It shares similar attributes with many of our Iowa water trails, but includes the challenges of developing a 300 mile route through two states.  All info provided here is from the Rock River WT website.


Need an example of WT commitment?  Frank Shier recently praised a number of city leaders in Rockford, Illinois, including "retiring Deputy Director of Operations Ron Butler (who) put his personal

cell phone number on the portage
assistance sign! Wow!"


The Genesis ...

Beginning in the late 1980s, a Rockford, Illinois, newspaper editor and publisher, Frank Schier, spent much of his life studying the Rock River. Canoeing many miles of the river, as well as driving its shores many times, he collected books, stories and wonderful experiences. He even named his newspaper The Rock River Times. An idea came to him to seek recognition for the fathomless environs of the Rock River as a multi-use national trail. From jealously publishing his reporters' sojourns on other paths, his models were the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. In 2010, a group of public and private partners from Rockford and Winnebago and Ogle Counties, Illinois helped to establish the Rock River Trail Initiative. The trail initiative was embraced by city and county planners, park districts, conservation organizations, water sports suppliers and local, state and federal political leaders.


They recognized the vision and value of historical preservation, recreational opportunities, economic development, resource conservation and green jobs provided by the proposed initiative.


With permission to use the federal shield of National Park Service to frame the trail's logo, the first Rock River Trail Conference was held in Rockford in April of 2010, followed by a consultancy agreement with the Service for assistance under the national Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. A legislative briefing with Members of Congress from Illinois and Wisconsin, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other federal, state and local agencies and private partners was held February 2011 in Rockford. The Rock River Trail Initiative has been joined by public and private partners in Wisconsin for a true two-state comprehensive effort to build a national multi-use trail along the course of the Rock River through Wisconsin and Illinois.


The Rock River Trail Initiative was presented to the Governor's State Trails Council in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in July 2011 and will be included as a state water trail in the Wisconsin State Trails Network Plan.


The Visions ...

A beautiful Rock River recreation trail that meanders down a gentle gradient to carry the water traveler and recreational enthusiast alike over 300 miles, from headwaters in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, to the mighty Mississippi River at the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa.


A Rock River scenic trail along public highways through the river corridor to convey the motorist, cyclist and pedestrian to the scenic natural beauty of the Rock River basin and to connect with other scenic trails including the Grand Illinois Trail and Hennepin Canal State Trail in Illinois and the Glacial Drumlin State Trail and Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin.


The heritage of human development along the river corridor memorialized in a Rock River historic trail, enticing the traveler to pause, learn and reflect on the rich panorama of human history in the river valley.


From the aboriginal peoples, explorers and early settlers to the industrialists, agriculturalists, statesmen and visionaries of more recent times, unique and significant contributions to the evolution of America have originated in the Rock River valley.


A commonality of interests and respect for the Rock River, conservation of natural resources in the river corridor and wise application of human talents will lead to revitalization of river communities and sustainable economic development for the benefit of present and future generations.


Key Objectives ...

The Rock River Trail is a local initiative to establish along the 300-mile river course through Wisconsin and Illinois a multi-use trail of recreational, scenic and historic interest and significance.  The proposed national Rock River Trail is a two-state, 11-county comprehensive effort, begun in 2010, which integrates public-private partnerships and intergovernmental cooperation to:

  • Establish the Rock River Water Trail and achieve designation as a state and national recreation water trail,
  • Establish a scenic, recreational and historic road route within the river corridor,
  • Promote ecotourism and recreational opportunities throughout the river corridor, including safe portage of the dams from Waupun, Wisconsin to Rock Island, Illinois,
  • Protect, preserve and educate about our native American peoples, settlement cultural heritages and contributions of the river valley's industrialists, agriculturalists, statesmen and visionaries to the American experience,
  • Enhance the river ecosystem through natural resource conservation, stewardship and environmental planning and design,
  • Support economic development and revitalization of our river communities, and
  • Enhance community recognition using unique signage, markers and public materials to conserve and promote the natural, recreational, scenic and historic assets of the trail for present and future generations.

For more info on the Rock River Water Trail Initiative:

Link to Rock River WT website:

Link to Rock River Times weekly newspaper website: 

Link to Oct 10-16 Rock River Times with WT story: 


Report on Oct 6 Iowa River WT Cleanup, Iowa City
Iowa River Cleanup 2012

Report from Dan Ceynar:


The Iowa River WT clean-up went very well.  Despite cold & windy weather predictions, most of the clean-up was under sunny and merely cool conditions.  Many cancelled, but 56 hardy souls, mostly first time river clean-up volunteers, pulled together and removed 8.6 tons of trash (including 188 tires) from 7.5 miles of the Iowa River Water Trail below Iowa City.  Two mid-point drop sites and friendly river navigation made for reasonable on water times with the volunteers off of the water by ~3:30pm.   

Iowa River Cleanup 2012

Iowa River Cleanup 2012

10,840 lbs (5.42 tons) garbage 
1,850 lbs (0.93 tons) mixed metal 
4,488 lbs (2.24 tons) 188 tires 
17,178 lbs (8.6 tons)  TOTAL  

Iowa River Cleanup 2012



Among the many things we found were chairs, construction cones, barrels, pots and pans, a water pump, a tricycle, a boat, a Dora the Explorer TV, a deer skeleton, and yes, even a kitchen sink!



You can find more info and photos on the clean-up website:


Photos by Laura Roberts 


 Report on Oct 6-7 Clinton County Overnight on Pool 14, Mississippi River


Logo Clinton Co Con

Unfortunately, this event had to be canceled due to a death in the family.  


Persons interested in paddle camping along the Mississippi should stay in contact with Clinton County Conservation and watch for future events on their website: 


 Report on Oct 7 Jones County Fall Colors Canoe Outing, Maquoketa River WT


Jones Co Maq Float 2012
Color from water's edge to sky, Olson
Report from Michele Olson, Jones County Naturalist:

On Sunday, October 7, 16 hardy paddlers braved the cold and low water levels as they took to the Maquoketa River to enjoy the beautiful fall sights and colors.  


Participants put in at the Pictured Rocks River Access and passed spectacular bluffs, boulders, cliffs, and Iowa woodlands at near peak fall foliage colors as they traveled through the Pictured Rocks and IndianBluffs Wildlife Areas.  


Jones Co Maq Float 2012
Cool, but colorful Maquoketa River WT, Olson

Lunch was taken on a sandbar as participants enjoyed each other's company.  Fossils and rocks were plentiful and offered glimpses into Iowa's prehistoric past.


The day was a wonderful success with clear waters, sunny weather, a slight wind, and plenty of beautiful colors for all to enjoy.  Fish observations were a bonus.  With clear and shallow waters, fish were easy to spot, and boy, were there lots of them!    To all who paddled with us, "Thanks for Your Company" and we'll look forward to paddling with you again next year!


More photos at  


Another Report from Al Donaldson:


Jones Co Maq Float 2012
Break time along the Maquoketa WT, Olson

Fourteen paddlers in eleven boats (two tandem canoes, five solo canoes, three kayaks and one tandem kayak) paddled the Maquoketa from Pictured Rocks to the IA 136 Access (with one more kayaker paddling upstream from the takeout to join us for the last mile and a half.)   


Clear skies, mild temps and good fall colors, along with excellent set up and planning by the JCCB staff, made for a great trip.  


Larry Gullett called the water depth just right.  With the Manchester gage showing 58 cfs (but 50 cfs more likely, as the gage has been recalibrated since then), the gage at Maquoketa showing 470 cfs and the North Fork gage showing 192 cfs, there was adequate water for all of the shallow draft boats and minor scraping (and very occasional dragging) for the more deeply-laden ones.   


Sorry that anyone wanting to paddle missed this one.  In a year with historically low water, for once there was enough to float our boats.


Jones Co Maq Float 2012 Wide Schoon
Nature's Fall Palette, Maquoketa River WT, Jones County 2012, Schoon

Photos by Michele Olson & Joyce Schoon


Report on Oct 27 Iowa Volunteer Mussel Corps Workshop at Kent Park
From Gregg Stark:
Mussel WS 006
Jennifer Kurth explains the importance of mussels.

Over 30 people participated in this workshop to learn how to survey mussel populations in Iowa rivers and assist the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in creating solid baseline data on mussels.  


DNR malacologist (mussel expert) Jennifer Kurth trained the volunteers in mussel biology and identification, collection techniques, survey ethics, and personal safety.


An extensive display of shell samples demonstrated the range of sizes, weights, shapes, textures, and colors exhibited by the many species of mussels.


The workshop was held to prepare volunteers to assist DNR survey teams in the water next year.


Any interested person 18 or older can volunteer for the Mussel Corps. The ability to swim is essential when working in Iowa rivers, along with the agility to walk on uneven surfaces and feel for mussels in shallow areas.

Mussel WS 008
Mussel Corp volunteers visit with Jennifer Kurth.


When working with DNR staff on mussel surveys, volunteers may spend up to 8 hours a day looking for mussels and a wetsuit is helpful to keep warm.


For more info or to register for future workshops, contact Jennifer Kurth at

or Linda Appelgate at 


Photos by Gregg Stark


Report on Sep 16--Oct 14 Skunk River WT Designation Project Events

From Mimi Wagner, Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project:

Four of the five initial public-awareness events, in support of Skunk River WT designation, have been completed (see below).  The final event will be held on Nov 3.  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.

Sunday, Sep 16, 1:30 pm @ Soper's Mill: Dr. Jim Colbert and the Skunk River Navy. The group met at the rock dam. A fishing demonstration & assistance were provided.


Thursday, Sep 27, 5:15pm @ River Valley Park: Hydrogeologist Dr. Bill Simpkins discussed the drought, groundwater, flooding and the low head dam on the Skunk River. The group met at the dam near the east shelter. A fishing demonstration & assistance were provided.


Saturday, Oct 6, 2:00pm @ General Filter / Hannum's Mill site: Local historian Jim Graham discussed the history of the dam and interpreted remaining elements visible due to low water conditions. The group met at the Sleepy Hollow Boat Launch on Riverside Drive for the 10-minute hike to the site.

Closed-toe shoes and long pants were recommended due to poison ivy. A fishing demonstration & assistance were provided. 


Sunday, Oct 14, 2:00pm Float the Skunk: Skunk River Paddlers (SRP) organized a public float trip between Sleepy Hollow Access and River Valley Park. Participants brought their own boats and life jackets. The group met at Sleepy Hollow Access on Riverside Drive.


Photo by Marty Jacobs


 WhatIsItWhat Is It? Quiz Answer
Mussel PG
Pistol Grip mussel
Photo courtesy of Illinois Natural History Survey 

Editor's note:  This month's "What Is It" Quiz is courtesy of Dr. David Kesler, a retired biologist who taught for 30 years at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee before moving to Iowa in 2010.  One of his research areas was freshwater mussels, and no paddling trip is complete for him without looking for mussel shells.



Yes, it is alive.  Pictured here is a freshwater mussel, called by some a "clam."  Its common name is Pistol Grip because of the shell's resemblance to the bumpy surface of a pistol handle.  Another common name is Buckhorn.  Biologists know it as Tritogonia verrucosa, and it is one of our most easily identifiable species, with the shells of males and females having different shapes.


Scientists who work with mussels are likely to be asked, "Can you eat them?"  Clearly Native Americans used them as a food source (as evidenced by large shell piles at archeological sites) although today we would not consider them a "delicacy." Another question often asked is, "What good are they?"


 Like other freshwater mussels, Pistol Grips are significant animals.  The long-lived Pistol Grip takes about six years to reach sexual maturity, yet its maximum life span is not known.  Females release larvae that attach to fish, and Pistol Grips require fishes such bullheads and flathead catfish to complete their life cycle.

Mussel w Qtr
Pistol Grip mussel with quarter for size reference.


  • Because freshwater mussels are long-lived, are unable to migrate away from pollution, and require fish hosts to reproduce, a healthy mussel population is an indication that the river system is in good shape.  
  • In addition, mussels are food for fur-bearing mammalian predators such as muskrats.  
  • Since freshwater mussels are filter feeders, they may also function to filter out bacteria such as E. coli.  


So, if asked, "What good are they?" there are plenty of answers you can give.


We Hope That You Are Enjoying the IWTA Newsletter

Thank you for your support and encouragement.  We are very pleased with your contributions to this issue of the IWTA Newsletter, and we hope that you will continue to share your events, reports, ideas, and suggestions with us at It takes a while to grow a network of Water Trail supporters, but we're on our way.


With the change of seasons, WT activities are shifting from group floats and access construction to indoor learning events, participation in public gatherings, and planning.  How are you maintaining interest in your WT during colder weather?  What initiatives are you planning for 2013?  

We look forward to hearing from you. 


Special thanks to Dr. David Kesler for sharing a bit of his knowledge of, and interest in, Iowa mussels.  Watch for future articles about Iowa mussel research, what it indicates about the health of our Iowa streams, and how you can help.

Wapsi Paddle 2012 Tight

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Gregg Stark
Editor, Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter