TopIWTA Logo Color Border 



Iowa Water Trails Association 
December, 2012  
What a "Water Trail" Means to Robin Fortney
Dec 7 Raccoon River Meeting in Perry
Is Your WT Ready for Outdoor Sports Show Season?
Jones County Rescue Boat Funded by Donations
Building a Checklist for a Successful WT Event
Gray-Haired Opportunity? Read Cliff Jacobson's Article
Exploring the OSA's Interactive 1837 Ioway Map
Nov 3 Odessa WT Fall Colors Float Report & Photos
Nov 4 Skunk River WT Designation Event Report & Photos
Nov 11 Des Moines River WT History Event Report & Photos
How to Help Grow the IWTA Subscriber List
What Is It? Quiz Answer
Let Us Hear From You



Iowa Rivers Revival, Protector of Rivers, Streams & Watersheds
Report Kills & Spills Logo  
Buck Deer Condo
As we reach the end of 2012, and put the finishing touches on this, our 6th monthly issue of the IWTA Newsletter, we have to admit that we are pleased with the progress. We're pleased to have grown to over 400 subscribers, pleased with your encouraging comments, pleased that you believe we are serving a real need, and especially pleased with your participation and involvement.
We're pleased, but certainly not satisfied.  With your help, we intend to grow the subscriber list, publicize more WT events around the state, and expand the number of how-to articles about real people dealing with real challenges in developing or managing their WT.  The key phrase is "with your help," because you, our subscribers, know others who would benefit from information in the IWTA Newsletter, know about events on your Water Trail or in your part of the state, and know the challenges and lessons-learned working on Water Trails.
In addition, we promise to keep an element of fun in the IWTA Newsletter.  We know that some days, among the budget constraints, grant rejections, and too-high or too-low water levels, it's just nice to know that others are "in the boat" with you. 
What Is It?
Willow Reflected

In late November, when almost all of the deciduous trees were displaying only their bare branches, this shoreline icon of our lakes and streams was very noticeably green, just starting to shade toward gold.  Like its neighbors, It has now also dropped its leaves, but the bark of the younger branches maintains much of that golden hue in the bright sunshine.


What Is It? 


Make your best guess, then click on
What a Water Trail Means to Robin Fortney
IWTA Logo edited jpg

Avid paddler Robin Fortney was the spark, and for many years the spark plug, for the creation and development of Central Iowa Paddlers.  Her commitment to the sport and the environment continues through her dedicated efforts on such projects as the IRR "River Rascals" and "Master River Stewards" among many others.  Here, Robin shares her unique observations, experiences, and hopes for our Iowa Water Trails.



"If you look at a DOT map of Iowa and remove the straight lines and rectangles representing roads and political boundaries, what is left? The pattern of rivers snaking east and west across the landscape are the original blue highways. If you look at a topographic map of the state, you will also see green floodplain forests along those blue highways. A few of the remnant floodplain forests are now in public ownership, as parks, preserves and wildlife management areas. The combination of blue highway, emerald necklace and river town is the precious resource that has inspired the development of modern water trails.


"I started paddling 20 years ago, before the term "water trail" was much discussed. The concept, however, is quite old. Indigenous peoples traveled on and along Iowa's rivers. I have seen evidence of them in the occasional arrowhead and fish trap. Rivers supported the main commercial transportation across Iowa until the railroads came in the 1860s. At low water levels one can still see signs of early river culture such as wharfs where ferries launched. Here in central Iowa, you may notice Dragoon Trail signs - the Dragoons were soldiers on horseback who played a major role in opening the Iowa frontier along the Des Moines, Boone, and Raccoon rivers.


"Every trail needs signs as well as a map to help users know where they are. By 1993 when I started paddling, land managers had installed some accesses along more popular and scenic river stretches and DNR had put together some water trail maps, but they were pretty sketchy. The value of current water trails is in providing the public with well-marked accesses, safe passage around low head dams with well-marked portages, signs on highways and bridges that help you know where you are, trail maps and interpretive signs.


"The DNR's present water trail program is a means to attract more people to rivers as a recreational destination, but there are multiple values to designated water trails. The best thing about them is that they invite people to adventure, to explore a stretch of river they may have been reluctant to visit. In addition, water trails assist a novice paddler plan a trip of appropriate length - many of us have been on a paddle trip that was one bridge too long. River trails motivate communities to organize river festivals, history float trips, river cleanup days, citizen water quality testing, mussel identification classes, etc. Water trails encourage planning by local land managers, river users and other interested citizens. Why should people visit a river near you? What amenities will they find there? Water trails can even help emergency responders find you if you get in trouble. This happened to some Central Iowa Paddlers on the Big Sioux River when we came upon a couple of canoeists that had gotten hypothermic from too much alcohol, too little planning and two thunderstorms. Fortunately, we were able to call 911 via cell phone and tell the dispatcher about the folks in trouble about a mile below a certain river access.


"My hope is that designated water trails will encourage Iowans to get acquainted with the bit of wildness left here, enjoy a sandbar picnic on a summer evening, embrace the mystery of moving water, gain new competence in negotiating rocks, snags and eddies, be awed by the array of wildlife, notice the river's troubles, and join the growing tribe who enjoys and stewards the blue highways and emerald necklaces."


Dec 7 Raccoon River Watershed Meeting in Perry
Raccoon WT Bridge
Bridge on North Raccoon River WT

From Mike Delaney:


Anyone interested in supporting the Raccoon River Watershed or the North Raccoon River WT should attend a special RRWA Meeting at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, IA on Dec 7 and 8.  And, the group has a special new member rate of only $1 until the end of the year.


On the evening of Friday, Dec 7, the program will include a showing of "America's Darling: The Story of Jay N. "Ding" Darling," followed by a Reception for RRWA members.


On Saturday, Dec. 8, the program will continue with a board meeting and general meeting.  Sandra Somers (CUSV) editor of the new book: "Storm over Raccoon River" will talk about how locals formed Citizens United to Save the Valley and stopped the Army Corps of Engineers from building the Jefferson Dam on the North Raccoon River. Copies of the book will be available.  Susan Heathcote (Iowa Environmental Council Water Quality Specialist) will talk about pollution reduction strategies for the Raccoon River.


More info about the meeting at

More info about the North Raccoon River WT at

RRWA has arranged for special rates at the Hotel Pattee.

(Reduced room rates --$99 available. Call 515-465-3511)

Photo courtesy Mike Delaney

The Outdoor Sports Show Season is Coming-Will Your WT Be Visible?
ICNC 2012 Larry Stone
Presenter Larry Stone at 2012 ICNC Paddle Day

Outdoor sports and paddling shows will be occurring over the next few months.  Are you prepared to promote your WT?  Do you have a basic photo display?  Maps and brochures?  Have you volunteered to do a short presentation about your developing or completed WT? Even if you can't exhibit, will you take notes about the exhibits of similar groups?


Here are a few local and regional outdoor shows we have identified, but we would appreciate hearing from you about others, particularly those within Iowa:


January 26; Indian Creek Nature Center "6th Annual Paddle Day," Cedar Rapids, Noon-4:30 pm; featuring presentations re Iowa Mussels, Charles City Whitewater, Urban Watersport Opportunities, Lessons-learned in Developing Water Trails; presentations, exhibits, door prizes.

February 8-10; Iowa Paddle & Pedal Expo at CanoeSport Outfitters, Indianola.  Exhibits, presentations, factory reps, show specials;  

February 8-10, Cedar Rapids Sports Show, Hawkeye Downs, Cedar Rapids.

March 8-10; Canoecopia at Rutabaga in Madison, WI. World's largest paddling sports show;

April 21; Jones County Pancake Fundraiser & Earth Day Fair in Anamosa, 8:00 am-1:00 pm, exhibits, food, Lawrence Community Center, Anamosa (Nick Gaeta river float following event).

April 26-28; Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, MN.  


Jones County Rescue Boat Funded by Donations

By Pete Temple, Monticello Express Sports Editor


Jones County didn't have a boat designed to perform rescue operations in the shallow and swift water situations in the county's rivers.  Now it does.


Jones Co Rescue Boat
With the help of nearly $15,000 in donations, the county has purchased a river response boat. It will be utilized for rescue work

 during shallow and swift water emergencies, patrolling, flood events, bridge inspections, and search and rescue events.


The new boat is an Alweld shallow water mud boat with a 35 horsepower shallow drive mud motor. It measures 18 feet by 52 inches, and is equipped with life jackets, shallow and swift water rescue gear such as helmets, ropes and harnesses; an emergency radio, first aid equipment, lighting and more.

The new boat was put on display during a photo shoot Sept. 5, at Central Park. There, ranger John Klein demonstrated features of the boat to donors, Jones County Conservation Board members and media members.


The boat was needed because the sheriff's office recovery boat is designed to do recovery work, but not rescues. That boat was insufficient for some of the situations the department has encountered in recent years, including lost children and adults, overturned vessels, broken necks and backs, vessels caught in snags, concussions and more.


"With the shallow water conditions that exist locally, it was not an efficient means to reach people in an emergency," said John Klein, Jones County ranger. "This boat is, and will continue to be used for these types of operations."  Rather than a typical outboard or jet motor, the response boat features a mud motor that is designed to operate in the sandy, muddy bottoms of the county's rivers without causing damage. The boat was purchased from Shallow Water Marine in Palo, Iowa, which specializes in this type of watercraft.


The total purchase price for the boat, motor and trailer was $20,252.58. After donations, the remainder of the cost was split between the conservation board and the sheriff's office. Equipping the boat with rescue gear cost about $4,600, Klein said.


Photo by Pete Temple shows the new Jones County river response boat on display during a special ceremony Sept. 5 at Central Park. On hand for the event were from left: ranger John Klein, donor Shannon Yeisley of the Anamosa Bowhunters, Jones County Conservation Director Larry Gullett, Sheriff Greg Graver, Dave Tabor of Ohnward Bank & Trust, Chief Deputy Jeff Swisher, and donor Scott Lightner.


Building a Checklist for Your WT Event -- More Success, Less Stress

DM History Event Organizers
Organizers of the very successful Nov 11
Des Moines River History event held in Keosauqua,
 (l to r) Julie Ohde (DM WT Website),
Detra Dettman (Pathfinders RC&D,
and John Wenck (IDNR River Programs)

Checklists originated with airplane pilots, who started with a control stick and on/off switch, but were soon faced with an array of instruments, guages, engine controls, engine indicators, control surface indicators, and communication devices.  The benefits of all those devices also brought complexity, and a single oversight could impact one's ability to take off and land safely.


Start With a Rough Outline

While each WT event will somehow be unique, we can start with a basic outline into which we insert those unique elements.  The basic questions of who, what, where, when are very helpful touch-points.  We must also be mindful of timeline-commitments for speakers or venue may need a lot of lead time, while choosing the cookie flavors will not.


Pre-Planning (the step we love to skip)

Purpose, objectives, length

Target audience, ages

Presentations, activities, messages

Liability, insurance, public cosponsors

Cost guidelines, expenses participant fees, donations, financial sponsors

Dates, suitable for target audience, potential conflicts with other events, holidays

Location, indoor/outdoor, heat/light/electricity, rest rooms, kitchen, drinking water

Cosponsor responsibilities


Event Content (what are we going to do, why are they coming)

Topic or theme

Presenters, agreements, contracts, biographies, introductions, transportation, hospitality

Required equipment, presentations, demonstrations, boats, safety


Facilities (appropriate for event, presenters, & attendees)

Access by onsite person, volunteer, issued key

Number of participants

Electricity, plumbing, heat, light control for projector

Rest rooms

Space for activities

Parking, accessibility, possible shuttles

Chairs, tables, appropriate arrangement

Directions for publicity, signs near event

Cleanup, tools, supplies, trash disposal


Equipment (managing the technical risks)

Lectern, podium, projection screen

PA system, microphones, cords

Computer, projector, screen, extension cords, replacement bulb

Access to internet

Knowledgeable person, volunteer or paid, for all technology

Flip charts, markers, stands, non-mar tape, sticky notes, paper, pencils


Handouts, Printed Materials, Activity Materials, Samples (stuff to use or take home)

Agenda, speaker biographies, websites, email addresses

Sponsoring group info, website, email address

Info packets, name tags

Materials for activities, individual or shared

Sample items to hand out or pass around

Displays or exhibits


Food (from snacks to full meals)

Items and preparation required

Coffee pots need lead time

Pop containers need recycling

Box lunches, picnic lunches, grilled food, catered meal

Cleanup, sink, mops, trash bags, recyclables


Registrations (what do we do if they really want to attend?)

Register in advance, at event, both, limited space, limited materials

If a fee-paid event, payment due when, how, refunds

Registration info needed, name, email, phone, address

Cross-promotion, sign up for newsletters, bulletins, volunteer groups

Meal choices, boat rentals, shuttles, special needs

Registration table at event, forms, computer

Host name tags


Publicity & Promotion (getting your message out)

Event description, motivating, action words, benefits to participants

News release, critical information first, contact person, photo

Direct contact lists, mail, email, newsletter

Indirect contact, cosponsors' lists, other groups' newsletters

Media, newspapers, radio, TV, Cable TV shows or bulletin boards

Posters, bulletin boards, store windows

Photos available before requested

Organizers available and willing to do interviews, phone numbers

Photographer at event


Miscellaneous (the never-ending list of worries)

Safety, security, first aid, CPR, police & ambulance contacts

Severe weather procedures

Press access, reporters, TV cameras

Age appropriate guidelines



Contingency Plans (what could possibly go wrong?)

Relocating event, fire, loss of utilities, communication to presenters & participants

Canceling an event, who decides, cutoff date, reschedule, communication

Minimum # participants

Too many participants

Weather, heat, cold, windy, dry, ice, water levels

Presenters, illness, conflicts, family emergency

Technical equipment, computer, projector, PA, microphone

Loss of power during event, sufficient light for discussion, demonstration

Food & delivery, early, late, totally forgotten order, stall for pizza or sandwiches?


Customize the Checklist to your WT Event

Copy the above items into a spreadsheet, imagine your event, delete unrelated items, add items as they come to mind, repeat.  Add columns for due dates and responsible person.  Review the list with your key organizers, revise items, then assign dates and responsibility.  It's a good idea to have one master list maintained by one or two people, so one identical (and continually updated) checklist can be regularly shared with everyone.


This is a good start, and will give you an excellent chance at maximum success with minimal stress.  Individuals responsible for a portion of the event, such as Food or Equipment, may need to expand their checklists to add more detail, identify sources, phone numbers, specific due dates to confirm quantities, etc.  This would be an excellent resource in case that individual has his or her own emergency, and someone else has to step in.


Time and timing are often our biggest enemies when organizing an event.  Our preferred presenter has already agreed to another event.  Our preferred location has already been booked.  Key volunteers have made commitments to other activities or family plans.  Other groups have scheduled competing events on our preferred date.  Monthly newsletters have already been published before they receive our event information.


Conversely, we have to be careful about assuming that our early planning prevents all problems.  Regular followup contact with presenters, facility managers, food providers, and key volunteers will help avoid the problems of double-booking, lost calendars, forgotten commitment details, and glossed-over promises.  Regular reviews of the entire checklist, along with selecting key items for one-month-prior, one-week-prior, and day-of checklists can be very helpful.


Organizing and executing a WT Event may not be quite on the level of piloting a jet airliner.  But, building and using an event checklist can certainly help us get our project off the ground, help us enjoy the ride, and help us arrive at our destination of an enjoyable and successful WT Event for both participants and organizers.


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


"Gray Hairs in Boundary Waters" . . . (and Elsewhere)  By Cliff Jacobson
Cliff Jacobson Portrait
Cliff Jacobson

This article is reprinted with permission of Cliff Jacobson, one of our most respected outdoors writers, the author of over a dozen top-selling books on camping and canoeing, and popular presenter on "The Forgotten Skills" and other topics at Canoecopia.  Cliff's article raises some interesting questions for our WT support groups:  Are we adequately engaging our local "gray hairs" in participating, volunteering, and leading our WT efforts?  Are we providing opportunities for these folks to share their knowledge and experience?  How can we reverse the current trend, and draw younger people back into outdoor WT activities?  How can WTs help save our kids and grandkids from Nature Deficit Disorder?



A few years ago, I presented a program for the Minnesota Canoe Association. About 150 people attended. With the exception of six teenage girls - who were there to show slides of their trip in the Boundary Waters - everyone (including me) had gray hair. Murmurs of "look at all the gray beards" bounced around the room.


Gray is now largely the hair color of those who enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area each summer. When, in 1968, at the age of 28, I made my first trip into this region, most of the paddlers were not much older than me. Now, the average age is close to fifty.


Where have all the young people gone?  To technology, mostly.   

Today's kids would rather play on their computer than go outside. Few have ever gone canoeing, fewer still have camped out-of-sight of an RV. They have no use for wilderness. Richard Louve, addresses this concern in his book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder." Louve makes the case that kids are so consumed by TV and video games that they have lost their connection to the natural world-they see no value in wild places and therefore, no reason to preserve them. I taught eighth grade environmental science for 30 years and I can say he is right on target.


What isn't on target, is society's view that kids must be flooded with (mostly useless) information and tested frequently to ascertain their knowledge of it. The result is that teachers have no time for social or environmental concerns. They must teach to tests that are designed by those who don't hike, camp or canoe or give a wit about wilderness. Teachers who do take their students outdoors without meeting the "approved government objective", are asking for trouble. If it's not in the state-approved curriculum-or more accurately, "not on the test" - it's not acceptable. Even nature centers are not immune from regulation. Where once, they could present a variety of interesting topics, they, like teachers, must now key into the "approved curriculum".


Field trips? What are they? Or rather, what were they?   

Schools no longer have money for away-from-school activities. Field trips now are largely self-funded, meaning the kids-not the school--pays for the bus ride. Admittedly, a few (very few) teachers defy the odds and meticulously collect bus fare-usually two to five dollars per head. Some kids pay, some don't. Caring administrators often look the other way. Ultimately, teachers tire of the extra work and the field trips just go away.


When I taught environmental science at Hastings Middle School (I retired in 2001), I offered free after-school canoe trips on the nearby Mississippi River. We went twice a week when the weather was good, and always had a full house. But now, with today's ludicrous demands on teachers, I'd have no time for it.


When snow covered the ground I took each of my classes on a half-day snowshoe hike.   

The kids would ask:

"Mr. J, what do we have to write down?" 
"But what do we have to know for the test?"
"Won't be on a test!"
"Yeah, great, but then, why we goin'?"
"Just for fun and to learn to love wild places. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, man, way cool!"


Get the point? Too bad our politicians don't.


The result is that we're raising a generation of youngsters who love malls more than trees. And unless we change our educational expectations, and quickly, I fear that we will continue to lose more wilderness and more of our sanity.


For more info about bears, blue canoes, and Cliff's books, visit his website:


Photo by Cliff Jacobson


Exploring the Interactive 1837 Ioway Map

Some of you have asked for more information about the "1837 Ioway Map" (see image) which we showed in an earlier issue of the IWTA Newsletter.  


The following info is reprinted from the Office of the State Archaeologist / University of Iowa web page,, which includes an interactive version of the map.  On their website, you can click on specific points on this map to access details about rivers, trails, and villages.


 "The 1837 Ioway Map (known sometimes as No Heart's map) was created by one or more unnamed Ioway Indians, for a meeting that took place on October 7, 1837 in Washington DC.

Early Iowa River Map c1837
1837 Ioway Map


"Illustrated on the map are villages and travel routes of the Ioway, plotted on lakes and rivers within an area of nearly a quarter of a million square miles of the Upper Midwest and eastern Great Plains. But the map also illustrates the movements of the Ioway throughout time, from their traditional place of origin at the estuary of Green Bay in present-day Wisconsin about 1600 AD through their journeys between the Wisconsin woodlands and the plains of eastern Nebraska for the next 237 years.


"The map, drawn in black ink on two large sheets of paper, was presented at a U.S. government-hosted council designed to persuade several midwestern tribes to agree to land cessions and new treaties. The council included members from the Sac, Fox and Ioway tribes, and government officials from the US Indian Commmission. At stake was the money to be derived from the land cessions; the Sac laid claim to what the Ioway said were their traditional lands and the map was made to prove Ioway ownership.

Attending for the Ioway delegation was the leader Na'je Nine or Non-chi-ning-ga (translated as No Heart of Fear), who introduced the map saying "This is the route of my forefathers. It is the lands that we have always claimed from old times. We have the history. We have always owned this land. It is what bears our name."


"The map played a central role in the Ioway presentation of evidence. During the meeting, No Heart and fellow delegate iyu Mai or Neo-Man-Ni (Moving Rain or Walking Rain or Raining) indicated several of their villages, dating from their earliest days on Lake Pepin and Green Bay to their days on the Des Moines River during the French and Spanish occupations. Further, they argued, the names of the rivers were Ioway names, not Sac or Fox, who as current residents vied for ownership of the land between the rivers.


"The Ioway ultimately lost their claim to the Sac. Although the Sac leader Keokuk did not dispute the history illustrated on the 1837 Ioway Map, the Sac were the current inhabitants and the US government sided with them.


"This remarkable document is no less than an illustrated history of the Ioway people between 1600 and 1837."


Another OSA/UI web page explores the 1837 Iowa Map through the science of GIS:


This website explains that, "The 1837 Ioway map reflects extensive native historical and geographic knowledge which until the arrival of Europeans was transmitted in ways other than in writing. Archaeologist Mary Whelan used computer technology to correlate the Ioway map features with those on modern maps in order to help pinpoint the locations of many of the villages and travel routes."


The website correlates several locations marked on the map to currently-known archaeological sites, and interestingly notes that, "GIS and historical records suggest that the Ioways depicted features on their map for reasons other than geographical accuracy. For this reason the map provides a window

State Archaeologist Logo

into a native symbolic system. Distances in time as well as space, and possibly social distinctions, may be symbolized in the positioning and size of map features. Perhaps villages that were actually far from one another were drawn more closely spaced because of the close relationship of social groups in those villages, or perhaps because they represent settlements occupied at the same time. Time differences are also suggested by overlapping symbols, the younger event being displayed on top of the older. The line order and weight may have meaning. The size and number of enclosed dots marking villages may convey the relative size of settlements."


Map image from OSA/UI website

Report on Nov 3 Fall Colors Paddle on Mississippi, Louisa Co.
Odessa Paddlers
Part of the paddling crew.
Photo by LCC Naturalist Brittney Tiller.

Report from Katie Hammond, Director, 

Louisa County Conservation Board:


The Fall Colors Paddle on November 3 was AMAZING! Although the scenery lacked the "fall colors" as promised the gray-day turned white and yellow as we paddled. 


There were 17 paddlers altogether, with 15 boats.  Strings of Canada geese and cormorants flew overhead and little bunches of ducks flew here and there.  Both adult and juvenile bald eagles watched us from the trees, stretching their wings to take flight as we paddled near.


We made it to the spillway in about an hour and everyone got out of their boats to stretch their legs.  We did have one foot get wet during the dismount at the spillway, as the water depth overtook a muck boot.  Luckily another paddler had an extra pair of wool socks in the dry-hatch.  Upon leaving the spillway we could see that fun was on the way. Sitting along the shore of an island just below the spillway sat a huge flock of pelicans and cormorants.


Odessa Pelicans
Part of the flock of 500 pelicans.  Photo by LCC Executive Director Katie Hammond

The seventeen of us approached the flock of 500 pelicans, standing on a sand bar, with awe.  We were clearly outnumbered, but brave as they may be, some became nervous, quickly walking away.  As we got closer they got more nervous until one just couldn't take it anymore and took flight.  This urged and alarmed the rest and before we knew it the sound of their wings was deafening as they took flight.  The pelicans formed mini tornadoes of white and yellow as they attempted to gain altitude and find the wind currents.  It was an amazing sight to see and made the entire trip.  One gentleman even said he thought it was the best paddle of the year, all because of the thrill of these graceful birds.


Check for future Odessa WT floats, newsletters, etc. at


Report on Nov 4 Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project Near Anderson Access
Skunk Volunteers group shot


From Mimi Wagner, Skunk River Water Trail Designation Project:


A total of 22 volunteers assisted Iowa DNR and Story County Conservation staff Sunday Nov. 4 in restoration plantings for a multi-faceted project on the Skunk River Water Trail under development in Story County. Volunteers prepared soil and planted seedling trees, shrubs, and larger trees. They spread native wetland riparian plant seed and planted sedge plugs on a restored river bank and low floodplain.

Skunk Volunteers seeding
Seeding bank. Logjam remnants in background.

 The project was the site of a major logjam, which prevented navigation downstream of the Anderson's Canoe Access for several years. Near-miss situations had been reported by river users as the logjam increased in size an led to major channel-reroutes and braiding in the 2010 flood. Volunteers included Iowa State University Landscape Architecture students, ISU staff, and members of Skunk River Paddlers.


Skunk Volunteers planting trees
Planting trees along bank.


The project was initiated when Story County Conservation applied for technical and construction assistance to the DNR Water Trails program. After discussions with landowners on both sides of the river and DNR biologists, a balanced approach was selected. Tree trunks and limbs laying in that channel were cut to manageable sized logs by Conservation Corps Iowa crews working with DNR River Programs staff. Last week, logs were judiciously moved to favor the channel that best matched characteristics of the Skunk River just upstream. An excavator shaped a steep, rip-rapped bank into a restored riverbank and low floodplain area. The project cost $8,000. 


"The area is much easier to get through now," said DNR project manager Nate Hoogeveen. "But paddlers and tubers will still need to expect a challenge, be cautious, and watch for strainers in the area. After several high water events, we expect the area to stabilize."


Skunk Volunteers watering trees
Watering newly-planted trees.


Note: This was 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. Now that this schedule of events has been completed, a vision for the water trail in Story County will be finalized. These events were co-sponsored by Story County Conservation, Skunk River Navy, Skunk River Paddlers and Iowa DNR.   


Photos by Marty Jacobs


Report on Nov 11 Interpreting History Along the Des Moines River WT, Eldon to Farmington
DM History Crowd
Some of the attendees brought stone tool collections and other artifacts.

Des Moines River History Project Begins

From Julie Ohde & Detra Dettmann


More than 75 people packed into the lodge at Lacy Keosauqua State Park to hear about the history and the people who have lived along the Des Moines River in southeast Iowa for more than 10,000 years.  Lynn Alex and Cindy Petersen, from the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, discussed each of the cultures who made the Des Moines River home but concentrated on two archaeological sites in Van Buren County.


DM History Petersen Presenting
Presenter Cindy Peterson


Artifacts,mounds, and pits from the Late Woodland period, about 600 AD to 1100 AD, were found at the Marriott site across the river from Bentonsport, one of many similar sites in the Des Moines River valley. The site lies adjacent to a stone quarry of Keokuk chert, used by Native Americans in making chipped stone weapons and cutting tools. Although the primary residents at the site were Late Woodland peoples, previous visitors had utilized the quarry for thousands of years.


DM History Petersen Visiting
Performing serious research.

The second site is about 30 miles upstream, where information was discovered about the Ioway tribe from investigations at a site near the historical town of Iowaville, between present day Eldon and Selma.  The Ioway had a village there from about 1765 to 1825. This well-preserved archaeological site contains remnants of house basins; a palisade or ditch enclosure measuring about 260 feet in diameter; and many pit features now filled with 200-year-old refuse. This was the last, large-sized village of the Ioway in what is now the State of Iowa, prior to the tribe's forced migration to points west and south.


DM History Alex Presenting
Presenter Lynn Alex

While Alex and Petersen made the presentation, they also asked for input from the attendees, many of whom are avid amateur archaeologists. Alex told the crowd that many important pieces of history are discovered by people like them and that they should be comfortable sharing information about their finds with the state 

office.  "We want to hear your stories, see what you have and make a record of where the artifacts were found. Some people think the state wants to take away the pieces they've found but that isn't true at all. The more information we have, the better we can piece together the story of people who have lived here," said Alex.


The program held Nov. 11 is part of a series of public events exploring the importance of the Des Moines River from Eldon to Farmington.  Alex and Petersen, along with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Pathfinders RC&D, will weave the stories into 

interpretation along this stretch of the Des Moines River Water Trail. More information about the water trail project is available at


Anyone interested in being involved in the Des Moines River Water Trail group in Van Buren and Wapello Counties can email Pathfinders RC&D at or call 641-472-6177.

Pathfinders RC&D is a nonprofit organization that assists local communities wit

DM History Alex Visiting
Sharing local history.

h initiatives related to economic development, natural resource conservation and recreation. Pathfinders RC&D has been serving Jefferson, Van Buren, Mahaska, Keokuk, Davis and Wapello counties since

To learn more, contact Pathfinders by calling 641-472-6177 or visit 1978.


Media Contact: Detra Dettmann, Executive Director, Pathfinders RC&D, 641-472-6177 or


Photos by Gregg Stark 

Help Promote the IWTA Newsletter and Grow the Subscriber List
IWTA Logo edited jpg

IWTA has grown to over 400 subscribers, and we're looking for more. If you're involved in a paddling or WT group, have access to a related newsletter, or are willing to make an announcement at a future meeting, we would really appreciate your mentioning the Iowa Water Trail Association and encouraging folks to subscribe to this newsletter.  


Here's the copy we have been providing to our supporters:


The Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter is a free, monthly email publication to assist people who develop, support, or utilize our Iowa water trails.  Each issue highlights upcoming WT events, summarizes the results and lessons-learned of completed WT events, and features articles of interest to those trying to spark broadened awareness, participation, and involvement with their local water trails.  In addition to the usual recreational floats and cleanups, the IWTA Newsletter seeks to have its subscribers share their experiences drawing various publics to events or activities emphasizing areas such as history, culture, conservation, youth education, watershed management, and a variety of sciences.  At its heart, the newsletter is a vehicle for members of the WT community to share their successes and failures, concepts and ideas, recognition and support.  And, the information is wrapped in a nice package of highlights, helpful links, quizzes, and plenty of photos. To subscribe or request a sample copy, send your first name, last name, and preferred email address to

WhatIsItWhat Is It?  Quiz Answer
Willow Pleasant Creek
Willow on shore at Pleasant Creek SP, Sep 2012

For the purposes of this quiz, we'll give credit if you answered, "Willow."  There are over 300 types of willow, so there are many from which to choose.  Among those native in Iowa are the black willow, coyote willow, heart-leaved willow, meadow willow, Missouri River willow, peachleaf willow, pussy willow, sandbar willow, and shining willow.  Native Americans used willow for construction of shelters, fish barriers, and woven baskets.


We see a lot of willows along our Water Trails, from the iconic large trees with trailing branches seemingly in constant, graceful motion, to their misshapen cousins who have been battered while protecting the shoreline from ice and floating debris, to the dense stands of young willow shoots springing up to protect our modesty during sandbar stops.


Willow has been touted for its medicinal properties for thousands of years:

From the website of University of Maryland Medical Center:


"The use of willow bark dates back thousands of years, to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in China and Europe, and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain (particularly low back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, and inflammatory conditions, such as bursitis and tendinitis. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). It is thought to be responsible for the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of the herb. In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin. White willow appears to bring pain relief more slowly than aspirin, but its effects may last longer.


Willow Beaver Lunch
Beavers make quick work of
the soft willow wood.

(Another reason your kids should not be allowed to chew on trees:)

"Because of the danger of developing Reye syndrome (a rare but serious illness associated with the use of aspirin in children), children under the age of 16 should not be given willow bark."


And, fast-growing poplar and willow are now being utilized for water treatment, as described in this recent Cedar Rapids Gazette article:


"The day could come when small Iowa towns have their waste water treated in dense groves of poplar trees planted at the base of wind turbines.  That's the vision of Louis Licht, the president and founder of North Liberty-based Ecolotree.  "There's

Willow Base Ducks
Ducks inspect gnarled willow base.

hardly anything more efficient than using solar-powered trees to treat your waste water," Licht said.


"In Iowa, Licht can envision the same type of tree-based waste water system being used to provide tertiary waste water treatment - the final stage of purification - in many small communities. Land within the "footprint" of wind turbines would make a good location for the fast-growing forests, he said, because they cannot be developed for other uses.  "It has a potential create a brand new commodity - poplar and willow woods that could be harvested and used for manufacturing
different products," he said."


Photos by Gregg Stark


We Hope That You Are Enjoying the IWTA Newsletter

The mission of the IWTA is to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas and encouragement among Iowans working to create, enhance, or utilize our water trails. 


With the change of seasons, how are you maintaining interest in your WT?  Are you organizing indoor learning events?  Hosting public gatherings?  Developing displays?  Engaging community leaders in planning?  What initiatives are you scheduling for 2013?  We look forward to hearing from you.


Special thanks to Robin Fortney for sharing her unique observations, experiences, and 

Gregg Stark IR 2011
Happy Holidays! from me to all of you.

hopes for our Iowa Water Trails.


We appreciate your support and encouragement, and 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.


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.


Gregg Stark
Editor, Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter