TopIWTA Logo Color Border 



Iowa Water Trails Association 
October, 2013  
Share Your WT Reflections & Resources
FILLED: Oct 6 Iowa River Greenbelt Geology Cruise Aboard the "Scenic City Empress"
Oct 6 Fall Colors Canoe Outing, Jones Co
Oct 11 IEC Annual Conference "At the Tipping Point"
Schedule of IOWATER Training & Events
How To: Developing Outdoor Photography Event for Your WT
Reflections on Wapsi Mussel Blitz by Robin Fortney
Where Is It? Quiz Answer
What Is It? Quiz Answer
Thanks to Our Subscribers



Iowa Rivers Revival, Protector of Rivers, Streams & Watersheds

Report Kills & Spills Logo  
neotropical flyways
As the fall migration builds, our Water Trails are playing host to many unusual visitors. Birders and outdoor photographers will especially enjoy the next few weeks, as they head out to test their knowledge and skills.
In this issue of the IWTA Newsletter, outdoor photographer Brian Tugana shares his experience, advice, and encouragement in organizing a wildlife photography workshop. Brian and Clinton County Conservation drew a tremendous crowd to their event, evidence of the growing popularity of digital outdoor photography.
In every season, our Water Trails offer something special to awaken our senses, soothe our spirit, and challenge our photographers.  As Mother Nature redecorates for fall, we encourage you to get out and enjoy your Water Trail!
Where Is It? Quiz
 AWARE 2013 Access JWeeks

Where Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on:

What Is It? Quiz
Egret Fishing Schoon

What Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on: 

Water Trail Reflections & Resources
Belted Kingfisher Nick Chill


Author James Frey offered this bit of advice to writers seeking clarity of thought:  "Be patient and wait. Your mud will settle. Your water will be clear."


Do you have thoughts, experiences, insights, or conclusions about Water Trails you would like to share?  Maybe you have read an interesting article about WTs you would like to recommend to others?


Please email us at


Oct 6 Iowa River Greenbelt Geology Cruise, Iowa Falls--FILLED
Empress Boat Club Logo

"Scenic City Empress" docked at

Empress Boat Club in Iowa Falls.


This event has been filled, but you may want to contact Mary Hyland if you would be interested in sailing on a future cruise; 641-373-6302.


Join us on Sunday, October 6 for a 90 minute cruise aboard the "Scenic City Empress" to learn about the Iowa River valley.  Geologists Deb Quade and Robert McKay, from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will conduct a presentation on the origin and evolution of the Iowa River Greenbelt, as well as the surrounding upland landscape.  (See below for more info about our presenters.) 


Discussions will focus on the geologic history and age of our river valley, and the unique & beautiful rock formations along the Iowa River in Iowa Falls, IA.   Participants will gain a better understanding and appreciation concerning the function and importance of the Iowa River Greenbelt area. 


Please feel free to bring snacks and a beverage of choice on the cruise.  Small coolers are OK.


This event is sponsored by the Empress Boat Club and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


This event is free, but registration is required.  Participation is limited to 45 people.


Click on the link below to register: 


Geology Cruise 131006 


ONLINE REGISTRATION will be open until the 45 participant limit is reached or Wednesday, October 2nd.  After that date, please contact Mary Hyland at 641-373-6302.  Absolute cutoff is Noon on Friday, October 4.




Deb Quade is a senior Quaternary geologist and Supervisor of the Geology and Groundwater Section at the Iowa Geological and Water Survey.  She has logged nearly 30 years of mapping surficial deposits across Iowa and has undertaken many floodplain mapping projects in north-central Iowa.  Deb is an Iowa native and quite familiar with the geology and soils of Iowa river valleys. 


Robert McKay is a bedrock geologist with 30 years experience in Iowa Geology at the Iowa Geological and Water Survey.  He has familiarity with most of the bedrock formations across the state and has participated with several county conservation boards on local river trips.


Find more information about The Scenic City Empress Boat Club at: 

Find more information about the Iowa River Greenbelt Water Trail at:,%20Hamilton%20Co.pdf?amp;tabid=868  


Oct 6 Annual Jones County Fall Colors Canoe Outing
Jones Co Maq Float 2012

Jones County Conservation Naturalist Michele Olson announced that the Annual Fall Colors Canoe Outing has been set for Sunday, October 6 on the Maquoketa River, paddling from below the Mon Maq Dam to Pictured Rocks.  The shuttle is scheduled for 9:00 am, with paddling from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.


Enjoy the colors and sights of fall as we paddle 8 miles of the mesmerizing Maquoketa River.  Pass boulders, cliffs, and forested limestone bluffs as you explore this beautiful stretch of the Maquoketa.   Participants will need to bring lunch and snacks, beverages, camera, warm aquatic footwear, dry-bags, extra clothing, sunscreen, etc.


Paddlers may choose to bring their own canoes and kayaks or contact McDonough Canoe Rental at (319) 465-3697 or to inquire about canoe rentals and shuttle service. Anyone bringing their own canoe will need to meet at Mon Maq at 9 AM to shuttle vehicles to the take out site.  


Maps and river information can be found at< by clicking on conservation and downloads and links.   


Anyone planning on attending should preregister with Michele (by noon October 4th) at (319) 481-7987 or  

Thee above photo by Michele Olson was taken during the "Cool, Clear, & Colorful" Jones County Fall Colors Float in 2012.

Oct 11 Iowa Environmental Council Annual Conference, "At the Tipping Point"
IEC Logo


The Iowa Environmental Council will explore new ways to build momentum for clean water, clean energy, and a healthy environment during its annual conference "At the Tipping Point," to be held October 11, 2012, starting at 8:30 at Drake University's Olmsted Center in Des Moines.  National freshwater restoration expert Joe Whitworth leads a day of speakers and networking focused on making measurable progress for clean water in Iowa as well as building on the state's national leadership in wind energy by expanding use of solar energy.


A native Midwesterner, Whitworth is president of The Freshwater Trust, a Portland, Oregon based organization that is working to redefine the way we think about protecting water and soil to achieve greater results, faster.  The organization has developed strategies for water quality credit trading programs as well as an innovative, patented online platform to manage the funding, permitting, and implementation of restoration projects.


The Council's conference is known for bringing together a unique cross section of Iowa's environmental community for a great networking experience.  Many Iowa Environmental Council member organizations and others share ideas about other ways Iowans are making progress.  Discounted registration is available to Council members and students, and everyone can save with early bird registration that continues through Labor Day.


For more info, visit  or call 515-244-1194, extension 210.


Return to Top 

IOWATER Announcements re Training and Snapshot Events Around Iowa
IOWATER Trng Marion GStark
2012 IOWATER Training Class members charting stream flow
in a tributary of Indian Creek in Marion, IA.  Photo By G. Stark


From Mary Skopec:


Dear IOWATER volunteers,

Summer is quickly coming to an end and the fall rains are returning, so now is a great time to get out and monitor your local stream/river/pond/lake/wetland!  The data you collect should be very interesting if we (hopefully) see drought conditions dissipate. 


An Introductory Workshop has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct 5th at Grinnell College in Grinnell,  8:30 am - 4:30 pm. Registration information can be found at - click on "Calendar of Events".


Upcoming Snapshot events:


October 8th; Scott County Snapshot.  For more information on the snapshot contact Dan McNeil,


October 9th, Polk County Snapshot.  For more information on the snapshot contact Mike Delaney,


October 12th; Statewide Volunteer Snapshot.  (Collect data at your regular site on this date and submit your information to the database to participate).


Thanks and happy monitoring!

Mary Skopec, 

IOWATER & Stream Monitoring Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources  


Return to Top

Developing an Outdoor Photography Event for Your Water Trail
Camera Line Art Image


Retired Clinton physician Brian Tugana is an outdoor photographer and driving force behind an annual calendar to recognize area photographers and support Quad-City area nonprofit organizations.  Below, Brian shares the experience of organizing and executing a Wildlife Photography Workshop with Clinton County Conservation in March, 2013. 


A Tool for Promoting Your Organization 

& Your Water Trail

Brian Tugana


With fall heading our way, it is not too early to begin to think about the 2014 season of exploring the beauty of Iowa water trails.


If you are looking for a nice way to kick of your 2014 WT season, let me share a recent experience and add an arrow to your quiver for increasing awareness of your facility or organization.



At the end of 2012 the Clinton County Conservation Board completed a beautiful new facility, the Mississippi River Eco Center, located in the Rock Creek Marina and Campground.The staff was looking for ways to encourage regional community members to visit the facility with the hope that they will take part in various events and opportunities in the future.


The Idea

The digital revolution has spawned an explosive growth of photography as an avocation. Photography educational offerings, hardbound and digital, are flourishing.


The concept was to sponsor a wildlife photography workshop at the facility.  A photography enthusiast with success in the wildlife arena and with an extensive network of photographic contacts in the region was contacted and invited to put on a couple hour educational program.  He demurred on the lone wolf approach, but instead, offered to recruit a diverse group of speakers each of whom would talk for a brief period.


From Concept to Reality

The format of the workshop was directed at encouraging the audience to think broadly as various aspects of wildlife photography.  In addition to photographers who achieved recognition and success as wildlife photographers, a university avian expert and researcher emphasized the importance of bird behavior, a college fine arts instructor talked about issues of composition, and a wildlife photography contest judge discussed things he looks for when judging contest photographs.


The workshop was promoted in both traditional and non-traditional ways.  Ads were placed in regional newspapers; a radio interview was taped; along with emailing an electronic flier promoting the workshop.  The various presenters, each of whom had different networks, were encouraged to promote the workshop using the electronic flier.  Several large churches in the region were asked to help with the promotion.  Paper fliers were hung at high traffic sites.


While the workshop was free, people were encouraged to register so an adequate amount of handouts could be created.  As the presentation day approached, it became apparent that the turnout would be much larger than expected.  Attendance at prior events at the facility had maxed out around 30.  Pre-registrants for the workshop approached 130.


Event Day

Despite a rainy cold day, more than 180 people came out and attended the workshop.  Both presenters and staff were pleased that the audience remained constant throughout the four hour event. 

A couple characteristics were very well received and were felt to positively impact audience response:


  1. The seven presenters were limited to 20 minutes and 'encouraged' repetitively before the event to stick strictly to the time schedule.  One or two rambling presenters can end up driving folks to the exits in droves. 
  2. The audience was 'encouraged' not to ask questions during a presentation.  We didn't want the inevitable workshop attendee who seemed to love to hear themselves talk or to debate presenters to derail a presentation.  A period for questions was allocated in the transition time between presenters.

A brief lunch period was built into the program.  The audience was able to purchase a plate lunch at a reasonable price.  With the large turnout, the event generated money for some future facility enhancements.


Logo Clinton Co Con


A pre-season kick-off wildlife photography workshop proved to be a highly successful way to introduce people who may 

well utilize the conservation area and facility in the future to a newly minted gem.  Throughout the day, many attendees were heard to remark that they had no awareness that the facility existed.


The conservation staff's main responsibility was handling the logistics of the event.  A local photography enthusiast recruited fellow presenters, served as event emcee, and through his network and that of his fellow presenters, recruited a lion's share of attendees.


Lessons Learned

In hindsight, the timing of the event was extremely and accidentally fortuitous.  The event was held on Saturday, March 9th.  There was no competition from NFL or NBA playoffs. 


A survey of 106 attendees revealed that traditional ways of promoting such events may have had their day.  A majority and surprising number of attendees were encouraged to attend via Facebook and electronic networking approaches. 


An often-overlooked way to promote such events is through the electronic networks that many churches have established.  A number were very accommodating in passing on the information about the workshop to their members.


Another Report on the Mussel Blitz
Higgins Mussel Wapsi 2013 Scott Gritters
Endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel found during
the August Mussel Blitz on the  Wapsipinicon River. 
Photo by Scott Gritters.

In our September issue, David Kessler shared a report on the 2013 Mussel Bioblitz on the Wapsipinicon River, including finding evidence of pearly eye mussel success.  Here are Robin Fortney's reflections on the event, as originally reported in the Central Iowa Paddlers newsletter:


In early July, I receive an email about a mussel bioblitz scheduled for the week of August 19. I am on the email list because earlier in the year I received training in mussel surveys from Jen Kurtz, a DNR malacologist (mussel biologist). I don't know what to expect, but sign up for a new experience and a low cost vacation on the Wapsipinicon River in Linn County. The bioblitz is organized by fisheries biologists and mussel experts with the Iowa DNR, US Army Corps and US Fish and Wildlife Service. I discover that the purpose of the weeklong mussel survey is to determine how well reintroduction efforts for the federally endangered Higginseye pearly mussel are going. These mussels have been reintroduced into five Iowa rivers in about 2002. At the same time, biologists are surveying these streams to see how all mussel populations are faring.


I have noticed mussel shells on sandbars in many Iowa rivers, and occasionally see their tracks in shallow water as they search for improved living conditions. I learn that mussels have a unique and complex life cycle. Most freshwater mussels require a specific host fish to complete their life cycle; others can use a variety of fish species. Male mussels release sperm into the water column. The sperm are drawn into the female as she filters water for food. The fertilized eggs reside within pouches of her modified gills and develop into larvae, termed glochidia. The fish host basically provides protection and food support for the developing young mussels. When ready, the little mussels drop off and dig into sand, gravel or silty substrate where they will spend their lives...unless flooding, mining operations or other major river changes move them. These are amazing little critters!


Why are mussels important? Mussels are sort of the canary in the coal mine. Mussels filter out algae and other small particles from the water and then transform the waste into packets used as food by invertebrates and fish. Since mussels are filter-feeders, they clean water as they feed. This eating habit unfortunately makes mussels vulnerable to water pollution. Mussels, just like people, need clean water to survive. Habitat destruction (like dams) and pollution from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, mining waste and residential and livestock sewage kill mussels and other aquatic life.


Each day of the bioblitz, the survey team meets at 9 a.m. at Wakpicada County Park near Central City with wet suits on and lunches, water bottles and sunscreen in hand. After receiving the day's instructions, each survey group heads up or downstream in a fast plate boat to pre-determined sites called polygons to check for mussels. The polygons are about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long. There are about 40 polygons from Central City Dam down to Waubeek. The scientists sample for mussels inside the polygons using metal squares, called quadrats (1/4 of a square meter), at ten sites inside the polygon. They dig up the substrate maybe 6 inches deep inside the quadrat and see how many mussels are located there. Sometimes, the polygons are located in deep pools and a diver must take the quadrat samples. Meanwhile, lay folks like me are pollywogging inside and outside the polygon. We do timed searches, checking for the same time period as the scientists taking the quadrat samples. This is a scientific survey after all.


I loved pollywogging! A mussel geek named Joe Jordon defines pollywogging as follows: "To get in the river up to your chin and feel for mussels with your feet and hands. Usually done in a group of other like-minded, fun loving, river rats." We pollywogs search the river banks and river bottom, poking around with our fingers for mussels and then placing each mussel found in a net bag. I see the experts searching eddies, riffles, under downed trees and along stream banks. It's a reminder that fish feed or take shelter in these places - it is also a reminder that fish and mussels are connected. At day's end, we name, count and measure the mussels, documenting the information on data sheets. We also note mussel shells that are fresh dead, weathered or relics. Perhaps a dozen live mussel species are found. They have curious names, like white heelsplitter, Lilliput, giant floater, plain pocketbook, mucket, pink papershell, black sandshell,  elktoe, and Higginseye pearly mussel. A few young Higginseyes are found, indicating that at least some reintroduced mussels are reproducing. That is good news.


If you would like to train to be a pollywogger, you can become part of the Iowa Mussel Corps. Call Linda Appelgate at 515-371-5419 for more information about training opportunities. In addition, DNR is considering a mussel bioblitz on the Iowa River (another Higginseye reintroduction site) the 3rd week of August 2014.


Those mussel shells lying on sandbars will never look or feel the same again.


Robin Fortney 

WhereIsItWhere Is It? Quiz ANSWER
AWARE 2013 JWeeks Wide
Project AWARE 2013 launches below the railroad trestle, downstream from the roller dam
at Ft. Dodge on the Des Moines River.  Photo by James Weeks.

James Weeks shared this photo, taken with a Pentax w60 waterproof camera, during the 2013 Project AWARE event on the Des Moines River.


The Ft. Dodge roller dam is barely visible on the right edge of the frame, and the Ft. Dodge wastewater treatment plant is just left of frame.  AWARE volunteers can be seen launching for another day's cleanup from the local access, center frame.


Where will Project AWARE be headed in 2014?  Keep checking for announcements at 


Return to Top 
WhatIsItWhat Is It? Quiz ANSWER
Egret Launching Schoon
Great Egrets take to the air.  Photo by Bill & Joyce Schoon.

Bill and Joyce Schoon found and photographed these beautiful Great Egrets during one of their many backwaters cruises aboard their tandem kayak.


Great Egrets have all-white feathers, yellow beaks, and black legs.  They are slightly smaller than the Great Blue Heron, but share an appetite for fish, frogs, and other small aquatic prey.


Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1800's and early 1900's, sparking conservation movements and laws to protect them and other threatened bird species.  More than 95% of the population was killed for their plumes, which were highly sought-after for ladies hats.  Plume hunting was banned around 1910, and the population began to rebound.  Habitat loss is now their greatest challenge.  The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society.


Read more about Great Egrets  


We Hope That You Are Enjoying the IWTA Newsletter

Our thanks to everyone who is providing the event information, updates, and feedback which supports the IWTA Newsletter, along with the water trail movement in Iowa.  Our special thanks to the following: 
  • James Weeks and Bill & Joyce Schoon for the photos in this month's Where? and What? quizzes. 
  • Brian Tugana for sharing his experience and lessons-learned in developing a successful wildlife photography workshop in Clinton County.
  • Robin Fortney for her reflections on the recent Mussel Blitz.
  • All the project managers and naturalists who provide information on their events and activities.

The IWTA mission is to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and encouragement among Iowans working to create, enhance, or utilize our water trails.  We measure the success of the IWTA Newsletter by how much our subscribers share about their efforts to improve the water trail experience across Iowa.  Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement.
Keep It Clean Sticker IDNR

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. to 

Gregg Stark
Editor, Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter