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Iowa Water Trails Association 
January, 2014  
Opportunities to Promote or Advocate for Our WTs
2014 IDNR Livery Training Dates
Report: Dec 10 Hearing of Legislative Committee on Rivers & Waterways
Paddling "The Gobbler" on the Turkey River at Elkader
"Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun" Campaign Expands for 2014
Become a Volunteer Wildlife Monitor
Red Rock Designated a National Water Trail
Phenology Calendar for 2014 Now Available
Water Trails Perspective from 1973; Forty Years Later . . .
Where Is It? Quiz Answer
What Is It? Quiz Answer
Event Dates to Assist Your WT Program Planning
Thanks to Our Subscribers



Iowa Rivers Revival, Protector of Rivers, Streams & Watersheds

Report Kills & Spills Logo  
Frosty Locust GStark
Lacy Frost on Locust. GStark Photo.

Mother Nature decorates our Water Trails with unique touches in every season.  In winter, we are treated to evergreens flocked with snow, wind-sculptured snow drifts, and under just-the-right-conditions, the fragile beauty of feathery frost crystals.  Properly attired, you can enjoy a world of spectacular beauty, populated by our winter-hardy feathered residents. 

We are very optimistic about the growth of Iowa Water Trails in 2014, and the growth will be measured more in terms of programs offered and new interest groups served. More on that next month. 
We are also very optimistic about the growth of the Iowa Water Trails Association in 2014, as we reach out to learn how we can best serve YOU--the folks who organize, manage or simply use our Water Trails.  We welcome your ideas and 
Where Is It? Quiz
Skunk River I-80 Where Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on:

What Is It? Quiz

What Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on: 

Opportunities to Promote or Advocate for Water Trails
ICNC 2012 Larry Stone
Larry Stone shares info about Motor Mill & the 
Turkey River WT at the 2012 ICNC Paddle Day.
GStark photo.


Promote your Water Trail with an informative display at an area Paddling & Outdoor Show.  Here are 3 opportunities scheduled in early 2014.  Please email info about additional shows planned in Iowa to    


Jan 25, ICNC Paddle Day, Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar 


Feb 7-9, Iowa Paddle and Pedal Sport Expo, CanoeSports Outfitters, Indianola. 

Mar 22, "North Iowa Paddlefest", Cedar Falls/Waterloo.  Chris Anderson, Program Coordinator, Hartman Reserve Nature Center, 319-277-2187.  

Post Your Events on the online Iowa Paddling Forum at:  


Advocate for Water Trails at the local, county, and state levels.  Here are a couple of opportunities to share your experiences and tout the many benefits of Water Trails.


February 3; Iowa Rivers Revival Legislative Reception, 5:00 pm-7:00 pm at Noodle Zoo in Des Moines.   


Legislative Interim Study Committee on Rivers & Waterways, charged with considering options for restoring the quality of Iowa's rivers and waterways, needs input and support.  View the Study Committee purpose and a full list of members to contact at:  More info about the meeting, specific proposals, and links to media reports can be found on the Iowa Rivers Revival website; 


2014 Iowa DNR Livery Training Event Dates Announced
Iowa DNR Logo


Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator, informs us that dates and locations have been finalized for two Livery Training Classes for 2014.  These are one-day classes, facilitated by Todd and Nate Hoogeveen, addressing risk management plans, litter control strategies, safety, creating relationships, and the new "Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun" campaign. By attending training, the business will receive special recognition on our website and in the Livery directory, as a preferred outfitter who focuses on safety and river and paddler etiquette. 

  • Class #1, Tue, Feb 11th, 2014 at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt Longhouse in Polk County, NE of Des Moines.
  • Class #2, Tue, Mar 25th, 2014 at the Osborne Nature Center near Strawberry Point and Elkader.

Canoe School Classes for 2014 will be announced at a later date.  Contact Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator Todd Robertson with any questions: or 515-979-9538.


More info on 2014 training opportunities will be posted on the DNR Website as it is finalized: 


Report: Dec 10 Hearing of Legislative Study Committee on Rivers & Waterways
RvrsWtrwysComm2013 CoChrs GStark
Committee is co-chaired by Sen. Dick Dearden (D, District 16) and Rep. Lee Hein (R, District 96).

The Iowa Legislative Interim Study Committee on Rivers and Waterways drew about 70 concerned citizens to its first public hearing in Des Moines on Dec 10.  Testimony was received from individuals and groups representing conservation, recreation, agriculture, environment, and public health.  


It was a good showing of advocacy for healthy Iowa rivers, with many active supporters of water trails, friends of rivers, watershed management, and soil conservation on hand.  Kudos to those of you who took the time to attend, and especially those who prepared and delivered presentations.


We encourage everyone to stay involved and urge their elected representatives to make the work of this committee an action priority in 2014. Interested citizens are encouraged to visit the General Assembly's home page at, and under "Popular Links," look for "Public Input: Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee."  Click "Submit Response" to submit comments, or to view others' responses, click "View Moderated Responses."  View the Study Committee purpose and a full list of members: 


RvrsWtrwysComm 2013 Crowd GStark
Approx. 70 attendees filled the available chairs at the hearing.
Photos GStark.



The charge to the study committee is: "Consult with interested parties in considering options for restoring the quality of Iowa's rivers and waterways. Interested parties may include engineers, local watershed partnerships, persons who farm near rivers and waterways, anglers, boaters, and other interested parties. Develop recommendations for an initial plan to prioritize river and waterway projects and provide defined goals and measurable improvements."






More info about the meeting, specific proposals, and links to media reports can be found on the Iowa Rivers Revival website; 


Paddling "The Gobbler" on the Turkey River at Elkader

Elkader Gobbler MBecker
Tom Gifford paddles "The Gobbler."
Photo by Michael Beck.  

On Nov 3, Tom Gifford became the first kayaker to hit a new water feature, dubbed "The Gobbler," in the Turkey River whitewater area taking shape in downtown Elkader.  It's been a long journey from the destructive floods of 2008 to the developing WW park and family recreation area to become a reality in 2014.  


Read about paddling The Gobbler and progress on the entire project in this Cedar Rapids Gazette article by Orlan Love: 


New "Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun" Campaign Aims to Improve Behavior on Iowa's Rivers


Keep It Clean Sticker IDNR
New decals can carry a positive message
on your boat or bumper.

 A series of special meetings with landowners along the Upper Iowa River revealed some disturbing behavior by individuals who frequented Iowa's signature inland stream during the summer of 2012: trespassing, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, public nudity, public urination, littering and vulgar language.


To address this problem behavior, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded in three ways in 2013: 1) Rolled out a media campaign geared at improving overall behavior on the Upper Iowa, Wapsipinicon and Maquoketa rivers; 2) Stepped-up law enforcement on the Upper Iowa River in Howard and Winneshiek counties; and 3) launched a statewide public relations campaign to improve behavior on all of Iowa's rivers with the message "Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun."


"We want people to have fun on the river, but not at the expense of others. We take these reports seriously," says Nate Hoogeveen, director of DNR's river programs.  "River users need to respect the water resource and take out what they bring in. Respect the private property rights of landowners living along the river, including their sandbars and riverbanks. Nearly all of Iowa's river bottoms are privately owned," Hoogeveen emphasizes.


Citations were issued by law enforcement along the Upper Iowa River and word spread among tubers and disorderly paddlers that behavior was, indeed, being watched.


"As paddlers, will you help get the word out in 2014 about the campaign for better river-use etiquette?" asks Todd Robertson, outreach coordinator and paddling instructor for DNR's river programs. "Show your 'badge of honor' by displaying the 'Keep It Clean' message decal on your canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard." 


Many liveries and boat rental outfitters are being supplied with decals and posters in 2014 so they can educate their customers about using positive etiquette when sharing our rivers. Store owners, conservation boards and other businesses that would like "Keep It Clean" decals and posters, may contact Todd Robertson, DNR River Programs, at 515-979-9538 or for supplies.


Littering is another significant problem. Tougher mesh trash bags featuring the "Keep It Clean" logo will be sent to liveries in early February and to others who request them to help with litter control at accesses. The previous bags proved very popular and successful over the last few years.


Remember, paddlers can set the example on what positive behavior and proper river etiquette really is: respect the rivers as a resource, respect the people who live along the rivers and their land, and respect others recreating on the river.

  1. Keep It Clean.  Pick up trash as you go and pack out the trash you bring in.
  2. Keep It Fun.  Use Respectful language and behavior.
  3. For Everyone!  Respect private property.

Call 911 to report illegal activity.


Become a Volunteer Wildlife Monitor; 2014 Training Sessions Scheduled
Blue Heron GStark
Great blue heron at
Pleasant Creek SP.  
GStark photo.


The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP) is a great opportunity to engage local supporters of our Water Trail projects and help the DNR at the same time.  The VWMP is for enthusiastic and sharp-eyed, sharp-eared volunteers who have a passion for wildlife and its conservation. With more than 800 species in our state, the wildlife staff can't possibly keep track of all these critters. They need volunteers who are willing and interested in collecting data on two important and sensitive groups of wildlife--dedicated volunteers, much like the caliber of participants/volunteers who attended the 2013 educational Water Trail events.


The Bird Nest Monitoring Program focuses on two special groups of birds: Raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, owls) and Colonial Waterbirds (herons, egrets, night-herons, cormorants).  These two groups of top predators are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, making them not only fascinating animals to observe but also important animals to monitor.  Anyone interested in becoming a Bald Eagle Nest Monitor must attend training:

  • March 8, Kossuth County, Water's Edge Nature Center in Algona, IA. 10 am to 3 pm.
  • March 15, Fayette County, Elgin Public Library in Elgin, IA.  10 am to 3 pm.


Participants in the Frog and Toad Call Survey workshop will learn to identify Iowa's frogs and toads by sight and sound, and then how to collect and report data to the Wildlife Diversity program and to the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP). Amphibians are currently in global decline and face many environmental stressors. Volunteer-collected data will not only be used by Iowa, but at regional and national levels too!  Anyone interested in participating in the Frog and Toad Call Survey must attend training:

  • April 16, O'Brien County, Prairie Heritage Center, Peterson, IA. 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm.


A $10 fee covers materials, a meal, newsletter, cd or guide, and certification.  Find more info, the training schedule, & registration forms at: 


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Red Rock Designated a National Water Trail
Map of Lake Red Rock, Iowa's largest lake.


Congratulations to supporters of the Red Rock Trail at Lake Red Rock, Knoxville, Iowa, which has officially been designated a National Water Trail by the National Park Service.  The trail is managed by Lake Red Rock in partnership with the Red Rock Lake Association.


The Red Rock Water Trail is a 36-mile loop on scenic Lake Red Rock. Somewhat unique in Iowa, it features a "big-water" experience, rocky cliffs and bluffs, a sea cave, historical sites, and a variety of wildlife, especially shore and water birds.  Eight access points are conveniently located near the campgrounds around Iowa's largest lake.


Red Rock, the Island Loop Route WT in Michigan, and the Missouri National Recreation River WT (through South Dakota, Nebraska, & Iowa) were designated in 2013, for a total of 14 designated National Water Trails across the U.S.


National Water Trails are designated by the Secretary of the Interior and are part of the National Trails System, administered by the National Park Service in partnership with a wide range of federal agencies. Designation of national water trails helps to strengthen local efforts for recreation, conservation and restoration of America's waterways and surrounding lands.


Read the full Oskaloosa Herald article at:  

Learn more about the National Water Trails System through videos, stories and pictures at / 


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Iowa Phenology Calendar for 2014 Now Available
2014 Phenology Calendar LSearles


Phenology is the study of the effects of the flow of sun energy through the eco-system. Many of the responses of nature to sun energy are predictable.  Aldo Leopold made people aware of the concept of recording dates for migrant arrivals, nesting, plant blooming, mammal birthing, etc.  Naturalists, birders, photographers, casual nature watchers, and WT program planners all benefit from being able to anticipate spring arrivals, migrations, blooming flowers, and other natural events.  While based on Raccoon River Watershed observations, the dates will hold accurate across most of Iowa.


Dr. Leland Searles has assembled a 2014 phenology calendar which includes dates for all sorts of wildlife phenomenon. This year's calendar is colorfully illustrated with all-new photos (most by RRWA supporters), has new back page information, and is updated with ever more phenology information. 


The calendar is $18 plus applicable Iowa sales tax, postage, and shipping, with a discount for five or more.  Find ordering info and sample pages at  


Originally initiated with a grant from the Raccoon River Watershed Association (RRWA), the annual calendar project is now self-supporting.  Of each calendar purchase, $3 goes to support research and education on the ecology of the Raccoon River watershed, one of the most-challenged, and best-documented, Iowa streams for nitrate and phosphorus pollution.  Find info on the Raccoon River Watershed Association and Water Trail at 



Water Trail Reflections & Resources -- Water Trails 1973
IWTA Logo edited jpg


(Caution:  Some of you may find it disturbing that the following was written in 1973, and 40 years later we have advanced only to the level of creating a study committee for river restoration.)


Chapter 1, "Rivers in America," from the book "Introduction to Water Trails in America," by Robert Colwell, 1973, Stackpole Books; pg 27-28.


"Since antiquity, man has turned to the seas, the lakes, and the streams for his food and commerce, his recreation and spiritual renewal.  Shore sunsets stir us all.  Children at play in a stream can find no better sport.  Along with our lengthy seashore, coursing waters have been vital in our growth and prosperity.


"When white men first settled America, they quickly adopted the Indian's canoe.  Nothing else was better suited to exploration of the rivers in those early days.  In the northwoods the birch bark canoe was used.  The Plains Indians covered their canoes with skins, while in the Northwest the Indian had perfected the dugout.


"In the early 17th century the hardy voyageurs extended the frontiers.  In search of furs, paddling north, west and south in their forty-foot canoes, 16 men to a boat, they were instrumental to developing water routes of exploration and commerce.  Behind them came Marquette and Joliet, LaSalle, Mackenzie and Frazier, all of them enlisting the aid of the voyageur in westward expansion.


"Before long railroads were paralleling the rivers.  Highways followed, along with towns.  The character of the rivers changed as great farms and industry spread out on river banks.  By mid-twentieth century many of the rivers were unrecognizable as the pure, free flowing streams of yesterday.


"The irony is bitter.  Just when our rivers begin to mean so much to us as a recreational resource, we find them unsuitable in many cases.  The growth and expansion that brought us riches and leisure time has also robbed us.


"Realizing this paradox has prompted many people in the past few years to voice their concern for the quality of our rivers. Private citizens and government agencies are now struggling to implement programs that will save our rivers from total pollution."



(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


WhereIsItWhere Is It? Quiz ANSWER
Skunk River I-80
Winter travelers' view of Skunk River looking north from Interstate I-80.


This is a view of a typical Iowa river seen by thousands of people every year.  Since the view is from the westbound lanes of Interstate I-80, looking north, those travelers' glimpse of the scene may be about equivalent to the shutter speed of the camera used for this photo.  We're sure they would enjoy a return visit for a leisurely float down the Skunk River, one of the state's prettier streams.


Can any of you advanced "Stream Sleuths" identify this as the North Fork or South Fork Skunk?  Drop us an email at 


Skunk River Paddlers and other supporters made great progress during 2013 toward gaining IDNR designation for a Skunk River Water Trail in Story County.  Supporters are considering or promoting WT development on additional stretches of the river.  According to the SRP website, "the South Skunk travels 193 miles from Northeast Hamilton County to the confluence with the North Skunk in Southeast Keokuk County.  From the confluence, the Skunk River flows another 70 miles to the Mississippi River South of Burlington."


Find more info and development updates on the Skunk River WT at: 

View a map of the South Skunk River WT in Story County at: 


OBTW, it's lucky that the photographer is anonymous, since stopping to shoot a photo on an interstate might violate some law.


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WhatIsItWhat Is It? Quiz ANSWER
Large stand of snake grass (equisetum hyemale).
Photos by Ray Harden.

(Our thanks for the following info and photos from "Ray's Blog," a regular feature on the RRWA website, written by Ray Harden.)


SNAKE GRASS -- A Living Fossil


The roadside ditches are tan and brown in late fall, early winter.  The grass has become dormant and the blooming flowers of last summer have dried and look like spindly weeds.


However, in some wet areas, masses of unusual looking "grass" can be seen in the ditches or in wet lands.  The common name for this plant is "Snakegrass."  Botanists call it Equisetum hyemale.  Hyemale is a Latin word meaning winter; it was given this name because of the plant's evergreen characteristic.  It is also called snakeweed, skeletonweed, and scouring-rush. 


The plant is found in all of North America in damp habitats.  Worldwide there are about fifteen species in the Equisetum group of plants; four species are found in Iowa.


Snakegrass is not a true grass; it is in the same group as ferns, moss, and horsetails.  All of these plants reproduce by spores, not seeds. Some scientists call it a living fossil, a relic of an era of Earth's plants that produced Iowa's coal beds.  Some fossil species have been found in coal that are ninety feet tall and more than a foot in diameter.


The plants' green hollow erect stems are usually two to three feet tall and often have a small cone at the tip.  The cone produces the reproductive spores.  The plant is rough to the touch because of the ridges that run the length of the stiff stem.  These hollow jointed stems of snakegrass is the plant structure which people are most familiar with- especially the "popping" sound that is made when they are pulled apart.


The leaves are small scales that form a sheath in a ring around the joints of the stem.  The small leaves do insignificant amounts of photosynthesis; the stems carry out the majority of that process.  Underground, the roots are horizontal rhizomes and can reach a depth of four feet.  They are formed in joints like the above ground stems.   The roots send up new shoots each year and the plant can spread out more than a foot per year.


The early pioneers used this plant for scouring pots.  Silica, a type of sand, is found in the plant's cells providing a gritty material for cleaning and polishing.  The Western Indians used the plants to put a sharp edge on their flint arrowheads. Native Americans also used the plant for medicinal purposes.  They brewed a tea from the stems to treat kidney troubles and dropsy.  The spore forming cones were eaten to control diarrhea. 


Snakegrass is known to be poisonous to livestock when it is mixed with hay.  The plant contains a chemical that effects the nervous system causing the animal to weaken and stagger when walking.


Because snakegrass does very well in wet areas it is used in water gardens, backyard ponds, and rain gardens.  It can be purchased from garden supply stores.   In some places it can become a weed that is very difficult to eradicate.  This should be expected from a plant that has flourished and survived since before the age of dinosaurs.


Read more of Ray's informative blogs on a wide range of outdoor topics, and learn more about the Raccoon River Watershed Association and WT at 


Planning Dates to Embrace or Avoid With Your WT Programming


Here are some confirmed events and dates to help you with your 2014 WT planning.  We're confirming additional off-water and on-water events, and welcome your WT event info and dates for all of 2014.  Email us at


January 13; Iowa Legislative Session Opens; (per diem expenses end April 22).

January 25; Indian Creek Nature Center "7th Annual Paddle Day," Cedar Rapids, Noon-4:30 pm; featuring presentations by Dennis Weidemann, author of "This Water Goes North," Todd Robertson, "Intro to Stand Up Paddling," & Cherie Haury-Artz, "Archaeological Research along Iowa & Cedar Rivers."   

February 2; Groundhog Day.

February 2; NFL Super Bowl 48.

February 3; Iowa Rivers Revival Legislative Reception, 5-7 pm at Noodle Zoo in Des Moines. Info at 

February 7-9; Iowa Paddle & Pedal Expo at CanoeSport Outfitters, Indianola.  Exhibits, presentations, factory reps, paddling, biking, & camping gear;  

February 8; Nick's Pre-Expo Buffet Breakfast at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, 7:00 am, informal annual gathering of old and new paddling friends on the way to the Iowa Paddle & Pedal Expo.

February 11; Iowa DNR Livery Training, Class #1, Tue, Feb 11, Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt Longhouse in Polk County, NE of Des Moines.  Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator Todd Robertson. or 515-979-9538.

February 14; Valentine's Day.

March 8; Bird Nest Monitoring Workshop, Kossuth County,  Water's Edge Nature Center in Algona, 10 am-3 pm.  A $10 fee covers materials, a meal, newsletter, cd or guide, and certification.  More info, a schedule, & registration forms at 

March 9; Daylight Savings Time Begins, set clocks ahead one hour.

March 15; Bird Nest Monitoring Workshop, Fayette County, Elgin Public Library in Elgin, 10 am-3 pm.  A $10 fee covers materials, a meal, newsletter, cd or guide, and certification.  More info, a schedule, & registration forms at 

March 17; St. Patrick's Day.

March 20; Vernal Equinox, First Day of Spring.

March 22; First North Iowa Paddlefest, Cedar Falls/Waterloo.  New event to include featured speaker, breakout sessions, in-pool paddling clinic.  Chris Anderson, Program Coordinator, Hartman Reserve Nature Center, 319-277-2187. 

March 25; Iowa DNR Livery Training; Class #2, Tue, Mar 25th, 2014 at the Osborne Nature Center near Strawberry Point and Elkader. Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator Todd Robertson. or 515-979-9538.

April 16; Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshop, O'Brien County, Prairie Heritage Center in Peterson, 5:30 pm-9 pm.  A $10 fee covers materials, meal, newsletter, cd or guide, and certification. More info, a schedule, & registration forms at 

April 22; Earth Day, annual observance of the first Earth Day in 1970. Some groups moving observance events up to April 19 to avoid Easter weekend.

April 25; Arbor Day, annually last Friday in April,   

April 22; Iowa Legislative Session Target Close; (per diem expenses end April 22).


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We Hope That You Are Enjoying the IWTA Newsletter
We'd like to hear from you.
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: 
  • Ray Harden & RRWA for the photos & info in this month's What? quiz. 
  • All the project managers and naturalists who provide information on your WT events and activities.
  • All of you who advocate on behalf of Iowa WTs and healthy waterways.
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.
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