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Iowa Water Trails Association 
April, 2014  
Lots of "Stuff" to find "In the Eddy"
Apr 24 Start of Master River Stewards in Johnson County
May-Sep IDNR Canoe & Kayak School Sessions
IRR Awarded $80,000 McKnight Grant for River Restoration
New Sign re Non Meandered Stream Respect
2014 Environment & REAP Day Success at Statehouse
New Blue Trash Bags to Help "Keep It Clean--Keep it Fun"
Promoting Iowa WTs & Events at Wisconsin Canoecopia
WT Organizers Embrace WT Ed Program Options
Decorah Named IRR "River Town of the Year"
Cold Water Greets Spring Paddlers--Safety Reminders
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  

Keep It Clean Sticker IDNR


It seems that March both came in and went out "like a lion," so we're pleased to now be in April.  Other than a few patches in the winter protection program, the snow is gone, river levels are behaving, and trees are budding, so let the Water Trail fun begin!


This issue of the IWTA Newsletter is full of programming and organization announcements, event reports, and dates for early season WT events.  Please note the rescheduled dates for the Charles City WW Challenge and the Great Iowa River Canoe & Kayak Race. Please keep us "in the loop" as you firm up your WT plans for 2014.


We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with some of you at the IWTA display during the Mar 22 inaugural "Northeast Iowa Paddlefest" in Cedar Falls, and hearing your ideas on how IWTA can better serve the WT community.  


NE Iowa PFest IWTA Disp GStark
Nick Gaeta (c) and Fred Mishler (r) visit with
editor Gregg Stark at the IWTA display
during the NE Iowa PaddleFest.


Our next scheduled display appearance will be at the June 13 Iowa Trails Summit in Cedar Falls.  We're also pursuing opportunities to display at events sponsored by some of our "crossover" WT friends interested in archaeology, geology, history, natural sciences, birding, outdoor photography, or ???  Please let us know if your group would like to learn more about the IWTA.


Where Is It? Quiz
Middle Raccoon Whiterock Where Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on:
What Is It? Quiz

What Is It?

Make your best guess, then click on: 

In the Eddy:  Short But Important Items That Collect Around the Editor's Desk.



April 12; Linn Area Photo Club Outdoor Photography Seminar in Cedar Rapids. All-day Canon Explorers of Light Seminar with award-winning outdoor photographer Rick Sammon (see ).  The seminar is free, but seating is limited, & you need to register separately for the seminar & the lunch.  

April 15; Federal Income Tax Filing Deadline for Iowans  (Iowa State Income Tax Filing Deadline is April 30).

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

April 22; Earth Day, annual observance of the first Earth Day in 1970.

April 25; Arbor Day, annual observance last Friday in April,    

April 26; Middle River WT Float, 8.7 miles Roseman Bridge Access to Pammel Ford.  Meet at Pammel Park Ford at Noon. Float followed by free hot dog roast, bring own beverages.  Free, but registration required, 515-462-3536 or email  

May 10; Middle River WT Float, 18 miles Middle River Forest Co Park (Adair Co) to Roseman Bridge Access.  Meet at Roseman at 9:00am for shuttle. Bring water & lunch. Free, but registration required, 515-462-3536.

May 11; Mothers Day.

May 11; "Mother's Day On the Marsh (MOM)," Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge, Odessa WT, near Wapello. Leisurely Sunday morning paddle with naturalists in Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.  Canoes and kayaks are available. Info at   or call 319-523-8381.

May 17; Armed Forces Day.

May 30; Memorial Day (observed May 26).

June 6-8; (RESCHEDULED DATES) Charles City Challenge: WhiteWater Weekend, on Cedar River.  Kayak & SUP competition, music, food, beverages, prizes; info at 

June 6-8; Iowa DNR Free Fishing Days, many local fishing derbies for kids, organized around the state. .

June 7; 4th Annual Tree Town Adventure Race, Forest City on Winnebago River WT.  Paddling, cycling, running race with wide variety of individual and group classes.  

June 7; Annual Middle River Cleanup, 9 miles Pammel Park Ford to Middle River County Park.  Meet at 7:30 am, bring own lunch.  Warm meal & concert provided after cleanup.  Free, but registration required, 515-462-3536.  

June 13; Iowa Trails Summit, Cedar Falls on UNI campus.  Presentations & displays relating to public trails for all forms of recreational use.  

June 14; (RESCHEDULED DATE) 4th Annual Great Iowa River Canoe & Kayak Race, Iowa City on Iowa River WT.  Iowa Valley RC&D;, registration & rules at 


neotropical flyways
Grab your camera!  
Bird migrations are underway.


(Iowa 2014 dates, all times Central Daylight Savings Time at Cedar Rapids.)

April 15, Tue                 Sunrise 6:26, Sunset 7:48, Moonrise 8:29

May 14, Wed                Sunrise 5:47, Sunset 8:19, Moonrise 8:24

June 12, Thu                Sunrise 5:31, Sunset 8:43, Moonrise 8:14

July 12, Sat                  Sunrise 5:42, Sunset 8:42, Moonrise 8:43

August 10, Sun             Sunrise 6:09, Sunset 8:14, Moonrise 8:00

September 8, Mon         Sunrise 6:40, Sunset 7:28, Moonrise 7:08

October 8, Wed            Sunrise 7:11, Sunset 6:36, Moonrise 6:52


Registration Open for July 12-19 Project AWARE on Big Sioux River

This year's 12th annual Project AWARE event, to be held July 12-19 on the Big Sioux River in NW Iowa/SE South Dakota, will be hosted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

The registration deadline is June 20, so check out the changes for 2014 on the Project AWARE website and download your registration form.  or contact: Lynette Seigley (319)-335-1598 


Successful Inaugural Northeast Iowa Paddlefest Mar 22 in Cedar Falls

Over 40 people attended the inaugural NE Iowa PaddleFest, which included paddling skills pool sessions, presentations on wilderness camping, area WT & WW development, SUP, and river resources, and which featured UNI graduate student Ben Hoksch, discussing his solo trip paddling the length of the Mississippi River.  Chris Anderson, Black Hawk County Conservation Program Coordinator, reported that the turnout, and the positive feedback to a participant survey, has triggered initial planning for a second annual PaddleFest.  Participants indicated overall pleasure with the event, shared some suggestions for presentation topics, and offered to help spread the word for the next event.  Congratulations to Chris and his crew!


Outfitters Enjoy Mar 25 Iowa DNR Training Session at Osborne Nature Center

The response was excellent for the final free Livery (Outfitter) Training Class of spring 2014.  These one-day classes are 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 the DNR website and in the Livery directory, as a preferred outfitter who focuses on safety and river and paddler etiquette.  To get info on future classes, contact Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator Todd Robertson: or 515-979-9538.


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Apr 24-Jun 19 Master River Stewards Program Comes to Johnson County
MRSP participants learn to measure
water quality.  IRR photo.


Iowa Rivers Revival will bring its highly-acclaimed Master River Stewards Program (MRSP) to the Iowa River watershed this month, with classes beginning April 24, and a recruitment deadline April 15.  Contact Rosalyn Lehman, executive director,   515.724.4093


The IRR Master River Stewards Program is an eight week course with a focus on developing skills to paddle and navigate rivers, restoring aquatic habitat, improving water quality, and understanding policies related to floodplains, river protection and restoration.  The program builds on a network of river experts in various partner agencies and organizations, helping adult learners collaborate to protect and improve Iowa's rivers, so that current and future generations can enjoy these resources. 


Participants will pay a fee of $50 which will include program materials.  Participants will be expected to attend each session and there will be "homework" assignments following each class - materials will be provided.  Classes will include indoor and outdoor segments at Johnson County's Kent Park and Clear Creek.  Weekday classes run 5:30-9:30 pm; Saturday sessions run 10 am-4 pm.  Full details on the program and schedule are posted on the IRR website:


Class Schedule:

Introduction to MRSP                                        Thu, Apr 24

River Geomorphology                                        Thu, May 8

Navigating Iowa Rivers/River Restoration             Sat, May 10

Landforms, Geology and Watersheds                 Thu, May 22

Water Quality 1 and River Creatures                  Thu, May 29

Water Quality 2                                                Thu, Jun 5

Agricultural Policy                                             Thu, Jun 12

Review & Project Planning                                 Thu, Jun 19

Post training follow-up, project sharing, & eval     TBD


There are opportunities for organizations and groups to sponsor aspects of the program, such as general program support, participant registration costs (reducing the costs for individuals you recommend or others interested in participating), a meal for one of the evening programs, or program materials and supplies.  Funding for this program has been provided by Iowa DNR REAP, IOWATER and River Programs.


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Sessions Filling for 2014 Iowa DNR Canoe & Kayak School
Canoe School on Boone River
Two students developing skills during a Canoe School  
on the Boone River.  Photo by Todd Robertson.


Naturalists, youth group leaders and others who bring people out on the water in canoes or kayaks that want to learn how to teach others about paddling efficiently and safely are encouraged to attend one of the Iowa DNR's paddling schools scheduled May through September.


Each two-day course will cover skills, hazard and river feature identification, teaching to different learning styles, and risk management. The focus will be one-third classroom and two-thirds on-water in both lake and river environments, solo and tandem. Paddling schools are set up for either canoeing or kayaking instruction. Make sure you sign up for your preferred instruction.  All courses will be taught at Briggs Woods, along the Boone River in Hamilton County.


Each paddling school is limited to 10 students, and is taught by two American Canoe Association certified canoe instructors--Glenn Harmon, Todd Robertson, John Wenck or Nate Hoogeveen. Students have the options to camp, rent a cabin, or stay in Webster City at a motel while participating in the two-day school. Overnight accommodations are not included in the class fee.  Registration is required and the fee is $25. This is not considered a novice course; students should have previous paddling experience.


The schedule for the Iowa DNR's Canoe & Kayak School:

  • May 6, Flat-Water Essentials (lake only) Special One Day Class for Naturalists, Scout Leaders, & Youth Group Instructors
  • May 20-21, Canoe School
  • June 25-26, Canoe School
  • Aug. 20-21, Kayak School - FILLED!
  • Sept. 17-18 Canoe School

The DNR's Paddling Schools fill up fast, so get your registration in quickly.  Access a pdf info sheet at

To register or get more information, contact Todd Robertson, DNR River Programs, 515-979-9538 or email


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Iowa Rivers Revival Awarded McKnight Grant for River Restoration

IRR Logo
Congratulations to Iowa Rivers Revival for both this $80,000 grant
and the recognition for its efforts on behalf of Iowa's rivers. 

Iowa Rivers Revival, a statewide river advocacy organization, has been awarded $80,000 by a Minnesota Foundation for river restoration efforts that could help reduce pollution into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. 


"These funds will support IRR's work to promote stream and river restoration in Iowa, with an emphasis on techniques that can reduce nutrient pollution," said Jerry Peckumn, Iowa Rivers Revival Board Chair and a farmer from Jefferson, Iowa. "We are very grateful to the McKnight Foundation for their confidence in our ability to foster greater awareness and expertise for river restoration in Iowa."


The grant will provide two years of program support for river restoration-related research, education and outreach that will include meetings, videos and field days. According to Peckumn, the grant is the largest IRR has received since it was founded in 2007. The award requires some matching funds, which means that to receive the full award IRR will be raising additional funds. "We are excited at the opportunities this grant provides for IRR to build on growing efforts underway in Iowa to return the natural functions of our seriously degraded waterways," said IRR Executive Director Rosalyn Lehman. "We can learn from other states and regions where river restoration is getting more attention and are helping meet goals to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus."


Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is a statewide nonprofit with a mission to help Iowans restore, protect, and enjoy rivers. The organization championed an Iowa Legislative Interim Study Committee on River Restoration that convened in December 2013, and IRR has led efforts to fund state low-head dam mitigation and water trails programs. IRR's Master River Stewards Program was launched in 2012, and IRR has sponsored a River Rascals youth program in Central Iowa since 2009. IRR has presented "River Town of the Year" awards to eight communities since 2007. Learn more about IRR at


The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration and encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953, the Minnesota-based family Foundation had assets of approximately $2 billion and granted about $86 million in 2013. Program priorities include restoring the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River.


New Sign Developed as Response to Land Owner Feedback
DNR Non Meandered Stream Sign


Message from John Wenck, Iowa DNR Water Trails Coordinator:


One of the first steps when studying the potential for a waterway to become a state designated water trail is to meet with adjacent land owners to listen to any concerns they have or opportunities they see for a water trail.  These meetings generally aren't the most fun for planners to facilitate, but the interactions between project planners and land owners always nets good information that helps us better understand what's happening with the waterway.  We mostly hear about concerns or problems they are experiencing.  The first step toward problem solving is to understand what the problem is.


We've learned in many of our meetings that recreational users along 

non-meandered streams don't understand that the river beds, sandbars, and banks up to the high water line (usually where permanent vegetation begins) are privately owned.  While incidental use is allowed, such as, having lunch on a sandbar, fishing, or portaging around an obstruction, the land is privately owned and not public. After stepping out of a paddlecraft or tube, one is standing on private property.  Therefore, when recreating on a non-meandered stream one should behave as a guest and respect the land by removing trash and not camping or partying on sandbars.


Through a collaborative effort with local county conservation directors and our planning partners we've developed a sign that helps communicate this message to recreational users along non-meandered streams.  This sign measures 30 x 48 inches and should be placed in strategic locations at accesses where the sign can be easily seen, yet protected from high water events and ice outs.  This sign is not required, but is available free from the DNR for all land managers who maintain access points along non-meandered streams.    While we realize this sign won't keep all recreational users from abusing private lands, we do feel it effectively communicates desired expectations.


To request signs please contact me at  or 515-281-8085.


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Excellent Turnout for Mar 18 Environmental & REAP Day at Iowa Statehouse
Iowa Env & REAP Day 2014
Excellent participation & displays delivered the message
that Iowans care about their natural resources.
Photo by GStark


 About 150 conservation advocates representing over 35 organizations gathered at the statehouse to show support for efforts to do more to protect clean water and a healthy environment, and to call on lawmakers to provide the needed funding. The rally was co-sponsored by the Iowa REAP Alliance and the Iowa Environmental Council, but was open to all Iowans with a passion for protecting our state's natural resources.


With funds distributed to a variety of conservation projects in all of Iowa's 99 counties ($300 million throughout its history), the REAP program is very popular, yet legislators have never funded the program at its full authorized level.  The  conservation community called on legislators to approve a special $25 million REAP appropriation in celebration of the program's 25th anniversary.  Many of the displays and exhibits highlighted successful projects funded through REAP, as well as many of the continuing challenges facing our natural resources.


With legislative adjournment expected by April 22, we should learn more about appropriations for REAP, water trails, river restoration, dam mitigation, and other areas of concern over the next couple of weeks.


More info and photos at:   or 

Reusable Blue Trash Bags Added to Iowa DNR "Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun" Campaign
IDNR Blue Trash Bag


A new reusable, blue trash bag is being distributed through county conservation boards, outfitters, retailers, paddler groups, and others in support of the Iowa DNR's expanded 2014 public relations campaign to improve behavior on Iowa's rivers.  The bags display the "Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun" logo and message used on posters and decals. WT supporters are encouraged to display the materials on vehicles and boats, and during public events and activities.


"We want people to have fun on the river, but not at the expense of others," says Nate Hoogeveen, director of DNR's river programs. River users need to respect the water resource, the private property rights of landowners living along the river, including sandbars and riverbanks, as well as others recreating on our rivers." Hoogeveen emphasizes.


The message is simple: 

Keep It Clean. Pick up trash as you go and pack out the trash you bring in.

Keep It Fun. Use respectful language and behavior.

For Everyone! Respect private property.


Outfitters, conservation boards, and other groups or businesses that would like to help display and distribute "Keep It Clean" promotion materials may contact Todd Robertson, Outreach Coordinator for DNR River Programs, at 515-979-9538 or .  


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Iowa WTs & Events Promoted at 2014 Canoecopia in Wisconsin
Charles City Exhibit
Ginger Williams encouraged Wisconsin paddlers
to visit the Charles City WW Park.


Over the years, it has become rather common to meet fellow Iowans attending Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin.  In the last couple of years, we have also been pleased to see Iowa groups begin exhibiting at the world's largest retail paddling sports show.  


Hats off to the folks who staffed booths on behalf of the Quad Cities WTs and Floatzilla event, Charles City Whitewater, and Cedar Falls Tourism and Trails. 



Cedar Falls Exhibit
UNI student Lauren Schmitt is an intern
with Cedar Falls Visitors & Tourism.








While most Canoecopia attendees are paddlers, many also enjoy hiking, biking, birding and outdoor photography, along with exploring new places, eating good food, and sipping a relaxing beverage.  Just the kind of folks who would enjoy our water and land trail networks, interesting communities, and unique destinations.


  We hope to see even more folks representing and promoting Iowa at next year's Canoecopia. 



WT Organizers Embrace Expanded Iowa DNR 2014 WT Education Programs

Cherie Haury-Artz of OSA discusses native Americans' use of the atlatl.  GStark photo.


The successful Iowa DNR WT Education Program initiative, with expanded topics for 2014, is being embraced by WT organizers and managers across the state.  Many presentations and locations have already been scheduled, and additional requests should be submitted as soon as possible. To learn more about the WT Educational Programs or schedule one or more for your WT, contact Todd Robertson, Outreach Coordinator for DNR River Programs, at 515-979-9538 or   


Most of the topics available for 2014 can be adapted to a presentation in a classroom, in the field, or a combination:


Fish Assemblage & Sampling; Biologists with IDNR Watershed Improvement or Water Monitoring Sections.

Observe electro fishing techniques & learn the unique features of each fish species & their role in the river ecosystem.


Aquatic Insects; Jacklyn Gautsch, Biologist with IDNR Watershed Monitoring & Assessment Section.

Discover the interesting adaptations & life cycle of aquatic invertebrates which dwell below the water surface.


Freshwater Mussels; Jennifer Kurth, Natural Resources Biologist in IDNR Watershed Improvement Section.

Meet these valuable components of freshwater biodiversity-Mother Nature's water filters.


Geologic History of Iowa River Valleys; Geologists from IDNR Geology & Groundwater Section.

Learn about the origin & evolution of Iowa's river valleys & the surrounding upland landscape.


River Critters & Wild Life; Wildlife and Interpretive Specialist Dr. Jim Pease.

Find & understand the wide variety of interconnected wildlife along Iowa's rivers, from birds & mammals to trees & shrubs.


Riparian Plant Program; IDNR Botanist John Pearson.

Learn to recognize the trees, shrubs, & wildflowers which inhabit our waterways, lakeshores, riverbanks & floodplains. 


Iowa's Archaeological Past, A History of Iowa Cultural History; Office of State Archaeologist Staff Cherie Haury-Artz & Elizabeth Reetz.  Reflect on the importance of Iowa's water trails to various people and cultures through time.


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Congratulations to Decorah, Named "River Town of the Year" by IRR
Paddlers on the Upper Iowa River near Decorah.
Randy Uhl photo.


Iowa Rivers Revival, a group that advocates for rivers, has named  Decorah as  "River Town of the Year" in recognition of efforts by the city and its many partners to make the Upper Iowa River the heart and soul of the community and a focus for recreation, economic development, and environmental stewardship.  Mayor Don Arendt and City Administrator Chad Byrd accepted the award on behalf of the city during a March 7 reception at Luther College


"The people of Decorah and the Oneota valley are deeply aware of the legacy they have inherited with this beautiful valley," said IRR Director Roz Lehman.  "They have a passion for protecting the legacy and passing it on for generations to come."  "Decorah is connecting people to the river that inspired the town's settlement so long ago," Lehman said.  "The river still makes Decorah a very special place to live and visit."

Iowa Rivers Revival pointed to several key river-related projects:

  • Trout Run Trail.  The 11-mile, four-season trail is the newest gem of many attractions centering on the river.  It connects the city to the Decorah Fish Hatchery, with several miles running parallel to the river or Trout Run.  The Trail is a superb recreational resource, and it also helps protect the river and Trout Run coldwater stream from erosion or heavy development.
  • An impressive park system, and hiking and mountain bike trails.  People of the city and Oneota valley have always valued outstanding community parks and public lands. 
  • Decorah celebrates the river and makes it the center of life.  Nordic Fest features the "Elvelopet" river run and "Kanalopet" river race.  Outfitters and others organize regular river clean-up events.  School students have many learning activities focused on the river.
  • The "Keep it Clean, Keep it Fun" campaign in the corridor is the strongest one in Iowa.  It's an effort to educate river users to eliminate litter and respect landowner rights. 
  • The Upper Iowa River Watershed Project is an alliance that has achieved documented decreases in nitrogen and phosphorous in the river, and increased clarity.  (That accomplishment is rare and may be unique for a major Iowa river.)  The City and partners monitor water quality at 29 sites in the 640,000-acre watershed.
  • Projects always have a focus on protecting the environment as well as enhancing recreation.  For example, Trout Run Trail and parks with native grasses provide buffer strips that reduce silt and chemical pollution. 
  • Strong efforts are under way to engage all stakeholders in mapping plans for the future of the river corridor.  Meetings bring together land-owners, land-managers, public agencies, livery operators, and other organizations and citizens to create a good future and a "culture of respect" for the river and property in the valley.
  • The River is a part of students' learning at every level.  Decorah school children from K-12 are connected to the river - they visit the Hatchery, learn how to gauge water quality, learn about aquatic life, write about and do art about the river, and study macro-invertebrates, insects and aquatic ecosystems.  Luther students engage the river in an extensive environmental studies program. 

"These projects are impressive," Lehman said, "but we also want to recognize the process.  "Collaboration is crucial.  All these efforts in Decorah and the valley are characterized by a rich mix of public and private cooperation and partnerships between city, county, state and federal governments, other public agencies, businesses, organizations, land-owners, schools, and volunteers."  "Decorah is ahead of the game.  High usage of the river and valley inevitably generates challenges as well as opportunities, and Decorah is giving all Iowa a good example of how to work through the issues with everyone's voice being heard," Lehman said.
Previous "River Towns of the Year" recognized by Iowa Rivers Revival are Webster City, Elkader, Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, Charles City, Central City, and Dubuque.   (For details, go to 


Cold Water Greets Spring Paddlers
Iowa DNR Logo


After a long, cold winter, Iowa paddlers are itching to get out this spring and enjoy the state's many water trails by paddling and fishing.  "Many new paddlers don't realize that even though the air temperature is warm, the water can still be ice cold," said Todd Robertson, a certified paddling instructor at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "As spring arrives, it takes a while for that water to warm up, making it necessary to have a wetsuit or drysuit and a change of dry clothes in a dry bag in case you dump your boat."


Cold water is not the only danger this time of year. Recent ice breakups have caused many streams to gather downed trees and debris and deposited these "strainers" at the base of bridge pilings and the outside of tight bends in the river.

"Having good boat control skills and understanding how to navigate around hazards is crucial to remaining safe while paddling on the rivers," he said.


Safety Tips for Paddling Iowa Rivers in Early Spring

  • Wear your life jacket
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air
  • Have good boat control skills
  • Know river hazards and how to avoid them
  • Stay away from strainers, wood/branch piles that can pull a paddler under
  • Don't paddle alone
  • Take a dry bag with extra dry clothing
  • Let others know where you are paddling and when you are expected back
  • Do not wear cotton! (cotton absorbs water)
  • Know the stages of hypothermia

For more info on paddling safety materials and programs, contact Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator Todd Robertson: or 515-979-9538.


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WhereIsItWhere Is It? Quiz ANSWER
Middle Raccoon Whiterock
View of the Middle Raccoon River flowing through Whiterock Conservancy.  Photo by Leland Searles.

(Interesting coincidence: On Sunday, March 30, after this item was prepared, NBC's Meet the Press program noted Kruschev's 1959 tour of the Garst farm with its own visit to the farm and the community of Coon Rapids: )


Leland Searles' photo captures a view of the Middle Raccoon River flowing through the Whiterock Conservancy in north-central Iowa.  Searles explained that, "The complex of streams that make up the Raccoon River are tied closely to Iowa's geological history, especially the most recent glacial period. On the northeast side of the Middle Raccoon, a high terminal moraine rises, consisting of rounded stone, gravel, and mineral soils that were pushed along as the glacial sheet advanced. When the glacier melted, it left large swampy areas that are still apparent in the flooded fields and low areas around towns like Bayard and Bagley. The Middle Raccoon seems to have formed entirely from glacial meltwater, along the southwest edge of the glacier and its moraine."

Searles further noted that "At Whiterock, a cross-section of the valley shows three river terraces at different elevations, all below the crest of the bluff. The highest terrace consists of orange-brown soil and sandstone fragments from the underlying Cretaceous-period bedrock. The age of this old terrace is about 12,000 years, and at that time it was the river's floodplain. A second, lower terrace or floodplain is as old as 8,600 years, and it probably formed during long periods of wet, warm climate. The soil in it is dark brown and rich with organic matter. The third terrace was a floodplain as recently as 150 years ago, and it speaks to the downcutting of the Middle Raccoon as humans altered the surrounding landscape. This low terrace shows some degree of layering, and it is covered with woods or wetland plants, but it has very little soil development because it is so young."   


Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust stewarding seven square miles of land along the scenic Middle Raccoon River Valley near Coon Rapids Iowa, just 60 miles upstream from Des Moines.  It is the proud and honored steward of the Roswell & Elizabeth Garst Farmstead Historic District.  Whiterock Conservancy is located 6 miles west of Bayard on Hwy 141, or 1/2 mile east of the convenience store in Coon Rapids on the south side of Hwy 141.


Whiterock has a three part mission:

  • to protect and restore the area's natural resources and wild beauty;
  • to provide people of all ages with safe, meaningful and unique outdoor recreation and education experiences; and
  • to demonstrate and promote sustainable agriculture practices that respect the land, clean the water and improve the soil.

This summer, after 5 years of fundraising, leveraging strong local support from Guthrie and Carroll County supporters to secure a $400,000 Vision Iowa Community Attractions and Tourism Grant, Whiterock Conservancy will begin construction of a long-planned 35 mile backcountry trail. The new trail will be open to walkers and hikers as it meanders among the forested slopes above the Middle Raccoon River. Trail users will also be able to access nine miles of other existing trails which connect to downtown Coon Rapids and many more miles of river upstream.  The trail project will also add interpretive signage, wildlife viewing blinds, trail side art, boardwalks over rare wetland seeps, wilderness campsites, a new equestrian RV campground, trailside prairie restoration, and renovations to the Burr Oak Visitor Center.  


Whiterock Conservancy offers primitive camping, equestrian trails, hiking, overnights in the historic Home Farm house and other locations, and other services.  Whiterock's 5,000 acres preserve unique species and ecosystems not known elsewhere in Iowa, and it holds insights into the agricultural and settler history of the region. At the same time, the Conservancy is a working farm that practices sustainable farming with native-plant pastures, forward-thinking conservation measures, and an awareness of the importance of soil and water quality.  For more info about the natural history, cottages, cabin, campsites, and activities for visitors to the Whiterock Conservancy: 


Photo and geologic history of Whiterock area by Lee Searles


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WhatIsItWhat Is It? Quiz ANSWER
Massasauga rattlesnake.  Photo & info by herpetologist Jeff LeClere.

Iowa is home to 67 different amphibian and reptile species, many about to emerge from hibernation.  One of the most rare is the massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus), an endangered species in Iowa.  It is illegal to kill or collect this species by law in Iowa, and researchers value information from any recorded sightings.There were larger populations in eastern Iowa, and throughout southern Iowa. Today, these populations are reduced to less than a half dozen scattered about eastern and southeastern Iowa, and in southwestern Iowa.


According to herpetologist Jeff LeClere, "Iowa populations are not faring well. Most populations have seen drastic declines in recent years due to habitat loss/alteration and/or habitat mismanagement. The best way to help improve populations in Iowa is to protect and preserve existing habitat with extant populations and to acquire additional habitat near extant populations. Wetlands are important habitats for these snakes, but just as important, but often overlooked, are the grassland uplands surrounding the low marshes. These upland grassland sites are used heavily by massasaugas during the summer."   


An adult massasauga is a small rattlesnake, measuring 17 - 39 1/2 inches in length, usually showing brown blotches on a brown background, but some retain a gray background. Baby massasaugas always have a light gray background. Massasaugas are stout bodied snakes with a triangular shaped head. There is a rattle at the end of the tail. This snake may be quite difficult to distinguish from the harmless western fox and water snakes. One may look for a rattle at the end of the tail, but massasaugas usually have small, dark rattles that are not always distinctive. Massasaugas will rattle with their tails off the ground (though not as high as other rattlesnake species). Harmless snakes that vibrate their tails must hold their tails close to the ground to produce noise. The best thing to do is leave it be if you are unsure of the species.


During most years, massasaugas emerge in late March or early April, so this is an excellent time for WT users to be alert for sightings of these increasingly rare creatures.  Sightings can be reported to:

  • Jeff LeClere at
  • or the Iowa DNR at  (From Iowa DNR home page, click on "Contact Us", fill out your contact info, put sighting info in box, attach photo if possible, and submit.)
    Read the signs, heed the rules.
    GStark photo in Bremer County.

LeClere recommends three minimal items to make up 

a suitable report:

  1. A clear photograph (massasaugas are often confused with fox snakes or northern water snakes, etc. and one doesn't have to get very close to the snake for it to be an ID-able photo.
  2. Exact locality information (latitude & longitude are great!).
  3. Observer information (in case there are any questions).

If a specimen is found dead, the specimen will be useful, and must be turned over as soon as possible. Bur remember, this snake is VENOMOUS!  Be advised that reflex actions, which may occur even hours after death, could result in a fatal bite.  A good photo of a dead snake will suffice!


Readers with a deeper interest in this area of our state's wildlife may enjoy LeClere's new book "A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Iowa"     


We Hope That You Are Enjoying the IWTA Newsletter
We'd like to hear from you.
Our thanks to everyone who provided information for this issue.  
Special thanks to Leland Searles for sharing his photo and geologic description of the Whiterock area along the Middle Raccoon River.  Maybe we should invite Mr. Putin for a visit?
Special thanks to Jeff LeClere for sharing his photo and info about the endangered massasauga rattlesnake.  We hope that our readers can contribute a sighting or two to the data base.
As the weather warms, and our WTs begin to see increased activity, we would like to acknowledge the Iowa DNR Rivers Program and Water Trails folks for the concerted effort they are making to address landowner concerns about bad behavior, trash, and safety.  We believe that our IWTA Newsletter readers are among the "good examples" who are helping to solve these problems.  Together, we can deliver the "Keep It Clean--Keep It Fun" message to all of our WT users.
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.  Although we have grown to over 900 subscribers, the success of the IWTA Newsletter will be measured by how much we share, how much we learn, and how much we contribute to improving the Water Trails experience across the state.


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Gregg Stark
Editor, Iowa Water Trails Association Newsletter