Archive for July, 2011

Summer on the Prairie

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Compass plant against a July thunderhead

An upland sandpiper guards a prairie remnant

Wild bergamot attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds

A black swallowtail dries off atop a stiff goldenrod

Insects love partridge pea and other prairie blossoms

RATTLESNAKE! master - uniquely prairie

Blazing star - Liatris pycnostachya

Morning fog drenches a grayhead coneflower

An American lady caterpillar on pussytoes, a favorite food

The beauty of diversity

MilkWEED? Not a weed for a monarch caterpillar!

Spider dew

Dew drops gilding the bluestem . . .

An ever-changing mosaic of color – from butterfly milkweed orange, to coneflower and partridge pea yellow, to bergamot and liatris pink, to Indiangrass green . . .

Butterflies flitting . . .

Caterpillars creeping . . .

Insects buzzing . . .

Busy birds chattering . . .

Summer heat may slow us humans – but the warmth of July and August just make the prairie even more dynamic and lively.

This evening, as the sun sets and the air cools just a bit, take the time to explore a roadside remnant or even a pocket-sized prairie restoration. Or venture out before sunrise, when the dew drenches the grasses and flowers and spider webs. Then try to imagine a beautiful expanse stretching to the horizon – the scene that greeted the first Iowans before the advent of square-mile corn and soybean fields.

For all the diversity and splendor of the prairie flora, my favorite remains the compass plant, Silphium laciniatum.

That’s probably because of Aldo Leopold’s classic essay in “A Sand County Almanac” about the destruction of a roadside prairie.

“What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered,” Leopold lamented, “and perhaps not even asked.”

Need relief from the heat . . .?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

A drink helps . . .

A BIG drink!

Or a bath . . .

If you really SPLASH!

But nothing beats a cold front & a shower . . .

Followed by a cooler forecast!

AWARE – Day 7 – Volga River, Osborne to Littleport

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Teamwork clean-up

Energetic volunteers, an unsurpassable staff, a pretty river, tons of trash (mostly old), a reminder from the weather that this IS Iowa:

Saturday’s final day on AWARE 2011 proved to be a microcosm of the entire 90-mile week.

With canoes, kayaks, chain saws, pick axes, come-alongs, bolt cutters, buckets, and sledge hammers, intrepid river warriors attacked the debris left by decades of floods and abuse.

The effort started July 10 on the Little Turkey River, then continued July 11-15 on the Turkey.

For a slight change of scenery, we hopped over Chicken Ridge from the Turkey to the Volga River on July 16.

A Watershed Awareness River Expedition set some records, as well. About 450 volunteers participated on at least one day. They collected more than 30 tons of junk.

More than 90% of the trash was recycled. The group removed at least 600 tires from the rivers.

Nearly 150 people joined Saturday’s 10-mile float from Osborne to Littleport. Their spirits were dampened only slightly by thundershowers Friday night and several periods of rain on Saturday.

By the time they reached the pull-out, the sun had emerged and most people had dried out.

The shallow, sandy Volga turned more rocky after Cox Creek entered from the right, a couple of miles into the trip. Plenty of bends and snags still kept the paddlers alert, though.

A juvenile bald eagle at its nest, pileated woodpeckers, kingfishers, cedar waxwings, and other birds entertained the paddlers.

After a shuttle back to Osborne Park, AWARE volunteers wrapped up the week with a finale by Laura Zaugg, a naturalist with the Dallas County Conservation Board, and Gary Siegwarth, river expert with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  They urged us to seek “Maka Achante,” a Native American expression for A Sense of Place.

Observe your surroundings, take a deep breath, and get to know “all your family” – the host of fellow creatures with which we share the Earth, Laura suggested.

Take the time to learn the rhythms of the river and to become part of them, Gary advised.

Getting in touch with a river will help you get in touch with the rest of your world – and with yourself, Gary and Laura agreed.

Laura quoted farmer/philosopher Wendell Berry:

“If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/ProjectAWARE.aspx

What a crew!

I'm kinda tired . . .

. . . but mud sure is fun!

Humid? It got even wetter!

Happy Birthday!

Bailey & Grandpa Jim test the waters of Cox Creek

Dinosaur bone?!

Tools of the river warriors

Abbey discovers Mederville

Debris from a UFO?

Rinsing out the shoes

One of 600 . . .

Clearing a channel

Hosing off a layer or two

A l-o-n-g week!

A smudge of prairie sage helps find Maka Achante

Good byes - until next year!

AWARE – Day 6 – Motor Mill to Garber

Friday, July 15th, 2011

AWARE flotilla attacks Turkey trash. Beware!

A record day! Were there really more than 200 people on the river?!

Welcome to the students taking advance placement classes at the U of Iowa.

We always need more friends of the river. Hope you enjoyed the Turkey!

Plenty of tires, especially – but many hands make lighter work.

Weather cooperated through the day and into the evening – but a couple of thundershowers dampened the campers.

Will that much-needed rain raise the level of the Volga enough to help the paddlers on the final AWARE segment Saturday?

Stay tuned!

Salvaging the farm junk

Loaded

Abbey & crew

Swallowtail

Trophy buck?

Beautifying the Turkey

Many hands, light (?) work

Heavy load, heavy water

Kids of all ages love AWARE!

Sorry, Mom. I got a little wet!

Nate & Thor - paddlin' pals

Refueling

White Pine Sierrans dish out the ice cream. THANKS!

AWARE – Day 5 – Frieden’s Park to Motor Mill

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Unforgettable sight - Motor from the river

A gold star for the weather – again! Warm enough to slosh in the water; cool and cloudy enough to avoid a sunburn.

And – perhaps in gratitude for removing the trash – the Turkey River shared some of its scenery and secrets.

Clams inched their way across sunken sandbars. Minnows darted in the shallows. Cedar waxwings and indigo buntings showed off for the paddlers.

A chorus of song sparrows, yellowthroats, catbirds, and robins sang from the thickets.

An immature bald eagle sat calmly near its nest as the flotilla passed underneath.

A flock of young Canada geese swam ahead warily, then waddled up the bank.

Many AWARE volunteers probably caught their breath as they rounded that bend to see historic Motor Mill looming over the Turkey on the far bank.

And as the full moon rose over the valley at dusk, the secret was out:

The Turkey River corridor is about as close as a mortal can get to paradise!

Let’s keep it clean.

Headin' downstream

Plucked from the mud

Teamwork

Aren't rivers fun!

In search of critters

Watchin' the flotilla go by

Scoutin' the shallows

Cleaning up the cliffs - carefully!

Portage is over. Back to work.

Cautious Canadas

Clara's favorite river

Luke's treasures

Campers at Motor

Stories of Motor Mill

Hawk's campfire tunes

AWARE – Day 4 – Elgin to 10-Mile Bridge

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Procession to the launch site

What a perfect July day! Winding river, white clouds, blue sky, slight breeze.

Great crowd for dedication ceremony at Gilbertson Park to celebrate the Turkey River Water Trail.

Plenty of junk in the river on the downstream float – but AWARE volunteers took up the challenge.

John “Chainsaw” Larison dealt harshly with a nasty sweeper that grabbed a couple of canoes. Thanks, John!

Shuttle from the Frieden’s Park day’s end access took paddlers to Elkader park – and showers!

A good place to dry out clothes and camping gear, too.

Many folks capped off the evening at the Elkader Opera House for a lively Big Blue Sky concert to benefit the newly formed Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network.

www.claytoncountycan.com

On to historic Motor Mill on Thursday!

Budding biologists

Up to the challenge

Chainsaw John

washing out the mud

Canoemaran

MORE corn?

Happy to be here!

Pipe dream

The A Team - great support crew!

Making progress!

IPTV will make us famous!

River weaving

Tired? Not me!

Dry clothes at last!

Gary the evangelist

Big Blue Sky at the Opera House

Here's WHY we do it!

AWARE – Day 3 – Turkey River Access to Elgin

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

marshmallow roast

Another delightful day on the river. The scattered showers might have dampened gardeners – but no problem for intrepid canoeists!

Logistics of the midday stop at historic Clermont to unload junk and portage around the dam went as well as could be expected.

Rumor had it that Governor Larrabee even greeted the paddlers.

Gilbertson Park showers and great campsites helped ease tired muscles – as did an evening marshmallow roast.

Wednesday takes us toward Elkader, with pull-out at Frieden Park, and shuttle to Elkader City Park.

AND a Big Blue Sky concert at the Elkader Opera House.

7:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!

Gilbertson campers

trophy hat

trophy trash

eager to paddle

rock talk

bridge habitat

cliff swallows

overloaded

This means you!

Dam(n) portage!

Governor Larrabee, I presume?

on to Elgin

Bram's flags

AWARE – Day 2 – Eldorado to Turkey River Access

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Despite an overnight rainstorm, 100-plus AWARE campers and paddlers enjoyed a bright and productive day.

We retrieved plenty of tires and assorted other junk from the Turkey River.

Also took a little time to swim watch bald eagles and cedar waxwings.

Many camped Monday evening at Gilbertson Park at Elgin, where we’ll make another overnight stop Tuesday.

AWARE – Day 1 – Gouldsburg to Eldorado

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

More than 150 paddlers made the sparkling waters of the Little Turkey and Turkey Rivers even cleaner by hauling out old tires, appliances, car parts, barbed wire, and assorted other junk.

Bald eagles, great blue herons, kingfishers, killdeers, sandpipers, muskrats, turkey vultures, and a bewildered fawn supervised the volunteers.

On down the Turkey from Eldorado on  Monday.

What a beautiful part of the world!

AWARE Cleans Up the Turkey

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Project AWARE kicked off Sunday, July 10, from Gouldsburg Park in Fayette County.

The annual river clean-up will spend 6 days on the Little Turkey, Turkey, and Volga Rivers.

More than 400 people could participate one or more days.

For details, check out http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/ProjectAWARE.aspx

See you on the river?!

FOOD keeps AWARE going

AWARE campers