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Enjoy the Fourth safely so you can go forth on the fifth

July 3, 2010

The CONSERVATION CENTER is a magnet for anyone who wants to explore and learn about nature. Three dioramas complete with mounted specimens of native wildlife are displayed in habitat scenes. Look for details about the life and times of these critters and try to find all the hidden species. Hands on objects are available to touch and hold. Wildlife specimens are everywhere from ceiling to floor. The library holds a vast array of outdoor periodicals and books. The library window offers close up and personal viewing of birds at the feeders.

The operations center for administration of all properties and programs of the Marshall County Conservation Board is located here. The staff works behind the scenes to plan for and care for 2,052 acres of other public natural resource lands all over the County. This is the office of the director, Mike Stegmann. Naturalist Diane Pixler's planning work for programs also takes place at the Center.

This weekend, a long holiday weekend for most people, local county conservation areas offer many things to do and places to go. Hiking the upland footpath trails at Grammer Grove is one option where tall trees and wildflowers await. The Marietta Sand Prairie Preserve is another where native grasslands and forbs paint their mosaic colors across the land. Camping with an RV at Timmons Grove (south) is available too. Green Castle's 16 acre lake offers fishing or a quiet place to relax with family for an afternoon picnic. Make sure to walk the trails, look at the bison and swans, or meander through a reconstructed prairie.

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The Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm is an oasis of information and displays about nature, the wildlife of Iowa, and is a place for people of all ages to gather to learn about natural resources. The Center opened in October, 2003 and has hosted guests from nearly every state and many foreign countries. It is a major destination for area visitors and users of the Marshalltown area bicycle path system. The Conservation Center is located about 1/2 mile west of Highland Acres Road on 233rd Street. Hours open to the public are M-F 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.

River access points are available too. However, especially this weekend, as the result of heavy rains during the past two weeks, river stages are very high and dangerous. The best advice is to not go boating, canoeing or tubing on a flooded river. Flood waters are to be respected for their great power and unforgiving nature. A mistake on flooded water is one that may be your last.

A brochure that lists all MCCB conservation properties is available at the Conservation Center. In addition, specific brochures of any area of interest may also be gathered to read and help you explore the area at your leisure. Check out these tremendous opportunities close to home for part of your July 4th weekend plans.


Iowa's big flood control reservoirs are going to be as full as they can get. Highway 30 west of Boone, looks like a boat ramp. One must detour far to the north to find a bridge to cross. But back at the spillway to Saylorville, water over the top has been on the news. When it topped the emergency spillway several years ago, rushing water cut an erosion channel deep into the bedrock. After all was dry a few months later, a visitor could walk among huge stones dislodged and sitting in places not of their origin. Such is the power and force of rushing water.

A similar setting at the overflow channel at Coralville near Iowa City did the same in 1993. I have walked along the interpretive trail where Devonian aged rocks were swept clean of any ancient overburden of other rocks and soil. Earth history was revealed in the exposed layers.

While today's news may carry sensational stories and lots of 'Monday morning quarterback' comments about man's ability to control flooding, remember this: Mother Nature rules. If she wants to let lots of rain fall over a long period of time, there is nothing us mortal humans can do but adapt to rising water levels. We should have learned a long time ago about the folly of building homes and businesses on the flood plain. We would not purposefully stand in traffic and expect cars and trucks to avoid us. Then why do we put ourselves in harms way where a river can catch us? Hmmmm.

Compared to past geologic events with major flooding, the appropriate term would be "You ain't seen nothing yet." Yes, the present flood situation is serious. Just in the Iowa River watershed during the initial millennia of the Wisconsinan Glacial Ice retreat, summer melt waters were huge in content. The entire river valley was covered in a torrent of turbulent flooding. When each winter season returned, ice melt from the glacier was turned off. The exposed river valley sands and gravels were now exposed to severe high winds. The force of moving air was strong enough to pile up lots of sand in huge dune-like deposits.

If you want to walk on ancient sand dunes in Marshall County, the Marietta Sand Prairie covers those dunes. So too does some farmland, homes and forests along the east bank of the Iowa River along the Sand Road between Marshalltown and Albion.


A TRUMPETER SWAN was observed a few days ago swimming in the borrow pit pond along the north side of Timmons Grove. This water area is serving a good cause for wildlife, a side benefit of the construction of the river bridge over the Iowa River. This spring at ice out time, many Bald Eagles fed on dead fish in this area.


Here is another BIG BIRD story for you. Do plan to attend the Mid Iowa Tom Callers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation summer banquet. The date is July 17th, just two weeks away. The banquet will be held at Marshalltown's American Legion. Wild Turkeys are a conservation success story to celebrate. Your membership in the NWTF is just one way to support conservation causes. Tickets and information can be secured from Michael Thorton at 1303 N Elm St, Apt 13, Creston, IA 50801 or call him at 641-202-7024.


In my home county of Bremer, near Waverly, a Black Bear disturbed a resident's bee hives as it traveled south along the Cedar River. It was last seen along the Wapsipinicon River in Buchanan County. This young black bear is most assuredly not welcome in the home territory of Minnesota or Wisconsin where other dominant bears live.


Some folks are slow learners: In Wisconsin recently, 13 people were arrested for having 2,238 Bluegill, Crappie and other fish over limit. This all took place in the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County on May 21. Potential forfeiture, restitution and fines could total $71,283!


A reminder that July 7 is the date for the next preschool story hour at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. The theme for this session is Busy Bees. The story hour is held the first and third Wednesday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m.

July 10, is the annual "Fun Run" at the GrimesFarm. There is something for everyone. Cross country run with 5K, 10K, and 1.6 mile, trails to run or walk, and kids' races too. Cash prizes will be awarded for 1st and 2nd place Male and Female in the 5K and 10K events. Entry forms are available at the Conservation Center or contact Carrie Barr at 752-9778 for more information.

Plan now to join the MCCB Brown Bag Bunch on July 20 from 9 a.m. 3 p.m. for a tour of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. The group will carpool from the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. Register by July 12 by calling 752-5490.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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