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Lazy river tube floating a good summer adventure

July 23, 2011

The IOWA RIVER is peaceful at the moment. It's flow rate is low and slow compared to its potential during flooding times. But for now, the river is not angry and is willing to allow people to enjoy the pleasures of its quiet warm waters, scenic views, and summer wildlife of deer, otter, raccoon, great blue herons, kingfishers, crows and maybe even a wild turkey or two.

The Iowa River is about 300 miles long from its origin at Crystal Lake in Hancock County. It empties into the Mississippi River near Wapello. The total watershed of the Iowa River is 12,499 square miles and if one uses Marshalltown as the point of reference, there are only 1,532 square miles of drainage above us. It is that watershed that contributes a lot of water when long rainy episodes of weather impact the land. Rivers in all watersheds react to too much water and rise accordingly.

Water in the river is what we see. However, have you ever contemplated the amount of water we can't see? Probably not. Take these not so trivial scientific points for instance. The crust of the earth, both its ocean crust and above water crust is on average about 41 miles thick.In proportion, that is about the thickness of the skin of an apple. Next time you take a big juicy red apple and cut it in half, look at its red skin layer compared to all the rest of the fruit body inside.

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Tubers are getting set for their Iowa River float last weekend from Timmons Grove County Park to Marshalltown. With the river at a low stage, this summer sizzler outdoor adventure can be a lot of fun on a hot and muggy day. The inner tubes were tied together to form one large flotilla. Lots of sandbars just under the surface make for portions of the trip where one could choose to wade in the water. The river distance from Timmons to Center Street Dam is 6.1 miles. Another 1.1 miles gets floaters to the boat ramp at Marshalltown's Riverview Park.

Fresh water is held within lakes, rivers and ponds of the land. That is what we can see. Underground, and within the pores of rock strata called aquifers, is also a lot of water. It is estimated that there is at least 30 times more water in these places than all of earth's fresh water lakes combined. Another estimate puts the volume of stored underground water at 3,000 times all the world's streams and rivers combined. The earth has about 2 million cubic miles of fresh water in all above and below ground sources. About 50 percent of this water is within the first one half mile of the land's surface. This little factoid is also worth contemplating: The total supply of water on earth is 326 million cubic miles. Each cubic mile of water contains over one trillion gallons. This water is constantly being recycled through evaporation into the clouds which eventually falls again as rain.

If one could put a special identifying marker on a single molecule of water and trace its travels over geologic time, its journey of places seen, animals and plants nourished, floods and droughts, glaciers built and melted time and time again, you would need a very large journal to post the history of that water molecule.

One problem people have is that all this water is not equally available, accessible or even economically obtainable. That is why some areas of earth's surface are blessed with too much rain, just the right amount or way too little of this precious life giving product. Water is a life line for life on earth. We must use it but we must use it wisely. The next time you take a tube float down the Iowa River, I'm sure all these facts will be the last thing on your mind. Have fun and stay safe on the water.


Water for DUCKS has been especially plentiful this year in all of the nesting territories of the Dakotas and southern Canada. Lots of summer rains and lots of winter snows from last year combined to create an almost perfect scenario for waterfowl flights this fall. "At this point, there is no bad news," say officials of both state wildlife agencies and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Overall bird count tallies of May breeding birds pegged the numbers at 45.6 million, up 11 percent from 2010. Compared to long term averages, waterfowl numbers are up 35 percent.

Some of the good numbers from the survey include a 41 percent jump for bluewing teal (8.9 million), a 26 percent increase for pintail (4.4 million), and mallards have seen a 9 percent growth (9.2 million) compared to 2010. Between now and fall migration time, a lot can happen. But for now, the potential is very good for excellent numbers of ducks in the air.


Iowa waterfowl seasons will be established at the August 11 Iowa DNR Commission meeting. Stay tuned for details on early and late duck seasons, goose starting dates and special controlled area regulations.

For the bulk of other game and furbearer seasons, the DNR Commission has finalized the dates. One can find them posted on their web site or soon to be published regulation booklets. A DNR news release from July 19 has the almost complete list for hunters to review.


One of the new natural history displays at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center relates to the American Bison. It is very well done and shows the uses that this large charismatic animal was put to as it provided life for Native American Indians throughout the plains states. Every part of the animal is noted for some practical use above and beyond the meat used to feed people. It is worth your time to explore and learn more about the American Bison. Conservation Center public hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday.


It is now approximately 30 days since the official first day of summer began. On June 21, the day length for those of us in the Marshalltown area was 15 hours and 15 minutes long. Today, the day length has already shortened to 14 hours 45 minutes, a decrease of 30 minutes later for sunrise. Since June 21, our little earth has traveled one-twelfth of its orbital distance around the sun or about 48 million miles. The earth travels about 1.6 million miles each day. For us and everything on the planet, we are cruising along at about 67,000 miles per hour. Winter is getting closer. If that makes you feel cooler this summer, that is OK by me.


The final Marshall County hunter safety course for this year at the Izaak Walton League Grounds is coming up on August 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and August 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Completion of a hunter safety course is required for anyone who wishes to buy a hunting license born after Jan. 1, 1972. Must be 12 or older. Register for this free 10-hour class at


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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