Say hello to summer

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG - An immature common loon at Sand Lake seemed to enjoy warm air temps and longer days. While observing this common loon in water not too far from the Sand Lake boat ramp, the big bird would dive to chase fish unseen by humans on the shore. After a minute or so of having disappeared, the bird would pop up to the surface. Where it would reappear was always a guessing game for me and my camera. However, luckily the loon was relatively close to shore in good light. I was ready with a long lens to capture many images and even luckier to capture the bird exercising its wings. At the end of each episode of wing stretching, it would hold its head up high, perhaps a tribute to good times and to say hello to summer.

SUMMER is only five days away. As we all know, the longest daylight hours of our days will happen during soon. In fact, we are already in the phase of earliest sunrises for the year between June 9 and June 21 when the clock reaches 5:34 a.m. If one is awake at 30 minutes before official sunrise, you will note the eastern sky losing its darkness. Lots of birds already know this and are busy chirping and singing, ready to begin a new day of food hunting.

Latest sunsets have a slightly different schedule from June 22 to July 3 when sunsets are at 8:50 p.m. Again, roughly 30 minutes later, called twilight, is when darkness sets in in earnest for the rest of the night. Now if one takes the averages of sunrise times and sunset times, the longest daylight hours will be 15 hours and 15 minutes between June 18 and June 25. After that, total daylight hours begin a slow retreat during the entire summer season. The last day of summer is on Sept. 22. That day length will be 12 hours and 13 minutes long for those of us residing at 42 degrees, 6 minutes, 27 seconds north latitude. Summer season, or solstice, is June 21. Get ready to say hello to summer.

WARM AIR TEMPERATURES of summer will slowly warm the waters of rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. It takes quite awhile for water temps to catch up with warmer air above. Water never really equalizes its temperature to the average above water air temp. So paddlers of kayaks or canoes need to be aware that float trip excursions to recreational waters will likely still have cold or certainly cool water under your watercraft. Why is this important? Planning ahead for a fun day of casual floating downriver, for example, means taking into account what the water temperature is. We have all tested the water with hands or by wading into the water before launching. Our first reaction is likely to be that the water is colder than we thought. And if misfortune should have a capsizing of your craft happen, you will instantly know what cold water feels like. Even in summer, getting wet may change a recreational day into a survival day.

It is easy to assume that nice warm summer air temps also means the river, pond or lake water is also warm. Not. And here is where planning ahead must be dealt with. Dress for the weather and take additional clothes for adverse conditions that may present themselves. Winds can make a kayak or canoe float fun if the wind is at your back. Fun if the sun shines. Not so much fun if a strong wind is always in your face. You will have to paddle harder and gain less momentum with each paddle stroke to get from point A to point B. And not so much fun if a rain storm strikes and cold rain water begins to dampen and then saturate your clothes. Wet clothes and wind will rob body heat quickly, perhaps too quickly. If you do not have proper gear to deal with the weather, you could be in for a long and miserable journey before a take-out point is reached. For safety sake this summer, plan ahead. And let family or others know where your river or lake adventure will begin and when you plan to be returning.

THE IOWA RIVER has fallen slowly from its recent peak flood stage of May 25. At that time the Iowa River crested at about 18.40 feet, or roughly six to seven feet above a ‘normal’ and safer low flow rate. As of last Wednesday, the river stage was 12.38 feet. Many sandbars within inside curves of the river or elsewhere are maybe only 12 inches from the surface. Given a few more warmer and dryer days, evidence of sandbars starting to show themselves will become apparent. Canoeists and kayakers will look for darker water from the perspective of the water craft. The darker water meandering between river banks is the deeper water where each paddle stroke can cleanly bite into enough water for efficient propulsion and navigation away from dangerous tree debris snags.

In Marshall County, canoe/kayak put-in and take-out points are located at the Forest Reserve, Timmons Grove, Riverview Park, Furrow Access, and Three Bridges County Park. You can find river information at the Grimes Farm & Conservation Center during their regular weekday business hours. From the Hardin/Marshall County line to the Marshall/Tama County line, the Iowa River flows for 29 miles. Plan ahead to paddle only the amount of distance you want to undertake.

THREE HUNDRED FIFTY TWO MILES is the total length of the Iowa River from its headwaters in Crystal Lake in Hancock County to its meeting at the Mississippi River in Louisa County. Several teams of folks have endeavored to paddle its entire length. In 1996, for just one example, Lori Willert and Jerald Swanson decided to trek the entire length of the Iowa River. It tool them 116.5 hours and fourteen days. They estimated each made 15,000 paddle strokes per day. Multiply 15K by 14 days and one gets approximately 210,000 paddles. It was a lot of work, and fun, and lots of notebook entries to finish the journey and write about it.

A bit over two weeks ago, a young man, Ryan Adams, who is working on his outdoor photojournalism course from the University of Iowa stopped to camp at Timmons Grove. We visited at length about the river and what he could expect downstream. He told me about what he had already encountered upstream. It was interesting to hear of his observations of how the river begins as a small drainage ditch one can jump over, to wider and wider dimensions as every tributary adds to the volume of the river and to a wider and wider channel. I gave him pointers for items to note as he traveled. Ryan was recording many observations with his go-pro camera, cellphone camera and log book entries. When he finishes his journey at the junction of the Mississippi River, his challenge will be to concisely edit all his material into a package for class presentation. My hunch is that Ryan will receive a very good grade. I wish him the best of luck on his paddling trip down the Iowa River.

NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES are are system within the United States, a network of 567 wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within one hour’s driver of most metropolitan areas. Americans by the tune of about 55 million of us, will visit one of these refuges every year. These lands and waters provide vital habitat for critters great and small. And these lands offer prime fishing, hunting and other recreational opportunities.

A proposal is now in the works to make it easier for access for people wanting to fish, or hunt, or hike at 74 of these wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries across 42 states. The proposal is not new acres, just making available by access what is already in the refuge system. To do this, managers will simplify certain refuge regulations such as dates and hunting hours to fall in line with state regulations. Having the same dates and hours as states have on state lands, takes confusion and regulatory burdens off the table. That will make it easier for fisher folks and hunters.

National survey data concerning hunting and fishing opportunities have shown that one of the main reasons people either quit or never start these outdoor pursuits is due to lack of quality places to go. The proposal will help address this issue. For example, near Prairie City at the Neal Smith NWR, 330 acres within the existing refuge have been identified to expand migrating game bird, upland game and big game hunting. At DeSoto NWR near Missouri Valley, 1,604 acres will be expanded to allow dates for big game hunting to align with what Iowa already has in effect on its lands.

Iowa has other national wildlife refuges such as the Upper Mississippi. Many lands bordering the big river in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin are part of this refuge. Iowa also has Port Louisa NWR near Wapello, and Union Slough NWR in Kossuth County.

After the comment period for this proposal has been accomplished, and if enacted, it will take effect this fall for the 2019-2020 hunting seasons. This is a straight forward and sensible proposal says USFWS Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Support for this proposal can be sent to www.regulations.gov and cite docket number FWS-HQ-NWRS-2019-0040.

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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.