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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright's Birthday at Cedar Rock

Join us for a celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Birthday at the Walters Residence - Cedar Rock State Park on June 6.

When Iowa businessman Lowell Walter died in August of 1981, he and his wife, Agnes, left their dream home, Cedar Rock, to the Iowa Conservation Commission and the people of Iowa. Designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the residence lies on a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River near Quasqueton in Buchanan County. Cedar Rock is one of seven residences Wright designed in Iowa.

The Walter house was one of Wright's most complete designs. Nearly everything at Cedar Rock bears the architect's imprint. Wright designed the furniture, selected the carpets, chose the draperies and even picked out the accessories. Cedar Rock was begun in 1948 and completed in 1950. It's roof and floors are concrete; the walls are brick, glass and walnut.

The Walter house is an example of a simplified style of house Frank Lloyd Wright developed and called "Usonian". The plan for the Walter house follows the characteristic "tadpole" form, typical of Wright's Usonian homes - the bedroom wing of the house constituting the tail of the "tadpole" and the living/dining room the head. The house is one story and the overall length is about 150 feet.

Everything about the Walter residence is compact and efficient - everything, that is, but the combination living/dining room which Wright called "the Garden Room". The Garden Room covers more than 900 square feet and has a fireplace which can hold five-foot logs.

The view of the river and wooded valley, through the Garden Room's three glass walls, is breathtaking. Glass doors open directly from living areas to ground-level terraces.

Natural light fills the house. Broad overhangs with upturned edges soften sunlight and shade the glass walls. There are openings in the overhangs covered with vines for summer shade. Clerestory windows, or "skylights", are incorporated in every room to brighten interior spaces and release hot air trapped near the ceiling. Recessed artificial lighting creates the effect of natural light, even at night.

The Walters were justifiably proud of Cedar Rock. Very little has been altered in the house since its construction and the structure and furnishings are in good condition.

Cedar Rock State Park - Candle Light Walk

When: Saturday, June 6, 2009 - 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

What: Celebrate the 142nd anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's upcoming birthday. Take this chance to enjoy the estate by luminary light. The typically inaccessible maid's quarters and boat pavilion will be open. Birthday refreshments will be served around a fire at the Walter House grounds. Guests meet at the Cedar Rock visitor center.

Questions can be directed to or by calling the park office at 319-934-3572.

Friday, May 22, 2009

'Primitive' Campsites Lure Those Looking for Getaway

'Primitive' campsites lure those looking for getaway

By Orlan Love, The Gazette

Campers who want to commune with nature rather than the occupants of recreational vehicles can find plenty of good places to pitch their tents.

Though the trend has been to accommodate RVs by upgrading campsites with electricity, water and sewer hookups and even wireless Internet access, most state- and county-operated parks still provide ample opportunities for campers to rough it, says Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Department of Natural Resources Parks Bureau.

Iowa's state park system has 2,706 electrified campsites and 1,977 primitive sites. About half in each category can be reserved, with the other half available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The conservation departments in Iowa's 99 counties operate a combined 11,500 sites, about half of which are primitive, says Tom Hazelton, special programs manager for Linn County Conservation Department.

"People flock to scenic vistas and water, and the trend has been to improve the most popular sites with amenities, but some people just like to camp the old-fashioned way," Hazelton says.

One such person is Harry Graves, director of the Johnson County Conservation Department.

"We are tent people," Graves says of wife Ellie and himself. "When we go camping, we are out to enjoy nature rather than neighbors. We like being able to set up camp on a moment's notice, wherever we happen to be.

"Tent camping is no longer synonymous with primitive camping, though, Graves says.

"A fair number of tent campers pick electric sites for their fans, televisions and cell phone chargers," he says. Around holidays, like the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, primitive campers enjoy another advantage — less competition for sites. While most primitive sites do fill up, they are the last to do so, says Linn County's Hazelton.

The 1,624-acre Matsell Bridge Natural Area in eastern Linn County has about a dozen "pack-in" campsites along the Wapsipinicon River that provide rustic camping at its finest, he says. "You can't drive to them. You have to carry everything you need, including water, so they're generally not crowded," he says.

The 340-acre Wakpicada Natural Area along the Wapsipinicon, south of Central City, is also popular with primitive campers, Hazelton says. "It's dark at night at Wakpicada," he says.

Linn County provides 581 sites at 24 campgrounds, with slightly more than half of them unimproved.

In Johnson County, the Hills Access and the River Junction Access each provide about a dozen primitive sites along the Iowa River, and 48 of the 84 sites at F.W. Kent Park near Tiffin are non-electric, Graves says.

The Jones County Conservation Department offers 43 primitive sites at its Central Park, says director Larry Gullett."Tent camping really appeals to people who like to paddle and fish the river systems," he says.

The Wapsipinicon in Jones and Jackson counties is classified as a meandered stream, which means camping is permitted on its sandbars, Gullet says. The Maquoketa River is a non-meandered stream, which means landowner permission is required to camp on its sandbars, he says."Always ask first. Most of the landowners are cooperative as long as its not a large group intent upon partying," he says.

For campers who really want to get away from it all, Szcodronski recommends the three state forests in Eastern Iowa: Yellow River, 8,503 acres in Allamakee County; Shimek, 9,148 acres in Lee and Van Buren counties; and Stephens, 15,170 acres in Lucas, Clarke, Monroe, Appanoose and Davis counties.

"This is primitive camping at its best. ... You've got latrines, fire rings and picnic tables, and the rest is up to you," he says.

© 2009 Gazette Communications

Monday, May 18, 2009

Make Visiting Iowa Parks Tradition

Did you know that Iowa ranks almost last in the nation for spending on State Parks? If you love camping in Iowa this is a sad thought.

Iowa's young adults are leaving the state every year in search of more areas to recreate outdoors. I went to college in Colorado for a while and I met dozens of people at my college who moved to there for the same reason I did; for the camping, hiking trails, parks, water trails, and the list goes on.

More support and money for parks in Iowa means we won't have to leave the state in order to have fun outside!

Still, Iowa's parks are amazing places with good lakes for fishing and swimming, winding woodland trails for hiking, fields for Frisbee and kites. nearby places of quiet beauty where you can relax, relieve stress and have fun without spending a lot of money.

Fifty three state parks also have overnight camping from primitive tenting sites to those with all the RV hookups you want. Others have camping cabins with even more comforts of home.

See what you are missing by visiting a State Park AT LEAST once during the upcoming camping season. Camping kick-off weekend is May 1, 2 and 3. Campers in an Iowa State Park during May 1, 2 and 3 will receive a gift package that includes a camping coupon good for one night of camping at an electrical site, a free issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine, recipes, camping tips and more in a reusable mesh trash bag. The theme for the May 1 - 3 Camping Kick-off Weekend is to be a green camper.

Reservations can be made by going to, or by calling 1-877-IAPARKS (M-F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm CDT). You do not need a reservation to obtain a campsite; about half are available by first-come-first-served.

If you want to do even more to support Iowa State Parks, go to All profits from the Iowa Nature Store go directly to the improvement of our State Parks. You'll find new apparel, hats, bags, and books.

For Iowa bicycle enthusiasts, the Nature Store has a new book for sale titled "Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail." The book guides you on the Mississippi River Trail, turn by turn. It takes you from Itasca State Park in Minnesota, to the southernmost point in Louisiana, on the Gulf of Mexico (a 2000-mile journey!). Maybe you just want to ride through Iowa or maybe you want to tackle the whole 2000 miles. However far you want to ride, this is a great resource for all who love to bike.

Visit for more information about Iowa State Parks.

Lauren Burt, Des Moines

Monday, May 11, 2009

Join in Preserving State Park Buildings

What better month than May, National Preservation Month, to look also at the state parks buildings that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps boys.

We as citizens who still enjoy the labors of those men and those buildings should take the time to thank a living CCC man and remember those men who are not with us to benefit from their labors.Most of those buildings have outlived the men who built them. The cost of going to the state parks is still very small, if not free. Without the labors of our fathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers, where would we go to swim, have picnics and reunions and just enjoy a spring day and all the rest of the seasons?

Early conservation efforts are still visible through the historical buildings at the state parks and natural resources preservation, including farming and other conservation/land methods. I invite all who are interested in Iowa's state parks to join the efforts of our CCC chapter in obtaining a CCC worker's statue for Lacey Keosauqua State Park and becoming a part of the preservation of the park buildings we so enjoy.

- Sharon Ewing, president, Iowa Hawkeye Chapter, CCC Legacy, New London

DNR Says Budget Cuts Will Hurt Park Upkeep

By Pat Curtis

Visitors to Iowa's state parks could face overgrown grass and overflowing trash cans this summer. State parks bureau chief Kevin Szcodronski says cleaning and mowing will be reduced because of budget cuts.

"So, we really need the help of park visitors to understand what we're going through and understand that we're trying our best," Szcodronski said. "But, we know it's not going to be good enough. It's not going to be up to our standards, but there's not much we can do."

The state hiring freeze has also affected the state parks workforce. There are eight out of roughly 100 full-time jobs that are being left vacant. "That's going to be noticeable," Szcodronski said. "We have some parks that may only have one full-time person assigned to them now."

The state parks also hire seasonal help in the summer, but Szcodronski says the hours those employees typically work could be cut in half. Szcodronski says federal stimulus dollars could help the situation. Iowa has applied for funding through the Americorps and Youthcorps programs.

"They're basically programs that are available at 100-percent federal funding to bring young adults and other people into the parks to help us. We're going to find out about that in a couple weeks. We applied for lots and lots of those workers," Szcodronski said. "So, if we get that and can find the people to fill those slots, we're going to be in a lot better shape this summer and next summer."

Szcodronski says the D.N.R. is also working to make facilities at the state parks more energy efficient. Over the past year, nearly $750,000 have been spent to upgrade utilities.

From Radio Iowa -