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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RAGBRAI CYCLING NORTH - Great Parks along the 2010 RAGBRAI Route

Great Parks along the 2010 RAGBRAI Route - Sioux City

By now you have a lot of miles in the saddle and are probably anxious to be biking on RAGBRAI next week. You may even have packed your “Bike It” shirt from the Iowa Nature Store.

After you arrive in Sioux City on Saturday and get settled in at a campground or with your host family, you will want to get a few miles in and stretch those legs a little. I suggest you will be very happy with a little ride north to Stone State Park and Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center. The center tells the story of the geology, plants and animals of the loess hills region of western Iowa and features a variety of interpretive displays, including a "walk-under" prairie, a 400-gallon aquarium of native fish, and natural history dioramas. A children's discovery area provides opportunity to handle furs, antlers, fossils, and other artifacts. Two miles of hiking trails exist around the nature center. The center is managed by the Woodbury County Conservation Board. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was located in the northwestern area of the park from 1935 to 1939. The CCC were responsible for constructing the majority of the park's facilities, including: entrance portals, staff residences, the Calumet shelter, and the rustic stone lodge. The Nature Center will be open on Saturday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

Monday, July 19, 2010

RAGBRAI Next Week - Algona & Clear Lake - Find Refuge and Explore Natural Spaces Along the Way!

Monday and Tuesday - Find Refuge and Explore Natural Spaces!

So - You are heading out on
RAGBRAI next week with 20,000 or so of your closest friends. You've downloaded and printed copies of the 2010 "Learn about the Land" RAGBRAI brochures to learn what makes up the landscape during the 2010 Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa and you've taken a look at our earlier post about Stone State Park in Sioux City.

Now it is Monday afternoon and you're peddling into
Algona. Be sure to take some time to visit Ambrose A. Call State Park. A. A. Call State Park is a 138 acre "oasis" of rugged hills heavily wooded with virgin timber in an area of gently rolling farmland. The park is located near the east fork of the Des Moines River.

Ambrose Call and his brother, Asa, were early settlers in the area who carved their claim, the first in Kossuth County, on a walnut tree at the present site of the park. The brothers spent their first night in Kossuth County on July 9, 1854. The next day, while Asa went for his wife and supplies, Ambrose and a traveling companion, William Smith, began work on a cabin in what is now the state park.

The two brothers founded the town of Algona, and in 1861 Ambrose established the ALGONA PIONEER PRESS, the first newspaper in that section of the State. For years these pioneers labored to secure railroads and develop their town and county, working also for the material interests and settlement of northwestern Iowa. Ambrose has acquired large interests in land and business enterprises in Algona and has expended his means freely in the improvements which have made Algona one of the most prosperous towns of northwestern Iowa.

Seventy-one years later, in 1925,
Mrs. Gardner Cowles, (in 1904 her husband Gardnes Cowles Sr. purchased a struggling Des Moines newspaper that was $180,000 in debt and had a circulation of about 14,000 - later to become the Des Moines Register) made a gift of land to the state in memory of her father, Ambrose A. Call. The park was dedicated in 1929.

An authentic log cabin sits on the property and is constructed of elm logs, some exceeding 18 inches in diameter, which is typical of cabins built by the original settlers in the area. Four men were needed to put the logs in place. The cabin in the park is located in the approximate location of the first log cabin in Kossuth County. It was moved from the August Zahlten homestead to the park.

The rugged and heavily wooded park offers two miles of trails that wind through the forest, down a ravine, and along a picturesque winding creek. Many species of shrubs, flowers and trees can be found at A.A. Call.

Map It - The park is located in Kossuth County, approximately 1.5 miles southwest of Algona.

Perhaps your support team will want to venture north to Union Slough National Wildlife Preserve near Titonka as a side trip. From Algona, take Highway 169 north to Bancroft; turn right (east) on county road A-42, and proceed six miles.

After an easy ride from Algona, you'll be coasting into Clear Lake on Tuesday afternoon. You'll be close to three areas of natural interest while visiting the Clear Lake area. The 992 acre Ventura Marsh Wildlife Management Area is located on the west end of the lake.

In June of this year we experienced some history in the making. For the first time in more than a century, wild sandhill cranes are successfully nesting in Cerro Gordo County. In June of this year, a single crane chick [more properly called crane colt] emerged from a nest located in a remote and boggy section of the Ventura Marsh. Within hours of hatch, the ever vigilant parent cranes were already shepherding their gangly newborn across the area's thickly vegetated terrain in search of high protein menu items. The state’s last known nesting of sandhill cranes occurred in May 1894 on a marsh located to the north of Hancock County’s Eagle Lake. The nesting attempt failed when collectors pirated the eggs.

Along the north shore of
Clear Lake you'll find McIntosh Woods State Park. The park has a point or peninsula of land jutting out into the lake. This area includes an unsupervised beach which is popular for swimmers of all ages.

Map It - McIntosh Woods State Park is located on the northwest shore of beautiful 3,684-acre Clear Lake. The 60-acre park, purchased in 1943, is an oasis of nature in an area of residential, commercial and agricultural land.

Along the south shore of Clear Lake you'll find
Clear Lake State Park.

Map It - Clear Lake State Park is located on the southeast shore of beautiful 3,643-acre Clear Lake.

Clear Lake is one of the major outdoor recreation
features of northern Iowa. Although the state park is only 55 acres in size, it offers a tremendous diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities due to its location on the lake as well as its natural beauty. The park is characterized by gently rolling ground with open, mature groves of oak trees. Several small draws and thickets provide habitat for owls, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, rabbits, many species of songbirds and an occasional deer. Scenic Woodford Island is a 3-acre island managed primarily for wildlife habitat and is an excellent spot for fishing.

Clear Lake State Park began in 1924 with the acquisition of land now occupied by the picnic area. In the following year, the remaining area of the present beach was purchased. In the 1960s and 1970s, additional property was acquired in order to provide enhanced outdoor recreation opportunity and visitor enjoyment. Woodford Island was donated to the state in 1971 by the Woodford family.

Clear Lake is a spring-fed lake formed by glacial action some 14,000 years ago. It has a surface area of about 3,600 acres and measures seven miles long and two and one-half miles wide. The elevation of the lake is 1,247 feet above sea level and it is nearly 100 feet above the surrounding countryside, giving it the appearance of an inverted saucer setting above the area around it. Its elevation is actually higher than the top of the tallest building in the neighboring community of Mason City.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CCC Statue Dedication - Lacey Keosauqua State Park

CCC Worker Statue introduces Iowans to CCC heritage across the state.

As enrollees struggled with the hard labor associated with renewing America's natural resources, they were grateful to have "three hots and a cot". With one seedling, or one stone, or one shovel of soil, they were building the infrastructure for the national recreational and conservation systems that we enjoy today. As they worked, we wonder if they would have thought that monuments would be built to honor the daily labor that became so essential to their well being.

You might be interested in reading some of the oral history interviews from several of the Iowa CCC participants. You will find them here.

Monuments tell a story and are a long term exhibit that can be meaningful to many generations. The CCC Worker Statue is a monument to the builders of modern conservation. One facet of the national CCC interpretive campaign is the goal to have one bronze CCC Worker Statue in each state.

The effort in Iowa was led by the Iowa Hawkeye Chapter of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Iowa Hawkeye Chapter Legacy is the only chapter in Iowa at this time but they are hoping that CCC legacy will have more chapters and would like to see other statues at parks here in Iowa. For more information about the Iowa Hawkeye Chapter contact Sharon Ewing, President Iowa Hawkeye Chapter CCC Legacy at 319-931-7307.

Put it on your calendar!

July 31, 2010, Keosauqua - Join the "Friends of Lacey" and the Iowa Hawkeye Chapter of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Lacey Keosauqua State Park at 10:00 am for the placement of the first statue in Iowa honoring the men of the Civilian Conservation Corp. This will be held at the J-40 entrance of Lacey Keosauqua State Park.

Iowa's State Parks - Events This Weekend

Black Hawk State Park - Summer Water Carnival
Friday, July 16, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
In the town bay area of Lake View. Local food stands, carnival rides, free entertainment all three days. Also kids parade, kids talent show, waffle feed, street parade, and evening parade of floats on the lake. More specific information can be found at

Lake Anita State Park - Christmas in July
Friday, July 16, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Decorate your campsite for the Christmas in July celebration. There will be a campsite decorating contest, visit from Santa and Christmas movies. Sponsored by the Friends of Lake Anita.

Backbone State Park - Christmas in July
Saturday, July 17, 2010 - 10:00 am - noon and 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Games for the whole family starting with boat races at 10:00 am at the Boat House, games in the campground from 2 to 4 pm. There will be a visit from Santa, a drawing and horse drawn carriage rides starting at 6:00 pm. The campsite judging will start after dark and prizes will be awarded that night.

Mines of Spain State Park - Nature Day for Kids - Scavenger Hunt
Saturday, July 17, 2010
10:00 - noon, meet at EB Lyons Intepretive Center

Mines of Spain State Park - Canoe Trip
Sunday, July 18 2010
Meet at Catfish Creek at 12:30

RAGBRAI 2010 "Learn About the Land"

RAGBRAI 2010 "Learn About the Land" Brochures Now Available Online

Going on its sixth year, RAGBRAI enthusiasts can find out what makes up the landscape during the 2010 Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with the "Learn about the Land" seven-day set of RAGBRAI brochures.

This joint project between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey, and Iowa Limestone Producers Association highlights the land, history, parks, and other natural resources that cyclists will cross this month. This year's route has the distinction of crossing over all of Iowa's major landform regions in one of the flattest ride's ever.

Maps and cross sections included in the seven-day series will help participants locate nearby parks, cities and landmarks, including West Bend's famous "Grotto of the Redemption," on day two, and Rockford Fossil and Prairie Park on day four. Bikers will also learn about resources buried beneath their feet, like the Manson Impact Crater, near Varina, and the benefits of harnessing geothermal energy.

To view, download and print copies of the 2010 "Learn about the Land" RAGBRAI brochures, visit: or

To get high quality paper copies of the brochures, check out the "Human and Natural History Partners" booth at Expo in Sioux City. In addition to the brochures, Office of the State Archaeologist, U.S. Geological Survey and Iowa DNR staff will be available to answer questions and help find the subtle beauty of the Iowa landscape. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will also have copies of the brochure at its booths along the ride.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DNR to hold hearing Tuesday on July 4th Great Lakes alcohol ban

DNR to hold hearing Tuesday on July 4th Great Lakes alcohol ban

Chapter 68 - Restrictions on Alcohol Use at State Parks, State Recreation Areas, and Public Access Areas on the Iowa Great Lakes During the Fourth of July Holiday.

The proposed new chapter bans alcohol as the term is defined in the chapter at all state parks, recreation areas, and public access beaches on the Great Lakes during the Fourth of July holiday period. The specific time frame for the ban depends upon the weekday on which the holiday falls. Beer and wine, as defined in the chapter, may still be consumed at the campgrounds, picnicking areas located outside the beach area, rental shelters and lodges during the period of the ban.

It is well-documented that excessive alcohol consumption at public access beaches is destroying the resource and presenting legitimate safety risks to the public and Department personnel. Documented incidences at beaches due to excessive alcohol consumption include assaults, unconsciousness, public intoxication, drunk driving, destruction of public property, littering, public urination, indecent exposure, minors in possession, noise, trespassing, and overcrowding.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, conservation officers and park rangers are typically outnumbered several hundred to one and are therefore unable to manage the crowds or protect the resource from harm. These same problems have already been addressed at the local level with an alcohol ban on all city beaches. Unfortunately, the city ban has exacerbated the problem at the state beaches because they are now the sole public waterfront area permitting alcohol.

Public comments shall be accepted through July 13, 2010. A public hearing will be held July 13, 2010 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the
Gull Point Lodge, West Lake Okoboji, 1500 Harpen Street, Milford, Iowa.

Written comments may be sent to
Sherry Arntzen, State Parks Bureau, DNR, Wallace State Office Building, 502 East Ninth Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0034. Written comments can also be sent via e-mail to Please be sure to include "Chapter 68 Comments" in your subject line.

To view the proposed rule, please download the pdf file below.

Chapter 68-Restrictions on Alcohol Use at State Parks, State Recreation Areas, and Public Access Areas on the Iowa Great Lakes During the Fourth of July Holiday (*.pdf file)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garlic Mustard, turn a forest pest into tasty pesto...

Garlic Mustard, turn a forest pest into tasty pesto...

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant found in many state parks in Iowa. You can help eradicate this invasive plant by serving it for supper tonight!

Garlic mustard leaves can be eaten fresh in salads or used in any recipe calling for mustard greens. Ensure the plants are clean and free of any chemical treatments. Plants may be dried or sautéed to add spice to any favorite recipes. Do not replant this invasive into your herb gardens. There is plenty to go around and many opportunities in Iowa's state parks for collecting.

Bon appétit!

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Pasta
Makes 4 cups
4 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons garlic mustard taproots
3/4 cup parsley
1 cup garlic mustard leaves
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
1 1/2 cups olives
2 cups walnuts or 3/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 cups olive oil (or as needed)
2 cups grated Parmesan

In food processor:
1. chop garlic and garlic mustard roots
2. add parsley, garlic, garlic mustard leaves and basil and chop
3. add nuts and chop coarsely
4. add olive oil and process until you've created a coarse paste. Add to cooked pasta and toss well.

Garlic mustard was brought from Europe in the 1800s for culinary and medicinal purposes. In the wild this invasive species can quickly dominate the forest floor choking out wildflowers ferns and trees seedlings. High in vitamins a and C., the plant smells like garlic and resembles mustard plant or Creeping Charlie. While most animals dislike the taste, cooks are rediscovering its culinary roots and are biting back.

For reclaiming the woods, the best control method is to pull and dispose of the plants prior to seed production.

Collecting tips:
April through June, pull the plant and its entire root structure.

Search semi-shaded forests, especially along trails.

Plant parts have a garlic like odor when crushed.

Discard uneaten portions in the garbage to help prevent the plant from spreading.
One plant can produce hundreds of seeds that remain viable up to five years, once seeds start shedding, stay away from the plant to help minimize spreading.

Reprinted from Iowa Outdoors Magazine, May/June 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dos and Don'ts For July 4 Holiday State Park Visitors

Do bring plenty of sunscreen and bug repellent

Don't bring fireworks

Do bring balls, bats and gloves for kids to play with

Don't bring in firewood from out of state. Plan to get firewood locally.

Do plan to spend extra time setting up the campsite

Do plan to arrive early to allow plenty of time to set up

Do call ahead if you do not have a campsite to see if there are any cancellations or first come first serve sites available

Do be courteous of other campers and follow the quiet hours. It takes only one loud campsite to ruin the experience for a lot of campers

Do pick up after yourself

Don't leave your lights on all night or the air conditioner running while no one is in the camper
Do follow the park rules and plan to have a fun and safe holiday weekend

Do wear a life jacket

Don't drink and drive while operating a boat

Don't operate the boat faster than the conditions allow

Do check all boating safety equipment before leaving home

Don't forget the can opener, aluminum foil, and the makings for s'mores