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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

9th Annual Project AWARE - July 9-16, 2011

This Friday (June 24th) is the deadline for 2011 Iowa Project AWARE online registration! Spots may be limited, so sign up now if you want to go on the river cleanup excursion July 9-16th!

9th Annual Project AWARE
July 9-16, 2011
Little Turkey, Turkey & Volga Rivers

Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, involves hundreds of volunteers who spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors - cleaning up, learning about, and exploring Iowa's rivers.

Turkey River: Paddling and picking up with Project AWARE
Journey vs. Destination
This map shows the daily paddles for Project AWARE, held July 9 to 16 on the Little Turkey, Turkey and Volga rivers in northeast Iowa. (Courtesy map)
This map shows the daily paddles for Project AWARE, held July 9 to 16 on the Little Turkey, Turkey and Volga rivers in northeast Iowa. (Courtesy map)
By Lisa Brainard

In my never-ending quest to find a super-duper trip this year (or five or six - or 26 for that matter) I'm always looking at things on the Internet, as well as picking up area tourism brochures. (Reminder: Look for our own "Destination Bluff Country" guide coming out soon - it's all color and glossy this year!)

Last weekend I picked up a brochure for Fayette County, Iowa. I spent my years growing up in Fayette and Clayton counties. Well, what before my wondering eyes should appear in that brochure, but a perfect trip opportunity of the type I would enjoy! And perhaps best of all, it's in my "homelands" as I call it; the area where I grew up.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IaDNR) is offering the 9th annual Project AWARE, a volunteer river cleanup, in the Turkey River watershed July 9 to 16. That includes the Little Turkey, Turkey and Volga Rivers.

If you're looking for a reasonably priced trip with periods of hard work (but a lot of fun), being on (and in) the water, camping, camaraderie, learning opportunities, sun and (did I mention?) lots of fun, this is it.

Project AWARE stands for "A Watershed Awareness River Expedition." As the website states, it "involves hundreds of volunteers who spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors - cleaning up, learning about and exploring Iowa's rivers."

I've learned a bit about conservation work on the Root River watershed here through Fillmore County SWCD, the federal NRCS, Hiawatha Trout Unlimited group's trout stream work, the caving community, state legislative tours and more. It's pretty interesting. Add a paddling cleanup to similar education opportunities offered each day and it should be quite an event for the Turkey River watershed!

Ties to the Turkey
I'm really tempted to do this. Let's look at my personal history with the Turkey. (Ha, ha... that sounds like I'll be telling tales on an ex, perhaps?!?? Nope, we'll be sticking to the river this time.)

The Turkey River winds through two of the towns in the Valley Community School District, both Clermont and Elgin. It also runs within a mile, tops, of the high school located between the two towns and from which I graduated. The Volga River runs through the third town of the Valley School district, Wadena (although I understand the portion to be cleaned up is farther downstream).

The two chances I had to canoe the Turkey were after my junior and senior years of high school. One trip ended up at the imposing, handsome Motor Mill downstream from Elkader. The other was an upstream segment around the village of Eldorado.

Even longer ago I recall riding horses with my neighbor and friend, Joyce, down to the Turkey in our rural area for a loop trip of 8 miles or so. That was a big time for us on our own.

The Motor Mill will be a fabulous site to see as it's being repaired and restored. One overnight is scheduled at the Clayton County Conservation Board's primitive campground adjacent to it. (Did I mention also riding horses across the Turkey in that location on a Whistlin' Bit Saddle Club annual fall ride? I remember it was deep enough that water got into my boots.)

Another Clayton County Conservation campsite will be at the Osborne Park between Elkader and Strawberry Point. I worked there the summer of 1976 as a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew member. That was the summer before my senior year of high school. (Before you do the math, let me state for the record, yes, I'm an old - but active - fogey!)

Other campsites for Project AWARE include two Fayette County Conservation Board parks. The one at Gouldsburg, south of St. Lucas, is nice.

Another, which will host two nights of camping during Project AWARE, is the Gilbertson Conservation Education Area near Elgin. It's a lovely area where, back in my school days, our bus would run daily past the property of two Norwegian bachelor farmers (really!), who later donated the land to Fayette County for the park. It includes a nature center and hiking, mountain biking and horseback trails.

It's all a cozy, contented area of northeast Iowa. I guarantee the folks are friendly and the scenery nice.

More trip details

Now that you've humored me by letting me take this stroll (err... paddle?) down memory lane, here are more details on the trip.

The "registration" fee is the price of meals, which would be $20 a day when all meals are provided or by selecting individual meals priced at breakfast, $5, lunch, $7 and supper, $8. The use of a shuttle to move people and camping gear is highly encouraged at $20 a day on the days it's needed. And that's it, although you may need to come up with a canoe.

All in all, it sounds like a pretty fun way to spend a vacation - or at least a day or two - to me. For future details - and a lot of informational pages to print out - go to:

2011 Project AWARE Schedule
July 9-16 - 88.1 miles - Little Turkey, Turkey & Volga Rivers

Saturday, July 9 Meet and greet at Gouldsburg Park.

Sunday, July 10 - 12.8 miles. LITTLE TURKEY RIVER from Gouldsburg Park to Eldorado. Camp at Gouldsburg Park.

Monday, July 11 - 14.9 miles. TURKEY RIVER from Eldorado to Turkey River Canoe Access. Camp at Gilbertson Conservation Education Area.

Tuesday, July 12 - 12.3 miles. TURKEY RIVER from Turkey River Canoe Access to Gilbertson Conservation Education Area. Camp at Gilbertson Conservation Education Area

Wednesday, July 13 - 12.7 miles. TURKEY RIVER from Gilbertson Conservation Education Area to Frieden Park. Camp at Elkader City Park.

Thursday, July 14 - 13.7 miles. TURKEY RIVER from Frieden Park to Motor Mill. Camp at Motor Mill.

Friday, July 15 - 12.3 miles. TURKEY RIVER from Motor Mill to Garber. Camp at Osborne Park.

Saturday, July 16 - 9.4 miles. VOLGA RIVER from Osborne Park to Littleport.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Remembering Outdoor Experiences on Father’s Day

Do you recall how you were introduced to nature and outdoor experiences as a child? For many of my generation, the first exploration of nature came as we walked through the wilds with father.

As the Father’s Day weekend approaches, I ask you to pause and recall your early experiences exploring the natural world. 

Please take a moment and visit the IPF web site to make a tax-deductible contribution through our secure 'Donate Now' service in memory of a loved one who introduced you to the natural world

My early experiences were in far southeast Iowa – lead into the woods by my dad and my uncles. As I recall, on a Saturday morning in the spring, after the snow melted and the woodland floor springs to life, my father would awaken me and announce “Get dressed, we’re heading out for some morels”.  

I anticipated these outings as they were among the very few times that Dad and I would be alone together. We packed a light snack, a thermos of milk and hopped in the old ’48 Pontiac. Dad behind the wheel and me in the front seat for a change, we headed either north to Geode State Park or west to Lacey Keosauqua State Park.  

We would begin our hikes off the trails, through the ravines and across the creeks where sunlight would dance on the waters. Dad always said if I should find dead elm trees and that I’d find mushrooms there - or - that I should look on the east and west slopes of a ditch or stream bank.

If we were lucky and our walk was at the right time in the spring, we would come home with more than just a pleasant memory. With a little know-how and a lot of luck, my dad often bagged the tastiest treat in the woods — morel mushrooms.

From my (four year old) point of view, I was a lousy mushroom spotter as walking in the woods was its own reward. The scent of early spring native flowers and apple blossoms filled the air and wildlife was plentiful. It is perfectly peaceful with the songbirds serenading us throughout our tramp.  As you can guess I rarely found a morel without the guidance of my father.

Tell Your Story! 
Take a moment and share an early experience with nature on the IPF Facebook page.  

Thank you!  

Fettuccine Alfredo with Morels


1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 1/4 pounds fresh morels, rinsed, drained, and patted dry, or 1/4 pound dried, soaked, drained, and patted dry
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus, if desired, additional as an accompaniment


In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderately low heat, add the cream, the Cognac, and salt and pepper to taste, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the morels, simmer them, covered, for 10 minutes, and keep the mixture warm. In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the porcini fettuccine and the scallion fettuccine for 3 minutes, or until it is al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a large deep skillet melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter over low heat. Drain the pasta, add it to the large skillet, and toss it with the butter, lifting the strands. Add the morel mixture, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and pepper to taste and toss the mixture well. (Alternatively, the 2 kinds of fettuccine may be cooked and sauced separately.) Serve the pasta on heated plates with the additional Parmesan.