Public Programs

6 canoes ready to launch at Big Hollow Lake

Throughout the year, Des Moines County Conservation hosts or helps with numerous public programs. Below is a list of some of those programs. Follow Des Moines County Conservation and Starr’s Cave Nature Center on Facebook to stay up to date on all our programs and events.


Ages 2-4 with guardian accompaniment 

Time:  Designated Saturdays (watch for announcements)

11 a.m. - 1 p.m. 

Cost: FREE 

Location: Starr’s Cave Nature Center 

Celebrate nature with your child (or niece, nephew, grandchild, etc.)! There will be games, stories, a craft, and outdoor fun. Each PTP has a different topic and some past examples include butterflies, dinosaurs, autumn animals, insects, eggs, and nature in nursery rhymes.

The program begins with a picnic so be sure to bring a sack lunch and drink for you and your tot.

The PTP is held at Starr’s Cave Nature Center. Pre-registration is required and accepted as early as two weeks in advance. Space is limited and slots fill quickly so we recommend you register as soon as possible!

Eagle Watch

All ages 

Date: January 

Time:  10 a.m. - Noon 

Cost: FREE 

Location: Port of Burlington 

Learn about bald eagles and then join Des Moines County Conservation in counting them along the Mississippi River. This event begins at 10 a.m. the Port of Burlington Welcome Center for a short bald eagle program and then participants caravan a short distance over to Illinois to Lock and Dam 18 to count bald eagles.

Des Moines County Conservation holds this event annually in conjunction with the Eagle Nature Foundation’s Annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Count that has been going on for over 50 years. From Minnesota to Tennessee, volunteers will be counting eagles along the Mississippi and submitting their results to the Eagle Nature Foundation.

The event will last approximately 2 hours but participants may leave the group at anytime. Participants should plan on driving their own vehicles or carpooling with others. Birdwatchers will be given instruction in eagle identification and counting methods used for the survey. No bird counting experience is necessary to attend. Binoculars will be available for loan.

There is no fee or registration required. This program is for all ages. The Eagle Count always takes place the last Saturday in January from 10 a.m.-Noon. Dress warm as we’ll be outside most of the time.

Owl Prowl

All ages 

Date: February 

Time:  TBA

Cost: FREE 

Location: Starr’s Cave Nature Center 

Enjoy the nighttime while listening for barred owls calling to each other during the mating season. The Prowl is held outside so be sure to dress for the weather.

This program takes place at Starr’s Cave Nature Center on a weeknight in February. It is geared for older children and adults. There is no fee for the program. Registration is required.

Earth Day Cleanup

All ages 

Date: April 

Time:  8 a.m. - Noon 

Cost: FREE 

Location: Port of Burlington 

The Cleanup is organized by a group called "Keep Burlington Beautiful." Every year, hundreds of local volunteers meet at the Port of Burlington to be assigned an area of town to clean up. Volunteers are provided with a map of their area, gloves, and garbage sacks. After a morning of hard work, participants are invited back to the Port for a ’thank you’ lunch for all their hard work. There are also giveaways and music entertainment.

The Earth Day cleanup takes place in April around Earth Day on a Saturday from 8 a.m. - Noon. There is no preregistration and all ages are invited to attend.

Youth Jamboree

All ages

Date: May

Time: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Cost: FREE

Location: Big Hollow Recreation Area

Come enjoy the outdoors at the annual Youth Jamboree! 100% free event.

Instructor-led shooting sports (shotgun, rifle, air rifle and archery), fishing, fully guided boat tours of Big Hollow Lake, prizes, giveaways, and a free lunch are just a few of the great things you’ll find at the Jamboree. 

Critter Catch

All ages 

Date: June 

Time:  10 a.m. - Noon 

Cost: FREE 

Location: Starr’s Cave Nature Center 

Come catch critters in Flint Creek at Starr’s Cave Park and Preserve. If you have your own net, please bring it, otherwise we have some to lend. We’ll help I.D. the critters you catch.

This event is for all ages, is free, does not require registration. In the event that Flint Creek is too high, the Critter Catch will be cancelled.

Nature at Night

All ages 

Date: 3rd Wednesday in July (watch for announcement) 

Time:  8:00pm-10:00pm

Cost: FREE 

Location: Starr’s Cave Nature Center 

There’s plenty to explore out in nature at sunset. Come to Starr’s Cave Park and experience nature’s nightlife with a Des Moines County Naturalist.

This free event is held on the 3rd Wednesday in July from 8:00pm-10:00pm and is open to all ages. Registration is required.

Rock Climbing Wall

Ages 8 and up 

Date: scheduled afternoons in summer (watch for announcements) 

Time:  1 pm - 4pm 

Cost: $5 

Location: Starr’s Cave Nature Center 

During the summer there are several afternoons where we open the rock climbing wall to the public (those ages 8 and up) under DMCC staff direction. Participants will learn how to climb a rock wall. Gear is provided.

Those under 18 must have an adult guardian sign a permission waiver. Those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult guardian. No experience is necessary as we’ll show you the ropes! Cost is $5 to climb. No preregistration is required.

In addition to the days the climbing wall is open to the public, we are happy to schedule a climbing wall program for private groups of 7 or more. A climbing wall program must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. Fees of $5 per person apply.

Paddle in the park at Big Hollow

Ages 8 and up 

Date: June through October 

Time:  June-September 9 a.m. - Noon; October 1:00pm-4:00pm

Cost: Free 

Location: Big Hollow Recreation Area Canoe Launch

DMCC Environmental Education staff host an aquatic scavenger hunt and lakeside clean up around Big Hollow Lake. We will be paddling in our “NuCanoes” and exploring Big Hollow Lake. A limited number of NuCanoes are available and space is limited. Registration is required for this event.

Other Public Programs & Events

In addition to the events listed above, we regularly offer other special one-time events or programs. The best way to find out about our upcoming events is through our Wild River Ramblings newsletter. You may sign up to receive the newsletter electronically by emailing the main office