Summer 2019

Flood Damage Update

Flooded SCNCProlonged flooding this spring and early summer damaged a number of parks, only some of which have been repaired and reopened. Flash flooding on Flint Creek at the end of May inundated much of the yard area and concrete trail at Starr's Cave Nature Center. Luckily, no water got into the Nature Center itself but the creek left behind large amounts of silt in the parking area and along the trails. The high water also carried off the picnic tables and recycling bin from the shelter house. Once the water went down, DMCC staff cleared the trails and parking area. A day later, roughly 30 volunteers took to the trails at Starr's Cave for the National Trails Day event during which they cleaned the trails, cut back brush, recovered the tables, built bridges, and improved trail surfacing. Today, other than some piles of sand and silt piled along the edges, the trails at Starr's Cave are open and ready for use.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a large segment of the Flint River Trail near 155th Ave at Hickory Bend Conservation Area. There, the force of Flint Creek stripped the trail of most of its surfacing and even a fair bit of its base rock, leaving a rough, nearly impassible stretch of trail that will have to be completely rebuilt. The timeline for doing so is still uncertain as the county works with FEMA and other agencies on possible recovery funding. 

washed out roadRecovery funding is also the operative question for Maple Loop at Welter Recreation Area along the Skunk River. All three loops (Sycamore, Maple, and Cottonwood) were inundated to varying degrees by repeated flooding of the Skunk. Sycamore Loop, the area's main campground, sustained minor damage from siltation and a tree coming down on a power line but that area has been repaired and opened once again to campers. Cottonwood Loop sustained minor siltation as well but not enough to force its continued closure. That area is a day-use only area, providing river access through a graveled boat ramp. However, Maple Loop, the area's only other loop offering primitive campsites, sustained major damage and will remained closed for the foreseeable future. Receding flood waters gouged out a large section of the main road along the riverfront, stripped surfacing from a number of the camp pads and left behind large amounts of silt on the rest of it. Repairs will be expensive and time-consuming and the department is grappling with whether the investment would be warranted considering how little the area gets used and how often it floods. 

Flooding in our area was exceptionally intense this year with the Mississippi River in Burlington hitting multiple record-setting crests, the highest of which was the third highest of all time, exceeded only by the Great Floods of 1993 and 2008. According to the Iowa Flood Center, Iowa ranks fourth nationally in terms of the number of presidential disaster declarations from flooding. In the past 30 years, every single county in the state has earned at least one flood-related disaster declaration, with some counties amassing as many as 17 in that time period. Read more about our Director's take on flooding from one of his newspaper columns here.

DMCC Deploys Technology for Bat Research

Flying batWe all know bats use echolocation to navigate and forage in the night. Different species of bats use different sounds while echolocating, meaning those sounds can be used to determine what bat species inhabit certain areas. The problem, however, is that those sounds are inaudible to the human ear. That's where technology comes in handy.

In a research project designed to help determine what species of bats exist in certain areas of the county, DMCC Natural Resource Manager Erik Murry has been deploying a sound recorder on a near-daily basis at varying sites. The device, which is capable of recording the sub-sonic bat sounds, records throughout the night, saving the data to SD cards. The recordings are then downloaded and processed by specialized software which then determines the species of bat making the sounds based on the various sounds' individual wavelength signatures. So far, the project has recorded presence of nine species of bats, a number of which are of rather significant conservation importance. 

This year's study builds on data collected over a number of years prior and expands the survey area to places outside existing conservation properties. In addition to guiding local conservation efforts, the data is being shared to a federal database that tracks bat populations throughout the nation. 

EE Summer Update

critter catchStarr’s Cave Nature Center is currently finishing its first semester hosting an AmeriCorps member. SCNC was selected as a host site for a new AmeriCorps 4-H Environmental Education program. Jessica Johnson was selected to serve in the new position and was tasked with delivering environmental education curriculum consistent with NGSS and that fit into the DMCC’s Three-Point approach. Our member's successes include (but is not limited to): 33 programs presented over the winter/spring semester reaching a total of 1684 students; Third, fifth, and eighth grade curriculum development with NGSS for both classroom and fieldtrip programs; One public program regarding the impacts of climate change in Iowa; and the development of a middle school environmental club. We are extremely happy with the success of our AmeriCorps member and their ability to expand our program capacity. The overall success of this program is due to the commitment, determination, and hard work of our AmeriCorps member and their service to Des Moines County Conservation. We feel that this is a valuable program and are excited to announce that we have been selected to host another AmeriCorps member starting in September. This opportunity will enable us to continue the expansion of our environmental education throughout Des Moines County.

Summer Camp kidsSummer camps are in full swing at Starr’s Cave Nature Center. Thanks to the continued support and funding from the Burlington Kiwanis group we have been able to expand our summer programming again this year. This support, along with additional funding from the Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation, has allowed SCNC to develop and offer new offsite programs for area teens. In cooperation with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA), Des Moines County Conservation is leading a two-week backpacking trip for area high school students to the South San Juan Wilderness in Colorado. We are offering this trip to give students experiences in nature.

Park Spotlight: Welter Recreation Area

welter - banner

Located along the quiet banks of the Skunk River, Welter Recreation Area is Des Moines County Conservation's southernmost Recreation Area. It has been developed primarily as a camping destination and is popular among picnickers, RVers, tent campers, and boaters. 

Welter Recreation Area actually consists of three separate loops: Sycamore, Maple, and Cottonwood Loops, the entrances of which are all found along Skunk River Road. Because the loops span a 2.5 mile stretch of the Skunk River, Welter Recreation Area is also a popular launching/unloading point for float groups, canoes and kayaks.

Sycamore Loop:
Sycamore Loop is the area's most developed loop and features 18 campsites, of which 12 offer electric hookups. Other amenities at Sycamore Loop include a central water supply, a central RV dump station, a shelter house, two outhouses, horseshoe pits, and a sand volleyball court. Sycamore loop is the easternmost loop (the farthest downstream) of Welter Recreation Area. Link to campground map.

Maple Loop:
Closed due to flooding so far in 2019, Maple Loop lies on the eastern edge of the town of Augusta. It offers 10 primitive campsites and no electric hookups. The loop features a picnic shelter, outhouse, and central water supply.

Cottonwood Loop:
Cottonwood Loop is the farthest upstream (west) loop of Welter Recreation Area. It is a day-use/river access area and offers a picnic shelter, outhouse, and a gravel boat ramp that provides boat access to the Skunk River.

Upcoming Events

July 20

Paddle in the Park


DMCC Environmental Education staff will be on Big Hollow Lake once a month from June through October. Get out on the water for some paddling fun as we explore the lake. We will see birds, fish, and fall colors. To register call Starr’s Cave Nature Center: (319) 753-5808 two weeks prior to the event. 

Event Info

July 24

Nature at Night


This public program will be led by Des Moines County Conservation Summer Naturalists and will be held at Starr’s Cave Park & Preserve on Thursday, July 24.  The program is free and is for all ages. Space is limited and registration is required.  Call Starr’s Cave Nature Center to reserve your spot and register for the event, 753-5808.  

Event Info

August 10

DMCC Summer Celebration

Exploring the creek

Join us for our 2nd Annual DMCC Summer Celebration!
This free, family friendly event will feature activities & food throughout the day the entire family can enjoy. Come check out Starr's Cave Nature Center and try out the Stream Table. Hike the Starr's Cave portion of the Flint River Trail. Wade in Flint Creek during a Critter Catch. 

Event Info

August 15

Full Moon Paddle in the Park

Full moon

Join us around the campfire for dinner and a moonlit Paddle in the Park program August 15th starting at 9 P.M. There is a fee of $10.00 per boat for this program; preregistration with Starr’s Cave Nature Center is required. Call for more details. 

Event Info