Spring 2021

Field Update

There’s Still a Park for That

Campers pulling into BHIt was our Spring newsletter one year ago that we first announced the closing of many of our buildings and facilities. Since then, it’s been an interesting time, to say the least. We saw the closure of many county facilities, had a governor-mandated closure of campgrounds for a few weeks, then had a line of trucks pulling campers at dawn the day the campground at Big Hollow Recreation Area reopened. Across all our parks, we’ve seen dramatic increases in use as local residents and visitors look to the outdoors for their social distanced recreation needs.

And we’re happy to be there for you.

In that newsletter a year ago, our Director wrote an article titled, “There’s a Park for That” in which he described the benefits that parks and natural areas provide for both our mental and physical health. This has proven increasingly true through the pandemic, and parks across the nation have come to be viewed as critical community infrastructure.

As we begin to recover from the pandemic and all the craziness this past year has brought, rest assured that we’ll keep fighting for parks and trails and natural areas. We’ll keep providing safe, fun, healthy places to get outdoors where you can stretch your legs, run the dog, and enjoy some time with friends and family without a screen between you. As noted in that article a year ago, hiking a trail or walking in the woods or canoeing a lake offers plenty of separation. In fact, there can be a sense of togetherness in sharing wide open spaces, even with ample social distancing.

So get out there and enjoy your local parks. Invite others along, too. Our campgrounds are open now. The weather is steadily warming, and the days keep getting longer. Fish will be biting, mushrooms will be popping, turkeys will be gobbling, and the natural world is waking from its winter slumber. It’s time to get out there and enjoy it because no matter where you are, it’s likely that not too far away, there’s a park for that.

Open House Replaces Jamboree This Year

Girl shooting a bow and arrowInstead of the traditional Outdoor Youth Jamboree event, an annual volunteer-organized event that draws 1,000 people to Big Hollow Recreation Area for a day of all-things-outdoor-recreation, this year Des Moines County Conservation will host a Big Hollow Open House on Saturday, May 15 where you can come and go as you please throughout the day and enjoy the park on your own schedule. Borrow our canoes, borrow a fishing pole (we'll even provide the bait!), and explore the park with a digital scavenger hunt. All for free!

We’re also going to do something new this year, and we’re really looking forward to it. We want everyone that has a canoe or kayak to come out to the park for a Fill the Lake Floatilla event. We want to pack the lake full of paddlers and then we’ll take aerial photos with a drone. Talk about share-worthy!

The event takes place on Saturday, May 15 and the drone photo is scheduled for 1:00 PM.

Keep an eye on the Des Moines County Conservation, Big Hollow Creek Recreation Area, and Starr's Cave Nature Center Facebook pages for more information as we get closer to the event.

Food PlotTime to Plan Your Food Plots

We’ve partnered with the Aldo Leopold Chapter of Pheasants Forever to provide free food plot seed to Des Moines County landowners. We have sunflowers, beans, corn, sorghum, and green browse mixes. To place your order for seed, contact our Natural Resource Manager, Will Wagner-Ertz at (319) 572-6865 or our Director, Chris Lee at (319) 572-1564.

Park Spotlight: Kevin J. Gahn Memorial Recreation Area

The 56 acre Kevin J. Gahn Memorial Recreation Area rests directly behind Des Moines County Conservation’s main office. Having previously been part of the county home facility, it was transferred to the department for management in 1993 and named in honor of Kevin Gahn, a board member tragically killed in an auto accident the year before. The site features open fields, woodlands, and a one acre pond.

Today, the property continues to be managed as a natural resource area and has limited public access. However, organized groups such as Boy/Girl Scout Troops and youth groups are given the opportunity to use the area for programs and events upon request. Use the Online Reservation System to request access to the area for a group event.

 EE Update

The Des Moines County Conservation Environmental Education team has been busy this winter bouncing back from Covid and getting programs running. We had a great January watching eagles with special guest Lori Carnes. Our Owl Prowls in February were so popular that we had to add an extra event!

CampsOur Hike-A-Park series has become very popular. It’s a fun and safe way to get outside and explore new places. In April we will be visiting the Linder Conservation area and Luckenbill Woods. May brings up back to both Big Hollow and Hickory Bend. Keep an eye out for future Hike-A-Park dates and locations!

Summer camp registration opens on Tuesday, April 27th at midnight. Links will be posted on the Starr’s Cave Nature Center and Des Moines County Conservation Facebook pages. For best results use an updated Google Chrome or Safari as your web browser.

SCNCThis summer we’re running two new Top Shot camps for ages 12-15. These are two separate single-day camps. You can sign up for just one of them or you can do both! Top Shot #1 is an introduction to shooting sports. Learn about firearm safety and test your skills on the range with shotguns and rifles. Top Shot # 2 is the more traditional side of shooting sports. Campers will learn to safely use a bow and arrow, atlatl, and tomahawks. Check out the Starr’s Cave Facebook page or the camp page on the DMCC website for more information.

Finally, as we transition into springtime and warmer weather, we are transitioning into summer hours at Starr’s Cave Nature Center as well. We are open on Saturdays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Sundays from Noon to 4:00 pm. Due to a busy schedule of programs, field trips, assisting with field work, and summer camps, Starr’s Cave Nature Center is open by appointment only Monday through Friday. However, if you are visiting during the week and the sign says “open,” feel free to stop in and say hello!