6/19--Drove to Gotch Park near Humboldt, stopped at several access points and noted that the river was looking just right. Got an AWARE netted trash bag and T-shirt, set up camp with lots of friends, had a good supper. I enjoyed hearing the introductions, lots of folks from all over Iowa. Then, the announcement that we would not be on the river due to "unsafe" water levels.
6/20--Drove up to Willow Access at Bradgate, found numerous trees down and blocking the access road after the tornado. Rejoined the group at Badger Lake/Kennedy Park in Webster County for a clean-up, drove back to Bradgate and cleared away one tree. Returned to Des Moines for my towing car and to use my breathing machine.
6/21--Paddled 35 miles from Ft. Dodge "little dam" access to Skillet Creek access, stopped for lunch at Dolliver State Park. The river was great, I moved along at 5 mph. There was deep mud on the boat ramps at Dolliver and Skillet Creek, but no debris in the river. I rejoined the AWARE group at Dolliver and enjoyed the geology slide show. It deepened the experience to know that the sandstone formations along the river were part of a Pennsylvanian era sea that covered and departed from Iowa over millions of years. I also enjoyed seeing and hearing about the gypsum deposits that figure prominently in the making of wall-board right in Ft. Dodge.
6/22--Spent an hour picking up trash at Ft. Dodge little dam access. Paddled 12 miles from Skillet Creek to Fraser, enjoyed the herons and the goldfinches. On the way I decided that I was going for a paddle in SE Iowa, so I hitched up my tow car, made a stop in Des Moines, and got to Bentonsport campground just before midnight.
6/23--Paddled 30 miles from Farmington to the new Red Wing access in Keokuk, a great ride that took me past the new bridge at St. Francisville. The new highway has not disturbed the access. I got to chat with the toll booth attendants one last time, they will be gone when the new bridge opens in 2005.
6/24--Had a chance to chat with Van Buren folks. Canoe Van Buren is a go, Stacy was pleased to hear that the river is fine for paddling even at 21,000 cfs. Bill Blackburn reports that the Van Buren County water trail project is almost ready for final approval. I cleaned up at the Boone Hwy. 30 access and at the Boone Waterworks access, then rejoined the AWARE group at the Y camp in Fraser for lunch and the shuttle to Ledges State Park near Luther. Enjoyed DNR State Trails Coordinator Mark Edwards and his program about the native American artifacts he has found. I was very taken with a rock that had a blue heron carved into it that may be hundreds of years old. Mark took us to Lost Lake and showed us wonders such as the teepee clock and Inspiration Rock.
6/25--Brian got us up at 4 AM and we convoyed to Big Creek to join WHO's Van and Bonnie. Van was in the pontoon boat, Bonnie was with Brian, and they found a trash dump within minutes. I paddled around and let others in the group know that their assistance was needed. I was very impressed at the way the trash was being sorted. I went home and crashed, many others went up to Ames to do a cleanup on the Skunk River water trail.
6/26--An excellent program to end the week, with kind words from DNR director Vonk and Governor Vilsack. Merry Rankin, Keepers of the Land coordinator, led the effort to direct trash to the recyclers rather than the landfill. She reported that the AWARE group pulled out 16 full pickup loads of trash, with 95% sorted for recycling. There was also a wonderful presentation of the River of Words project winners by Iowa's First Lady. The AWARE volunteers applauded the DNR staff for their excellent work.
I enjoyed the week. I needed some serious river time because injuries and low water have limited my river time for several years. The AWARE group spent time pulling trash from lakes and streams along the Des Moines, plus several prairie clearing projects and a short trip on the South Skunk River, which seemed to be a winning formula. I hope that others will take some time to enjoy the Des Moines River now that they have played and worked in the watershed that feeds it.