EAB found in five more southern Iowa counties -- Read more here!

Please check out this link to get tips on how to balance life, outdoors, family, and technology!

Lake Renovation at Marion County Park!


Photo taken prior to dredge. Marion County Park is a favorite campground and recreation area to many!
Marion County Park (MCP) is located on the west edge of Knoxville, Iowa, and is managed by the Marion County Conservation Board (MCCB). The 115-acre park of gently rolling hills offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities to the outdoor enthusiast. A large campground with 99 electrical sites and 2 non-electric sites, modern shower / restroom facilities, drinking water, and picnic shelters offers a great summer retreat for the whole family. Picnic areas with playground equipment are located nearby and for the kids who want to practice “America’s Favorite Pastime,” four baseball / softball fields are located in the southern section of the park. A basketball court and horseshoe courts are also available.

The Marion County Historical Society operates a historical village at the park, complete with log cabin, museum, country schoolhouse and church, general store, stagecoach stop, and working windmill. The buildings are open on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 1:00-5:00 p.m. or by appointment. 

The Marion County Park Lake is over 50 years old and was originally eight acres in size. The original maximum depth was 24 feet and lake-depth averaged 16 feet. The lake contained largemouth bass, bluegills, crappie, and channel catfish. An all-accessible fishing pier was constructed in 1992. A concrete boat ramp and dock was also available for the public. 100,000 channel catfish had been raised and released through a caged-rearing program since 1985.

This county area is one of Marion County Conservation Board’s highlighted campgrounds and the seven acre lake has been the main focal point of the park as a relaxing place to visit and a ‘sure to please’ fishing and wildlife viewing area. 

Over the past several years, a significant portion of the lake’s water volume had been lost to sedimentation. Fish and aquatic life had also deteriorated due to sediment, turbidity and poor water quality. The shallowness of the lake allowed wave action to erode lakeshore sediments and nutrients causing poor water clarity and algae blooms, which are also detrimental to fish growth. A shallow lake with algae blooms are more prone to summer and winter fish kills because of low dissolved oxygen levels.

Knoxville Middle School students and many others have visited the lake area at MCP. Students gain exposure to a wetland ecosystem and study the macro-invertebrates, oxygen levels, aspects of sedimentation, and algal blooms. The students helped document the abundance of macro-invertebrates and changes over past several years. 

Learn more about the importance of mussels.

Planning for the pond improvements began in 2011. Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries staff mapped pond depths and sampled fish to have initial fishery data.

2011 Iowa DNR Fishery Summary of MCP Lake

The lake was sampled in 2011 to get initial fishery data before efforts begin to improve the pond. Bluegill and largemouth bass were collected using an electrofishing boat that temporarily stuns the fish so that they can be netted and brought into the boat for measurements. Channel catfish were collected using hoop nets baited with soybean cake left in the water to fish for 72 hours.

Bluegills from 3 to 6.5 inches were very abundant. Angler preferred size for bluegills is greater than 7 inches. The bluegills in this pond would be considered stunted, or not reaching their growth potential. Largemouth bass are also present in good numbers and condition from 5 to 15 inches with most fish being between 8 and 11 inches. This is considered a fair population for a pond this size. Channel catfish are present in over-abundance and could use some angler harvest. There are high numbers of catfish between 10 and 16 inches and smaller numbers spread out up to 27 inches.

Common carp are also present. Common carp are undesirable due to their ability to remove all submerged aquatic vegetation. The absence of aquatic vegetation reduces the number and diversity of macro-invertebrates. This reduced number of macro-invertebrates is likely the primary cause of the poor bluegill growth. No additional fish species were observed. The only species we would like to see in the pond are bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish.

In addition to sampling the fish population, the current lake depths and sediment depths were mapped to assist the county in obtaining grant money to remove sediment from the lake. A significant portion of the initial water volume has been lost to sedimentation from the watershed. The shallowness allows wave action to re-suspend the sediment and nutrients causing poor water clarity and algae blooms, which is detrimental to fish growth, especially bluegills. Ponds and lakes with high turbidity or frequent algae blooms rarely contain fish populations with good size structure and are dominated by small or stunted fish. Shallow ponds or lakes with algae blooms are also more prone to summer and winter fish kills. This is due to low dissolved oxygen levels occurring during night time, calm, cloudy days, and heavy ice and snow cover when algae and decaying matter use all of the dissolved oxygen in the smaller water volume as compared to a deep pond or lake. Low dissolved oxygen fish kills have occurred in the Marion County Conservation Lake in the past. The planned renovations including sediment removal should improve water quality, re-establish aquatic vegetation, improve fish growth, and reduce or eliminate the risk of fish kills due to low dissolved oxygen.

The map at left shows the lake depths from September 2011. The maximum water depth recorded was 9.6 feet and the average depth a dismal 3.4 feet deep. Corrective action needed to be done soon. 


In order to restore water quality, improve aquatic wildlife habitat, and improve the fishery, a four-phase project was designed to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients reaching the pond.

The Purpose of this project:

  • Remove over 50 years of sediment.
  • Restore lake quality close to the levels at its creation.
  • Improve fish and aquatic wildlife habitat.
  • Reduce silt and sediment from reaching the lake.
  • Improve recreational use of a popular area.

Phase 1: Build sill retention dam and retention pond

  • In the fall of 2013, Stek Earthmoving was contracted to build a silt retention basin and sill dam. A sill dam acts as a barrier that slows down the incoming water and allows the sediments to be deposited in the silt retention basin which reduces silt and sediment from reaching the lake.
  • 7,000 cubic yards of sedimentation material equaling 700 tandem dump truck loads was removed.

Phase 2: Working with landowners upstream addressing sediment issues.

Check out this information to learn more about water quality and Iowa watersheds from Iowa Learning Farms:

Phase 3: Drain and dredge main lake
  • Reilly Construction was contracted to dredge and work began November 19, 2014 and was completed on March 16, 2015. Over 78,000 cubic yards of soil and silt were removed, which is approximately 4,333 quarry dumptruck loads. A second silt retention basin and sill dam were constructed, as well as a fishing jetty.

Phase 4: Install fish habitat and restock fish

  • MCCB staff installed and constructed various fish habitat structures including sinking recycled Christmas tree reef structures, developing shallows for spawning areas, building rock islands and catfish hotels, and placing wooden structures necessary for a good fishery.
  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will assist the MCCB in stocking the MCP Lake.  Bass and bluegill will be stocked during the month of April and channel catfish will be stocked in the fall 2015.
Hopefully, it won't be long before we can bring out the fishing poles, but until then, come and see us, stay with us, picnic with us, and enjoy this beautiful park! Many of you have followed this project with us, and thank you for your patience!  

Check out these photos of before and during the lake renovation! As of April 2015, the lake is still re-filling!

Marion County Park Lake

Learn more about sedimentation and water quality here:

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Raptor Viewing Etiquette

We should all observe good raptor  viewing etiquette, not only during the nesting season, but also during this time of migration. 

Remember that raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and bald and golden eagles have additional protections under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Upcoming Programs and Opportunities

June 17-19  Outdoor Journey program for girls at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. More info here
June 18 & 20  Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  
July 7-9  Outdoor Journey program for girls at Hickory Hills Park south of Waterloo. More info here
August 5-7  Outdoor Journey program for girls at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. More info here!  
September 10 & 12  Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  

Who Am I? for the week of 13 April

So, let’s get down to it. Put on those thinking caps, grab your friends and family, and let’s play! Remember — no cheating!

    • I am mostly reddish brown,
    • I like to hide in thick vegetation,
    • I am prepared to perform with energy and excitement,
    • I am an accomplished songster, and
    • I may sing more than 1,100 different songs.
What am I? Make your guess, and then go here for the answer and more interesting facts
Did you get it right?! If not, no worries — you’ll have another chance next week!

In the news...

Legislation introduced to name an Iowa state butterfly
Iowa House of Representatives Megan Jones and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell are co-sponsors of a resolution to the Iowa Legislature to have the Regal Fritillary named as the official state butterfly of Iowa. Read the resolution here. Now is the time to contact your local state representative and senator and encourage their support of this resolution. Here is an FAQ document to help you answer questions. Attention educators: download this fritillary life cycle poster to use in your classroom! Thanks to Reiman Gardens in Ames for spreading the word. Update: Co-sponsors introduced this resolution on January 21 (House Joint Resolution 2) and it was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. This resolution was introduced on January 28 in the Iowa Senate by Dick Dearden as Senate Joint Resolution 2) and was referred to the State Government Committee of the senate, and then on to a sub-committee on February 2. 

Seeing Nature

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird... so let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing  That’s what counts! 

I learned very early on the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. ~Richard Feynman, physicist

YouTube Video

Winged Expressions!
Check out the new sculpture near the 'entrance' to Horn's Ferry Bridge!

Horn's Ferry Bridge

“Woodpecker-flecked ash trees are a great calling card when investigating an insect infestation. The damage symptoms on ash trees are very visible during the winter months. Woodpeckers feed on more than EAB, but when we find woodpeckers focusing on ash trees in an area, it’s a red flag that begs for further investigation,” said State Entomologist Robin Pruisner of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

We urge Iowans to be vigilant, reporting suspicious symptoms in Counties that are not yet known to be infested to a member of the Iowa EAB Team. And we continue to urge citizens to keep firewood local, don’t pack a pest to a new area,” said Mike Kintner, IDALS EAB and Gypsy Moth Coordinator.

The Iowa EAB Team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners and includes officials from Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA Forest Service.

The Iowa EAB Team strongly cautions Iowans not to transport firewood across county or state lines, since the movement of firewood throughout Iowa or to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB and other plant pests. Most EAB infestations in the United States have been started by people unknowingly moving infested firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. The adult beetle also can fly short distances, approximately 2 to 5 miles.

The next window for preventive treatment measures (trunk injection, soil injection, soil drench, or basal trunk sprays) will open early spring 2015 (mid-April to mid-May). If a landowner is interested in protecting a valuable and healthy ash tree within 15 miles of a known infestation, they should use the winter months to have landscape and tree service companies bid on work, and these bids can be reviewed before next spring.

Please contact Iowa EAB Team members to have suspicious looking trees checked in counties not currently known to be infested. The State of Iowa will continue to track the movement of EAB on a county-by-county basis. Before a county can be officially recognized as infested, proof of a reproducing population is needed and an EAB must be collected and verified by USDA entomologists.

To learn more about EAB and other pests that are threatening Iowa’s tree population, please visit www.IowaTreePests.com.

River Cam

Yes, the Gladys Black River Cam below the dam at Lake Red Rock, along the Des Moines River, is off-air. It has been an ongoing struggle to receive a consistent amount of bandwidth for continued watching opportunities of the camera. The Red Rock Lake Association has explored every option to make this a viable wildlife-watching opportunity, but has made a difficult decision and have disconnected the camera. We appreciate all of the viewers who were patient and checked on us from time to time to hopefully get a view of our river's flying visitors and seasonal changes.

Why the struggle with internet connection? Distance is the key. A DSL internet connection works the best when the consumer is no more than 3 to 3.5 miles from the telephone central switch. The further the consumer, in this case the camera, is from the switch the slower the download and upload speeds. This holds true for both the river cam below the dam and the first camera placed above an eagle’s nest… these locations are just too far away for reliable, live streaming video. These camera locations are too remote for DSL and other currently available cost-effective technologies.

Check these out!

Iowa Young Birders - Check out this group formed in 2011 to help young people experience the joy and wonder of finding, seeing, and identifying birds!  The Iowa Ornithologists Union is helping to sponsor birding field trips for young people age 8-18 in conjunction with their spring and fall meetings. Check out the details and the Iowa Young Birders website for other field trip opportunities! <jealous!>

Healthy and Happy Outdoors - Learn more about this new Iowa Department of Natural Resources initiative here. Register with the program and record your outdoor activities in Iowa parks and recreation areas with each recorded activity a chance to win outdoor gear in a drawing.  The site also has a search feature for finding outdoor activities in Iowa.

Visit MyCountyParks.com to check out a park or wildlife area you might want to explore managed by one of Iowa's 99 county conservation boards! Look here for events and activities, too!