Tag Archives: Mississippi River

Bald Eagles | Below Lock and Dam 14

Iowa has an east coast and a west coast since it is bounded by two major rivers. This View From Iowa was about as far east as one can be in the state. We met friends Tom and Sharon in LeClaire along the Mississippi River. Melanie and Sharon did some shopping in a fabric store to stock up on their quilting needs. Jim and Tom visited while sitting in some fancy painted chairs in the front window of the store. We walked down the street for lunch.

After lunch, we drove a short distance along the river to a viewing area below Lock and Dam 14. Bald Eagles congregate there to snatch fish from the water, stunned by their passage over the gates of the dam. Several were soaring above us checking the waters.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Many thanks to Tom for permission to use his photo above and the one at the end of this post. Very nice work, Tom.


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Trapped! | No Means of Escape

by Jim and Melanie

At times, Melanie and I get ourselves into unusual situations. It has probably happened to you. You plan to do something assuming it might be fun, interesting, a novelty, etc. When you actually get to do it, you find it was a big mistake. You feel trapped and want to escape. It was a bad idea. Here are a couple of examples from our modest, but growing, list. If you have one to share, please add it in the comments.

Me: Hey, Melanie. What do you think of this idea? One of our favorite midwest bands is playing on a three-hour riverboat cruise as a fundraiser.  It’s on the Mississippi River out of Dubuque. The river there is gorgeous. The town has some interesting history. Here is a picture of the boat. It has to be a good time. What do you say? Shall we get tickets?

Dubuque Chamber of Commerce

Melanie: Sure. Sounds like fun. What could possibly go wrong? We love their music.

I want to know what happened.

Effigy Mounds | Winter vs Summer Views

Joe emailed last week and asked if I wanted to hike Effigy Mounds National Monument with him on Friday December 12. My calendar looked open. We agreed on a place to meet and made our plan. It is a two hour drive from where we live to reach the park. It is along the bluffs on the west bank of the Mississippi River in far northeast Iowa upriver from the old small towns of Marquette and McGregor. McGregor has only 850 residents now. In the 1870s, it swelled to 5,500 and was one of the busiest shipping ports west of Chicago. Then, the railroads came. Steamboat travel and shipping declined.

The day dawned quite foggy and about 33˚. The weather forecast called for the fog to remain most of the day. We ventured forth anyway. It had been many years since Joe was last in the park. He took the day off from work to get a much needed break. What normally would be a beautiful and scenic drive was now a trip through a fog shrouded countryside. The rolling hills were invisible.

I was at the park with Melanie in May of this year. The banner on this page looks upriver that day. We hiked the same trail then as Joe and I did this day in December. We stopped at the same overlooks along the bluffs to see the river below. Here is our view in May. Click any picture to embiggen.


Looking across to the east into Wisconsin.

Southbound barge traffic. Click to embiggen.

Southbound barge traffic.

The river took on a much different look this time. No river traffic went by. The locks are closed at the dams for the winter. Some ice is drifting by from an earlier cold spell. We did see some Bald Eagles nearby on the bluffs. Very little else was active this foggy day.

Looking east toward Wisconsin...barely visible.

Looking east toward Wisconsin…barely visible.

Downstream toward Marquette and McGregor.

Downstream toward Marquette and McGregor. No barges until spring.

Thanks for joining us on this little adventure.

Eastern Iowa River Hikes | Port Louisa Wildlife Refuge

by Melanie and Jim

Last month we enjoyed a number of outings in our own backyard. In mid-May we headed southeast to Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. As the U.S. Fish & WIldlife Service says:

Port Louisa was established for the protection of migratory birds. It is located along the Mississippi River Flyway, one of the major routes for migrating waterfowl. Key goals of the refuge are to conserve and enhance the quality and diversity of fish and wildlife and their habitats; and to restore floodplain functions in the river corridor.

The refuge area includes ground stretching from above the Mississippi River bluff, down to the river itself. A levee within the park helps control flooding and provides a flat walking path for birders and others.

In fact the day we went, the river level was high and we weren’t able to explore very far. We did enjoy exhibits in a visitor center at the south end of the refuge. On the grounds are Native American burial mounds. According to the State Historical Society of Iowa,

The conical mounds were constructed between 100 BC and AD 200 by a local Hopewell group. At one time, there may have been as many as twelve mounds, but subsequent settlement and excavation have reduced that number to the present seven. As of yet, no village site near the Toolesboro mounds has been located, and this is attributed to the shifting path of the Iowa River which has obliterated possible village sites on the flood plain over the last 2000 years.

Here are the two mounds on the grounds of the visitor center:

The mounds are considered sacred ground. Visitors are asked to stay off of them.

We backtracked north to an overlook with a view of the Mississippi River, and across the river to Illinois. A trail wove its way down to the water’s edge. The woods were damp and dimly lit. The undergrowth was varied, and birds called to us from all around.

The trail continued but we could not.

Jim found a big tree. The photo doesn’t show the size well, but we estimated it at about six feet across.

Back up on the overlook platform we had a picnic lunch. The trees and surrounding underbrush provide shelter for many varieties of birds. We enjoyed seeing American Redstarts, Eastern Phoebes, Yellow Warblers, and Magnolia Warblers.

After lunch we stopped at the confluence of the Iowa and Cedar Rivers. The Cedar feeds the Iowa, which in turn spills into the Mississippi. Just south of the small town of Columbus Junction is a small park called Chinkapin Bluffs. It is a county park with a picnic shelter, playground, and restrooms, as well as a couple of trail loops. One descends to the Hoover Trail.

Along the trail was an abundance of wild flowers. Jim took these three lovely photos.

When Jim looked into the Hoover Trail, he found this photo. Apparently we were walking on the One-Armed Strangler Way!

Though the Mississippi River flooding kept us from our original plan, we had a great outing at Port Louisa and at Chinkapin Bluffs Park, and we surely will go back.