March 1, 2017

I spent Sunday hiking along Clear Creek in the company of a curious herd of six deer, who came within 20 feet of me.  Bigger rivers may afford more opportunities for boating.  Cold-water trout streams in the northeast part of the state may have better fishing.  But the warm-water creeks in Central Iowa have their own charms.

Deer by Clear Creek
Deer by Clear Creek in Munn Woods

Clear Creek starts in Boone County and passes through Munn Woods and Pammel Woods in Ames before joining Squaw Creek.  As a boy, the woods along this creek was one of my favorite places, full of interesting rocks and animal tracks and birds and crayfish, the site of both noisy stick battles with my friends and quiet contemplation.

As my environmental consciousness grew, I would go to the woods to pick up litter.  At the time, I had no idea the storm drain emptied to creek, or else I would have stopped my friends from throwing pop cans down there.  A recent survey showed that 37% of Iowans imagine that storm sewers go to the wastewater treatment plan or soak into the ground, so labels like this one below are a valuable reminder.

Storm drain label: "No dumping - drains to creek"
Labeled storm drain in Ames: “No Dumping. Drains to Creek”

In revisiting Clear Creek, I was struck by what a marvelous thing a creek can be if given some space to roam. (Thank you Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.)  I’ve heard from many people in both the city and the country who share my fond memories of time spent by the creek near where they grew up.  Not every Iowa creek has hills and woods this dramatic, but if we treat them as something more than drainage systems for our convenience, any local creek can instill in a child the same sense of wonder and discovery that this one did for me.

-Dan Haug, Watershed Educator

Clear Creek meanders through Munn Woods
Clear Creek meanders through Munn Woods