Prairie Rivers of Iowa Has Had a Busy and Productive 2023

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Has Had a Busy and Productive 2023

Hello and Happy 2023,

Prairie Rivers of Iowa has had a busy and productive 2023 in Iowa, working on a variety of important initiatives related to creating a healthier natural environment and preserving the rich cultural heritage of Iowa.   As we end this year, we have touched kids, families, landowners, historic homeowners and business owners, communities, natural resource professionals, like-minded not-for-profits and oversaw a national prairie conference in Iowa.

Here’s a summary of some of the key accomplishments and initiatives this year:

EDUCATIONAL VIDEO SERIES – We created a weekly video series for YouTube and Instagram The Clean Water Act: 50 Years, 50 Facts. We produced 45 short videos filmed at dozens of locations (including knee deep in a marsh) and featuring 5 music parodies.  The educational videos covered various aspects of water conservation, law and policy.

Water Testing Ioway Creek Near Stratford in Hamitlon County

MONTHLY STREAM MONITORINGConducted monthly monitoring of at least 15 streams, providing updates in the Prairie Rivers monthly newsletter.  Additionally, coordinated volunteer “snapshots” with neighboring counties and supported school groups interested in water monitoring. Additionally, we published a 65-page report analyzing water quality data, including a novel way of looking at the data.

SECURED A NATIONAL FOUNDATION GRANT – This grant assists us in building a network for interpreting water quality monitoring data.  Seven partners joined Prairie Rivers to focus at sharing best practices, looking for tools to monitor E. coli in our streams, providing a monthly opportunity to express their concerns and planning for an Iowa Water Summit in 2024.

Ioway Creek Cleanup

TWO TRASH CLEANUPS — (1) May 2023 — Cleaned Ioway Creek by canoe, S. Grand to S. 16th St (Ames), 40 participants.  The trash collected weighed 3,020 pounds and included 20 tires and three rims. Partners included: Story County Conservation, Skunk River Paddlers, the City of Ames, Outdoor Alliance of Story County.  (2) August 14, 2023 – Cleaned a tributary of Ioway Creek in Stuart Smith Park (Ames), on foot, nine volunteers, 350 pounds of trash removed.  Partners included Iowa Rivers Revival, Green Iowa AmeriCorps and the City of Ames.

POLLINATOR CONSERVATION Launched a 10-year plan involving over 40 persons serving on a committee to support pollinator conservation.  This plan is aimed at conserving pollinators and their habitats, which are crucial for the environment.  You can see the plan at www.prrcd.org.

Monarch Magic Family Fun Event on September 9th, 2023

MONARCH MAGIC Held the first Monarch tagging event in September, where over 300 kids, their families, and others learned about pollinators and tagged 146 Monarchs.  We had 10 sponsors and partners at Ada Hayden Heritage Park and plan to do it again in 2024.

HISTORIC RESOURCE PRESERVATIONReceived a grant from Iowa Cultural Affairs and successfully surveyed 319 historic listings on the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway.  In 2024, we will present the findings to elected officials and other interested persons in the 43 communities along the Byway to inform and develop a plan for the restoration and preservation of these important Iowa heritage properties.

BYWAY COORDINATOR AND PROJECTS – Hired a new Byway Coordinator, Jeanie Hau, who is actively working to support our Byway projects.  Prairie Rivers signed a new contract with the Iowa DOT to support work on the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway extending our efforts to preserve Iowa’s heritage.  This Byway begins on Highway 30, Montour turnoff, and travels through the Amana Colonies for a total of 77 miles.

TRAVELING EXHIBITThe Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway traveling exhibit called The Promise Road:  How the Lincoln Highway Changed America has been displayed at various locations, allowing visitors to learn about the rich history of this historic road.  It’s available for display in museums, libraries, and other community spaces.  So far the exhibit has traveled to Jefferson, Grand Junction, State Center, Nevada, Linn County Historical Society: The History Center, Cedar Rapids History Museum, Nevada Library, Marion Public Library, Carroll Public Library, Harrison County Welcome Center, and currently at the Council Bluffs Public Library.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Traveling Exhibit

We cannot do this work without your support!

Today, we are asking you as a supporter to make an end-of-year gift of $50.00 to Prairie Rivers of Iowa.  Your support shows us to keep up the good work!   You can make a gift here online or by going to our donation page for additional options. We know that as good stewards of the land, you see how important this work is today.

It is so important for a not-for-profit to receive gifts from individuals. Hearing from you encourages and supports our very difficult work in support of the natural and cultural resources in Iowa.
Thank you!

Board of Directors
Reed Riskedahl, President
Mark Rasmussen, Treasurer
Doug Cooper, Secretary
Erv Klaas
Bob Ausberger
Chuck Stewart
Rick Dietz
Jim Richardson
Christopher Barber

Staff
Mike Kellner, Marketing and Public Relations
Dan Haug, Water Quality Specialist
Jessica Butters, Pollinator Conservation Specialist
Jeanie Hau, Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway & Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Coordinator
Carman Rosburg, Office Manager
Daniel Huber, Technology
Shellie Orngard, Historic Properties Consultant

One-Time Donate to Prairie Rivers of Iowa
Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Sign Inventory Completed

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Sign Inventory Completed

As the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway coordinator, I recently had the privilege of seeing every corner of the Byway from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River — crossing every river in between. The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) asked byway coordinators to inventory every byway sign on their respective byways across Iowa. For me, that meant 1100 miles, including both sides of the road, and the loops through downtowns. The goal was to complete the inventory before winter begins. We finished just before the big pre-Christmas storm in 2022.

Overall the signs are in good condition and help tell the story of the Byway. But in areas, they go missing, especially where there has been redevelopment along a main street or where new highways have been expanded. Some signs even have a few bullet holes in them. IDOT now has the location and condition of all Iowa Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway signs so improvements can be made.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood

I can’t take all the credit. I had the benefit of having a Prairie Rivers of Iowa volunteer to switch off data entry and driving. My job would have been made much more difficult without a helper who was so thoughtful and thorough. It also made it easier to take in the beautiful landscape along the journey.

We chose to do the inventory on the weekends from October to December and were witness to the seasons changing. Not only that each town had its own charm and many were decked out for the holiday season. One afternoon an awe-inspiring fog frosted the countryside and town trees. Garland, lights, wreaths, and bows adorned lampposts and store frontages along brick-paved streets. This is not to mention the tenderloin and loose meat sandwiches along the way. (Pictured: Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown)

Some folks call Iowa flat, but if you travel the Lincoln Highway in Iowa you’ll see it’s not. In Pottawattamie County, the Lincoln actually goes from north to south for a segment where you can see the sculpted deposits as peaked hills with narrow ridges as the windblown Loess Hills between the divide of the Missouri River Alluvial Plain.

I’m a native Iowan but have never had the opportunity to see Iowa in such a way. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway traverses landscape changes from west to east from its landforms. There’s the Missouri River Alluvial Plain, Loess Hills, Southern Iowa Drift, the Des Moines Lobe, Iowan Surface, and East-Central Iowa Drift Plain.

Along the way, Iowa’s byways crisscross, adding to the allure of America’s Byways® in Iowa. One way to understand Iowa and its cultural and natural resources is to travel along its byways. That’s why byway signs are so integral to telling Iowa’s story. They are part of the deep heritage of wayfinding that began in the 1910s with telephone pole paintings and Boy Scout markers.

Iowa Winter Scenes Along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Corridor

Mount Crescent Ski Area Along the Lincoln Highway Corridor

Mt. Crescent Ski Area in Honey Creek

Lincoln Highway Farm Scene near Carroll Iowa

Farm Scene Near Carroll

Niland's Corner Along Lincoln Highway in Colo Iowa

Historic Niland’s Corner Near Colo

Bonus Video

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Complete Sign Inventory Begins

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Complete Sign Inventory Begins

On a recent beautiful crisp fall morning, Prairie Rivers of Iowa staff and a volunteer set out to travel the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway through urban streets and gravel roads in Story and Boone counties. Byway Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood is starting a new project across all thirteen counties and 43 municipalities to inventory and assess the condition of the Byway’s signage. These signs are a critical part byway infrastructure and have historical significance as an evolution of what came before.

From the beginning of the Lincoln Highway, tools were needed to assist the traveler including guidebooks and signs along the route. In the early era of the established transcontinental route, signs were painted on telephone poles ad hoc by local councils and volunteers.

Today travelers along the historic route in Iowa rely on guidebooks, maps, and signage. These aids are thanks to the efforts of many individuals, organizations such as Prairie Rivers, and government agencies like the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Lincoln Highway Activity Guide and Map
Lincoln Highway Vintage Style Telephone Pole Marker
Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Signage in Need of Repair After Tornado

Over time all the byway signs need to be maintained. The condition of the signs has ranged from excellent to vandalized, bent, and faded from the sun. Some signs are missing from their original location. The signs are always located at any turn with directional arrows. They are also located after any turn in the route where another sign confirms that the traveler is on the right path.

The inventory aims to improve the quality of the signage out on the roadway network, improve the life cycle of each sign from ordering, fabricating, installing, maintaining, and removing, improve the ability to budget for these key assets on a statewide basis, provide a tool for the decision maker to do signage related scenario planning.

The Iowa DOT has developed a geospatial program to maintain and update data on locations and conditions of signs statewide. Prairie Rivers’ staff are using iPads with ESRI’s ArcGIS Field Maps app loaded with IDOT data to wholly complete the survey. Previously condition reports were recorded based on individual needs, at specific times, in different districts or regions.

According to PRI staff, “This is a great way to see the byway while traveling down gravel roads at 25 mph, much like the original traveler in their Ford Model T.”

The project is expected to run through the fall and wrap up before road conditions deteriorate.

The project is expected to run through the fall and wrap up before road conditions deteriorate.
Lincoln Highway National heritage Byway in Woodbine Iowa
Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Marshall County Iowa
Lincoln Highway Natiional heritage Byway in Carroll Iowa