Golden Hills RC&D, Friends of Waubonsie State Park, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources are excited to announce a call for applications for the latest round of an artist residency program at Waubonsie State Park! This is the second year of the program, the first of its kind in the state.
Located in the Loess Hills of Southwest Iowa, Waubonsie State Park’s 2,000 acres feature prairies, savannas, and woodlands which are home to diverse flora and fauna, not to mention breathtaking vistas.
Artists will receive lodging in a studio cabin and a primitive studio space in the park at no cost for the duration of the residency. In return, artists will deliver at least one public program per month of their residency and donate one piece of art to the park at the conclusion of their stay.
Learn more and apply today: goldenhillsrcd.org/artist-in-residence
A hub for nature, culture, and more in the Loess Hills-Missouri River Region
The Loess Hills Missouri River Region recently relaunched WanderLoess, an online hub for nature, recreation, tourism, arts, and culture in southwest Iowa’s Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties.
WanderLoess was conceptualized in 2015 during a regional planning process for the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. and was envisioned as "Coordination of talented artisans, naturalists, chefs and performers that translates into an exceptional online and off-line resources and events delivering education, recreation, local food experiences, arts, and entertainment.
"WanderLoess is a play on words--"wanderlust" meaning a desire to travel and explore, and "loess" (pronounced 'luss,' rhyming with 'bus') being our local soils. The name started with an Instagram hashtag by a bicyclist in the Loess Hills and has grown to include exploration and enjoyment of southwest Iowa’s myriad amenities and attractions.
The website includes activities categorized into nature and outdoor recreation, local foods and agritourism, arts, and culture; themed “best-of” lists and sample itineraries; places to stay; and a map of sites and activities in the tri-county region.
The new site was created in partnership with Hyperion Creative Agency of Council Bluffs. Visit the new site at www.wanderloess.com.
The Loess Hills Missouri River Region includes a board of directors with representatives from each of the three counties and is coordinated by Golden Hills RC&D of Oakland. Learn more about the initiative and download the full plan at www.goldenhillsrcd.org/lhmrr.
By Bill Blackburn
While U.S.-China relations have been tense recently when it comes to international trade, one area that has witnessed a new era of collaboration and cooperation between the two countries is the study of the Loess Hills. In June, a small gathering of U.S. and Chinese experts on loess soils and restoration met in Yangling, Shaanxi, China to share information on the Iowa Loess Hills and China Loess Plateau, their condition, value, restoration and protection, as well as the latest research on loess soils.
Loess (pronounced as “luss,” “Lois,“ or “less”) is a yellowish deposit of wind-blown rock dust found in Germany, Argentina, New Zealand, U.S., China, and many other parts of the world. However, it forms hills of significant height (60-350 feet) only in two places: in the Yellow River region in and around Shaanxi province, China, and in the mini-mountains (bluffs) in the Midwest U.S. that parallel the Missouri River 220 miles from Mound City, MO to Westfield, IA. In Iowa, the beautiful sharp-cliffed hills can be seen along Interstate 29 through the western sides of Fremont, Mills, Pottawattamie, Harrison, Monroe, Woodbury, and Plymouth Counties. They were formed from glacier-ground rock powder brought down the Missouri River and blown into dunes by westerly winds.
The Chinese “Loess Plateau,” which covers an area only slightly less than the entire state of Texas, is located several hundred miles southwest of Beijing. The loess there eroded from various mountain areas over millions of years, was collected in the Gobi and other deserts, and from there was blown into the plateau. Over the centuries, the Loess Plateau, had become massively eroded from overgrazing and deforestation, with the resulting erosion filling the Yellow River with deposits of so much loess that devastating flooding of croplands became common. A huge restoration project funded largely by the World Bank and others set out to partially restore the plateau over an area roughly the size of New Jersey.
The June U.S.-China Exchange on Loess Landforms came about as a result of a lecture series on the Loess Plateau done in Western Iowa and Omaha in 2017 by John Liu, a Chinese-American documentary film-maker from Beijing, who had recorded the dramatic conditions of the Plateau before and after restoration. Acclaimed soil scientist Professor Robert Horton of Iowa State University worked with his long-time friend, senior Professor Baoyuan Liu (no relation to John) and Professor Fan Jun, both soil scientists at China’s Northwest University of Agriculture and Forestry, to have NWUAF sponsor the meeting.
The Gilchrist Foundation, which co-sponsored John Liu’s 2017 lecture tour, also funded the participation of young professionals, Graham McGaffin, of the Nature Conservancy-Loess Hills, Sioux City, and Assistant Professor Bradley Miller of Iowa State. Also participating from the U.S. were Professor Michael Thompson of Iowa State, and Bill Blackburn of the Green Hollow Center in Fremont County. Presentation were also given via the internet by Professor Tom Bragg, plant specialist from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and John Thomas, loess erosion expert from the Hungry Canyons erosion control program at Golden Hills RC&D in Oakland.
Besides the one-day conference in Yangling, the U.S.-China delegation also visited NWUAF soils research stations in the Loess Plateau near Chang Wu and Ansai to review their latest research projects. The tour was capped off with a visit to the famous terra cotta warriors of the Qin Dynasty Emperor that were buried near Xian in the Plateau around 200 BC---warriors we were surprised to learn were made of loess soil glued together with rice water.
The agenda and presentations offered at the Exchange and pictures from the tour of the Plateau can be seen on the Golden Hills RC&D website ( www.goldenhillsrcd.org/ucell.html). A follow-up meeting in Western Iowa is now being considered.
Golden Hills is working with Iowa Rivers Revival and local partners to host the Master River Stewards Program (MRSP) in western Iowa in 2019. MRSP is an adult-education program that teaches watershed awareness, paddling and navigating skills, river and stream dynamics, aquatic habitat, water quality and water monitoring, and policies related to floodplains, river protection and restoration.
Cost for the program is $50 but financial assistance may be available upon request. Registration will close on August 12 or when maximum capacity is reached. This is a certificate program and participants are expected to attend all sessions to receive certification. If you are unable to attend all sessions but are still interested in participating, we may be able to accommodate. Email Project Coordinator Lance Brisbois with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a more detailed agenda and registration, visit Golden Hills' MRSP web page.
Golden Hills is excited to announce that we have been awarded $350,000 in the latest round of Iowa West Foundation grants for the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Cabin Initiative. This partnership with Harrison, Mills, and Pottawattamie county conservation boards will construct new cabins at Willow Lake Recreation Area, Pony Creek Park, and Arrowhead Park.
Through this collaboration, the three counties will receive a volume discount on the cabins and will increase profitability for the three parks. Increasing opportunities for cabin camping in the tri-county region will also encourage more residents and visitors to explore and enjoy the abundant outdoor recreation opportunities in the region.
Each cabin will have an open concept including kitchen, bathrooms, outdoor porch, and fire pit. The cabins will each accommodate 10-12 people, offering a rustic cabin experience with modern conveniences.
These three parks were decided based on the Iowa Parks Foundation's Cabins Task Force recommendations. Each site includes outdoor recreation opportunities like fishing, paddling, hiking, and wildlife watching.
The six cabins are expected to be built in 2019 and open for rentals by summer 2020.
Learn more about the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan here.
Golden Hills staff will be at four county fairgrounds in July with information about our recent water quality projects installed at the fairgrounds. Staff will have free information to hand out and will have activities for youth to learn about watersheds and water quality. Tentative dates and times are below:
Fremont County Fairgrounds
Additionally, join us on Tuesday, July 16 for a tour of three of the sites with IDALS Secretary Mike Naig!
Golden Hills RC&D invites the public to a ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the completion of three bioretention cells at the Mills, Montgomery, and Fremont county fairgrounds. These water quality practices will help slow the flow of rainwater on its path to enter the Nishnabotna River, preventing flooding, soil erosion, and nutrient runoff. These projects are funded by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative Grant.
Golden Hills RC&D has partnered with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to welcome Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig to our region and celebrate completion of these projects in an effort to raise awareness of urban water quality practices in rural communities. The ribbon cutting ceremonies will take place Tuesday, July 16th at each of the fairgrounds. The times are listed below.
Mills County (Malvern)- 3:00 PM
Fremont County (Sidney) - 5:00 PM
Montgomery County (Red Oak) - 7:00 PM
Learn more about this project here.
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship recently announced
funding for the 2019 round of Iowa Water Quality Initiative (WQI) program. Golden Hills was awarded funding for our project, "Bringing Urban Practices to Rural Communities." This is a multi-site project that will add urban water quality practices (bioretention cells and rain gardens) to county courthouses and fairgrounds in Avoca, Glenwood, Malvern, Oakland, Red Oak, and Sidney. We will also add a rain garden at our office in Oakland. Each site will include education and outreach for youth and adults. See the bottom of this page for scheduled events. Projects will be constructed in spring-summer 2019 and spring 2020.
This effort includes public education and outreach. Prior to each project build, we will host an educational session targeted towards youth (but open to all ages). 4-H and FFA members are especially encouraged to attend, but you do not need to be a member of either to join. These sessions will discuss issues related to water quality and quantity and tie back to our local Nishnabotna watershed. This information will help people understand why practices like rain gardens and bioretention cells are important.
Each project site will be visible to the public beyond county fair time and able to be used for additional education and outreach about both water quality practices such as rain gardens, bioswales permeable pavers, and native vegetation. Each site will have a kickoff event as well as a public ribbon cutting when completed. Project partners will have an informational booth at the sites during county fairs to educate fairgoers about the water quality practices.
We will rely on volunteers to help build each project. We are seeking donations for mulch, sand, rock, plants and equipment. At each of the fairgrounds, we will host a ribbon-cutting event once the project is complete.
Learn more about the project and how you can get involved on the project web page.
In fall 2018, we partnered with Pottawattamie County Conservation and Iowa Prairie Network on events for native prairie seed harvest. In 2019, with support from Gilchrist Foundation, we are expanding these efforts throughout the Loess Hills.
We will work with local partners to find volunteers for the project. Volunteers will visit local prairie remnants and learn how to identify which plants are available for seed collection. The harvested seed will then be used for local prairie restoration and reconstruction projects.
We anticipate at least monthly seed harvest workshops from May through October at several sites in the Loess Hills and will be looking for volunteers. If you are interested, fill out this form.
Check the project website for more details as they are confirmed!
We are partnering with West Pottawattamie Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and Pottawattamie County Conservation to offer the Iowa Master Conservationist Program starting Spring 2019. The program will take place primarily at Hitchcock Nature Center, providing participants with hands-on interaction with the diversity of the state’s natural resources. The program teaches about Iowa’s natural ecosystems and the diversity of conservation challenges and opportunities that exist in the region. Graduates of the course learn to make informed choices for leading and educating others to improve conservation in Iowa.
The program consists of approximately 12 hours of online curriculum and six face-to-face meetings. The online modules will include lessons and resources by Iowa State subject-matter experts to be reviewed at the participants’ own pace at home or at the ISU Extension and Outreach West Pottawattamie County office. Module topics include conservation history and science, understanding Iowa ecosystems, implementing conservation practices in human dominated landscapes and developing skills to help educate others about conservation practices.
Six face-to-face meetings will build on the online lessons and be held at Hitchcock Nature Center from 8:00 a.m. to Noon on the 4th Saturday of the month starting April 27th and ending September 28th. Each face-to-face meeting will be led by local subject-matter experts to demonstrate how the principles covered in the online curriculum and play out locally. Participants will work with program partners Golden Hills RC&D, Pottawattamie County Conservation, Pottawattamie County Soil & Water Conservation, Pottawattamie County NRCS, ISU Extension and Outreach West Pottawattamie, along with educational experts in their fields.
Registration for the course is $100/participant or $50 for college and high school students with a valid school ID and is due at the time of registration. To register contact the ISU Extension and Outreach West Pottawattamie County office at 712-366-2646. The deadline to register is April 19th at 4:00 p.m.
ISU Extension and Outreach—West Pottawattamie County