Getting a Dose of Vitamin "N" - Nature

posted by Guest Blogger on Thursday, August 25, 2022

Working on a Saturday probably sounds like a bummer to most people, but for me it’s easy to come to work on a Saturday when I get to spend it paddling on the Des Moines River! As an Assistant Naturalist with Polk County Conservation, an IEC Member Organization, I get to teach all sorts of folks about Central Iowa’s natural resources through interpretive programming and outdoor recreation adventures like this river trip.

Paddling the Des Moines River

Naturalist Lewis Major and I were joined by seven Polk county residents, some who had paddled before and others who were joining us as first-time paddlers. Luckily, the stretch of the Des Moines River that we explored was perfect for beginners with wide bends and predictable hazards. The water was moving at the perfect speed, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and our paddlers were anxious to get on the river.

After pushing off at Sycamore Access, we started our float. Within our first few minutes we spotted a Great Blue Heron and two adolescent Bald Eagles. Our participants were amazed how “wild” the river felt even though we were still so close to such a populated area. After about 45 minutes of paddling, we docked on a large sandbar to do a little bit of exploring.

Walking the SandbarParticipants were asked to walk the sandbar looking for one thing (or more) that caught their attention; they were given about ten minutes to look around and then they could share with the group what they found. Most came back with the beautiful opalescent mussel shells found along many of Iowa’s banks and beaches, while other found interesting rocks. One participant found a pop can that was decades old, while another found more modern trash including a plastic bottle cap and candy wrapper.

A discussion was had about the role of native mussels within our waterways and the longevity of our trash footprint in our rivers. We continued on our journey passing bicyclists, hikers, and the occasional fisherman. Even at a distance there was a sense of community on the water. Central Iowans using our outdoor spaces to explore, enjoy, and appreciate the natural world around them.

Lantern Fly Polk County Des Moines RiverSeveral times along our trip I was joined by a damselfly, a (literally) small reminder that we aren’t the only ones this river belongs to. During our picnic lunch, our group chatted about all of the impacts the Des Moines River has on our community. It feeds people and our local Bald Eagle population with fish, it’s a drinking water source for wildlife and for many people in the Metro and, and it’s also a source of what we in the Environmental Education business like to call “Vitamin N” or Vitamin Nature - that little dose of wild that captures you and inspires you to do what’s best for your environment.

Paddlers on beach of Des Moines RiverWe ended our trip at the Prospect Park boat ramp, where we loaded our boats, life jackets, paddles and gear and said our goodbyes. I was left with a sense of pride, proud to know just a few more Iowans that care just as deeply for our beautiful state as I do.

These opportunities that Polk County Conservation provides for the public creates a sense of place and fosters an appreciation that sparks advocacy for our waterways and conservation areas. I am so grateful to have a job that connects me to Iowans through programs like this river trip!

Want to take a virtual tour of the river trips? Check these links out:

Des Moines River Paddling Trip (Sycamore Access to Prospect Park)

Middle Raccoon River Trip (Lenon Mill to Cowles Access)

Stay tuned for more virtual River Tours to help you get started on your next paddling adventure!

To see upcoming Polk County Conservation events click here:

About the Author

Lindsay PageLindsey Page is an Assistant Naturalist with Polk County Conservation. She has worked in education and community outreach for several years. She attended Iowa State University for her Bachelor of Science in Forestry with a minor in Animal Ecology and a focus on Interpretation of Natural Resources. She is passionate about the outdoors and incorporating music and fine arts into her programming.

  1. member org
  2. water quality
  3. water recreation
  4. water safety

About The Author

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