Sailors for the Sea Encourages Ocean Conservation

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As the official sustainability partner with America’s Cup, Sailors for the Sea is reaching their largest audience to date.

Sailors for the Sea educates sailors and boaters about protecting the oceans. Their partnership with America’s Cup, a race between two yachts that is the oldest trophy in international sport, allows them to reach sailors from countries around the world.

“Now, we are moving to an international level,” explains Dan Pingaro, CEO. “[Sailors] can make a positive difference on the ocean,” he says.

Pingaro says involving sailors is imperative because of the problems facing our oceans today, including a changing pH balance and plastics floating in the water. The changing pH balance has an impact on shellfish, coral fish, and feeder fish for larger ocean dwellers. And plastic trash is the major component of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, among other polluted areas….

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Iowa Rivers Revival Invites You to Rivers Rock! September 11

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Whether you’re a paddler, a lover of rivers, or someone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about, Iowa Rivers Revival invites you to fall in love with Iowa’s rivers at Rivers Rock! Float and Music Fest on Saturday, September 11….

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1 Mississippi Photo Contest Ends Sunday

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The Mississippi River has long been memorialized in song, story, and legend for its beauty and the spirit of adventure it inspires. Uniting 31 states in its watershed, the river is a part of our culture and our heritage as Americans. And it serves as a superhighway for goods that flow north and south, connecting communities along the way. This valuable asset deserves our protection and our respect.

A group called 1 Mississippi has invited both amateur and professional photographers to submit photos of this diverse and important waterway that unites our nation. But hurry! The contest ends on Sunday.

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Burt’s Bees – A Safe Way to Shoo Pesky Gnats

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Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent saved my skin this week.

On Monday and Tuesday, I volunteered at the Iowa River Call field trip experience at River Junction, Iowa. There’s no getting away from bugs when you’re near a river, and the swarms of gnats were pretty much driving all of the volunteers crazy. One of our crew got bit in the first few hours she was at the site, and a red, itchy patch swelled up to cover most of one side of her neck.

On Monday, one of the kids was so troubled by the gnats that he spent much of the day with his arms over his head, until an adult offered him a hat. Another of our volunteers tried both Cutters and a second chemical insect repellent (I’d tell you if I knew the name), but the darned gnats just wouldn’t leave him alone. I didn’t wear any insect repellent that day, and though I didn’t get bit, gnats swarmed my head constantly.

On Tuesday, I remembered that I had a bottle of Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent and took it with me to the river….

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Notes from Minnesota: Return of the River Otter

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On a frigid February afternoon, I walked the path around the Mill Pond in downtown Austin, Minnesota. A recreational area with a bike path, skate park, and swimming pool, the Mill Pond was formed by damming the Cedar River in the early years of the city.

As I crossed a bridge spanning the river, movement out on the ice caught my attention. For a moment, it looked like a sheet of black tar paper, waving in a non-existent breeze, but a closer look revealed an otter! A big guy, he was greedily devouring a fish.

I pulled out my camera and began to shoot video as a second otter appeared from under the ice. This was the first pair I’d seen since those I’d observed in Austin’s Sutton Park back in the mid 1970s. After 35 years, the river otters had returned….

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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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Beyond the River Banks – IRR Annual Conference April 30 – May 2

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If you love Iowa’s rivers, you won’t want to miss the 5th annual conference hosted by Iowa Rivers Revival at the end of this month. The conference will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. This year’s theme is “Beyond the River Banks: Celebrating Iowa’s Cedar Valley.”

As Iowans — and those who followed the severe Midwest flooding of 2008 — know, the Cedar Valley experienced historic water levels, reaching beyond the 500-year floodplain in Cedar Rapids and other places along the Cedar River watershed. The conference “emphasizes a watershed approach that recognizes that rivers and streams need space to expand and recede, coexisting in harmony with the communities and habitats they shape,” according to IRR’s executive director, Rosalyn Lehman.

“The floods of 2008 and threats of future flooding have many Iowans talking about a new vision for Iowa’s waterways to ensure the safety of river communities and to preserve and enhance Iowa’s natural heritage,” Lehman says….

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A Conversation with Larry Long, Lifelong Activist and Folksinger

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Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Larry Long has been an activist for decades. At various times he has used his musical talents to help organize citizens in protest and in celebration. Throughout his long career, he says he has, “employed art and oral history for the benefit of reconciliation and building community.”

Among Long’s many successful projects was the creation of the Mississippi River Revival. He is a longtime friend of famed folksinger Pete Seeger, whose acclaimed Great Hudson River Revival has been instrumental in cleaning up the Hudson River, and who has mentored Long over the years. Today, Larry Long serves as executive director for a nonprofit called Community Celebration of Place….

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Hope Springs Eternal for the Cedar River

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I remember the summer of 1967, when I fished the Cedar River for the first time, accompanied by my twin sister and older brothers. Against the backdrop of the Hormel packing plant, cane poles in hand, we caught bullheads, bluegills, and rock bass off North Main Street in Austin, Minnesota, population around 27,000 at the time. I also remember the dirty water and the smell.

That afternoon, a tired and hungry not-yet-seven-year-old, I sat at the supper table with questions for my parents: Why is the river so dirty? Can something be done about it? Why would anyone want to live in a town with a polluted river running through it? Does anyone care? They are questions I have asked repeatedly, since that first day of fishing over 40 years ago….

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It Rained on Our Parade

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It had not rained in Iowa City for eleven days. We had been experiencing a cooler than usual June, with day after day of amazingly great temperatures and low humidity. I should have known it wouldn’t last.

Iowa weather usually acts like a spoiled child and demands constant attention. The minute you look away, it will catch you in snow without a coat or a thunderstorm without an umbrella. Or the temperature will rise 30 degrees in a few hours and put you in a dripping sweat because you’re not wearing shorts. These are facts of life in Iowa. I forgot. I lowered my guard. I did not schedule a rain date.

For months, I had been focusing on creating a Fourth of July, New Orleans-style, second-line, jazz funeral march. This was to be a symbolic funeral for the Iowa River, held by volunteers from our Facebook group, Save The Iowa River (STIR). The planning went on: a casket, pallbearers, news coverage, musicians, music, marchers, signs, bottles filled with water from the Iowa River, parade permit, first aid kit, parking, tables, tent. When the word rain came to mind, I just told myself that there would be lots of umbrellas at the march anyway, in keeping with the motif; so, if it did rain, everything would work out just fine…

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A Symbolic Funeral for the Iowa River

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Every so often, an issue consumes me. I read as much as I can on the subject. I attend lectures. I join action groups. I get involved. This is one of those issues: my beloved Iowa River. The Iowa River isn’t dead yet, but, like so many other rivers, it’s heading that way. And I think it’s worth saving. So, I decided to do something about it.

Tomorrow, on the Fourth of July, the Save the Iowa River (STIR) group will hold a mock funeral for the Iowa River in conjunction with Iowa City’s annual jazz festival. We’ll be rocking a pine casket, loaned by Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Services, while playing “Down by the Riverside,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and other standards. We’ll march in true New Orleans style in a second-line, jazz funeral parade. We’ll have fun, while spreading the word — and water samples — to the public. And you’re invited to join us…

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Take This House (and Float It Away) Flooding Play on Midwest Tour

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In the heart of levee-protected suburbs along California’s American River, a middle-aged couple think they’re immune to anything nature blows their way — catastrophic flood included — only to find themselves terribly deluded. This original theatre piece, Take This House (and Float It Away), spirals into the tragicomic world of Stu and Marlene’s floodplain living room, where the couple is unable to comprehend nature’s effect on their safe, suburban sphere. As Stu hides behind “groundbreaking” research into bird gestures, Marlene extrapolates caffeinated solutions to newspaper headlines, conflating staying informed with staying afloat…

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Porked Off! A Critical Look at Iowa’s Water Quality

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For 25 years, I’ve lived two blocks from the Iowa River. I used to water ski on, swim in, and fish from it. I don’t anymore. Twenty years ago, I felt safe including my children in these activities. We felt safe swimming in the river and eating bass, bullhead, catfish, and walleye from its waters. I had hoped I would be able to share the same experiences with my grandchildren someday.

Nowadays, you shouldn’t just drop in a line and catch your dinner. You should check with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before you eat the fish. The agency does federally mandated testing for pesticides at least once a year. They do periodic testing for mercury and PCBs, too. Their latest warnings are posted on their Fish Consumption Advisories page. You’ll find warnings like this one:

“The Cedar River from the Highway 218 bridge at Floyd (Floyd Co.) to the Iowa/Minnesota state line (39 mile stretch): Eat only 1 meal/week of smallmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike due to elevated levels of mercury.”

Sound healthy to you?

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