Energetic volunteers, an unsurpassable staff, a pretty river, tons of trash (mostly old), a reminder from the weather that this IS Iowa:
Saturday’s final day on AWARE 2011 proved to be a microcosm of the entire 90-mile week.
With canoes, kayaks, chain saws, pick axes, come-alongs, bolt cutters, buckets, and sledge hammers, intrepid river warriors attacked the debris left by decades of floods and abuse.
The effort started July 10 on the Little Turkey River, then continued July 11-15 on the Turkey.
For a slight change of scenery, we hopped over Chicken Ridge from the Turkey to the Volga River on July 16.
A Watershed Awareness River Expedition set some records, as well. About 450 volunteers participated on at least one day. They collected more than 30 tons of junk.
More than 90% of the trash was recycled. The group removed at least 600 tires from the rivers.
Nearly 150 people joined Saturday’s 10-mile float from Osborne to Littleport. Their spirits were dampened only slightly by thundershowers Friday night and several periods of rain on Saturday.
By the time they reached the pull-out, the sun had emerged and most people had dried out.
The shallow, sandy Volga turned more rocky after Cox Creek entered from the right, a couple of miles into the trip. Plenty of bends and snags still kept the paddlers alert, though.
A juvenile bald eagle at its nest, pileated woodpeckers, kingfishers, cedar waxwings, and other birds entertained the paddlers.
After a shuttle back to Osborne Park, AWARE volunteers wrapped up the week with a finale by Laura Zaugg, a naturalist with the Dallas County Conservation Board, and Gary Siegwarth, river expert with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. They urged us to seek “Maka Achante,” a Native American expression for A Sense of Place.
Observe your surroundings, take a deep breath, and get to know “all your family” – the host of fellow creatures with which we share the Earth, Laura suggested.
Take the time to learn the rhythms of the river and to become part of them, Gary advised.
Getting in touch with a river will help you get in touch with the rest of your world – and with yourself, Gary and Laura agreed.
Laura quoted farmer/philosopher Wendell Berry:
“If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”