Adventure is out there, on the Mississippi
By Caitlin Bittner
It all started bright and early on the morning of Monday, Aug. 4. When groups of people began to arrive, they were assigned teams--Sturgeon, Snapping Turtles, Shovelers, Catbirds, Dragonflies and River Otters. After forming, the teams remained together for the entirety of the 5th annual Rotary Club Mississippi River Adventure Day (MRAD).
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., many area youngsters and adults alike had the opportunity to explore the beauty of the Mississippi River and all the fun it has to offer. "We have six groups moving in a circle," said one of the event's organizers Dave Wesener.
The circular motion works in relation to the layout of each of the event's stations, which included a boat ride, an up close look at the fish, reptiles and amphibians of the Mississippi river, a presentation by the "Hawkman," information about geo-caching, fishing demonstrations and a historical look at the War of 1812 by Mary Antoine.
"The geo-caching was the best!" echoed participants Greta, Kaitlyn, Gracie, Ryan, Johnathon, Joseph and Andrew. Although, they also went on to say that they thought the boat ride was the most fun activity of the day—a fairly safe bet.
The boat rides left from the beach and took passengers under the bridge and out the other side, where many area wildlife were able to be viewed, including turtles, snakes, eagles and turkey vultures.
While stopping, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee Ann Blankenship pointed out ways in which you can identify the difference between the area’s large birds. “Turkey vultures have a V-shape when they fly, and eagles are flat,” said Blankenship, who went on to explain that bald eagles have yellow feet, while golden eagles have feathers that go all the way down their legs.
Back ashore, event-goers walked down the beach to the station where they could get even closer to nature and touch the animals. “The lizard and the snake were really cool,” said Kaitlyn. “Even if they were kind of gross to touch.”
Many of the kids in her group agreed with Kaitlyn and said that the critters were slimy and slippery—all the qualities you might want in a pet?
“No!” was the resounding response to that question, with more than a few parents and grandparents chiming in as well. “It’s cool just to visit them,” said Gracie.
Also a part of the hands on wildlife station was Kevin Hansen from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He came with two large tanks of live river fish. “It’s mostly game fish that we’ve got in there, but we have a few others too,” said Hansen, who said that the kids seemed to be enjoying each of the fish species.
“They really seem to like the sturgeon and the gar, but some of the kids do have a problem identifying [the fish]. Every signle one of them is a bass,” Hansen laughed.
Another popular station included the casting and ice fishing information. Volunteers from Prairie du Chien’s Rod and Gun Club and Cabela’s got together to help the kids hone their techniques with magnetics. After awhile, the air was punctuated many times by excited calls, each saying ‘I got the fish!’
Last, but not least, John Stravers entertained with his ever popular hawk presentation. While he didn’t bring any of the striking birds with him, their pictures were enough to leave the children in awe, as well as make them very curious. Many of the kids and adults participated in the discussion regarding the birds' migration patterns.
Event participants and presenters were both impressed with the smoothness with which the event was run. “It’s so well-organized,” said Brian Gibbs from Clayton County Conservation who led the discussion on geo-caching. “I love to see things like this where kids are outside with the parents or grandparents.”
Although Wesener was glad to see the event going so well despite the call for rain they had been given, he was reluctant to take the credit for himself or the club. “We just organize it; the presenters are what makes it a success.”