Sarah is basing her Master’s thesis work around a wetland located inside Effigy Mounds National Monument. Tuesday, I went there with her to help with some preliminary data collection.

Effigy Mounds is approximately two hours from Madison, in northeastern Iowa. The park itself is right on the Mississippi River. My duties on our mission were to help paddle, portage, and stabilize the canoe while Sarah performed her data collection. We put the canoe into the Yellow River (which was anything but yellow) about a 1/3 mile west of the pond and paddled downstream. Just before the river emptied into the Mississippi, we pulled the canoe out of the river, and up a small slope onto a strip of land that separated the river from the pond. A portage of roughly thirty yards later, we put the canoe into the pond.

The pond itself was relatively shallow, probably less than ten feet deep at its deepest location. Beavers built a lodge near the center of the lake and numerous wetlands surrounded the pond proper. On top of the beaver lodge were a handful of duck eggs.

We paddled around the pond while Sarah measured the depth of the silt on the pond’s bottom using a series of fiberglass rods. A stiff breeze came up occasionally, but for the most part, we had clear skies, temperatures in the high fifties, and flat water.

In the distance, three bald eagles circled, while nearby several groups of ducks quacked at us. Red-winged blackbirds were numerous; a woodpecker could be heard working away at trees the beavers had girdled; a few dragonflies skimmed the water’s surface; swallows swooped and dove in the air above the dragonflies. All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.