It’s March. Spring is here, almost. The trees are waking up. The buds on maple trees are swelling. Daffodils are popping. The grass is steadily greening, despite regular morning frosts depicting the push-pull between the outgoing winter and oncoming spring. 
Looking up, birds are more abundant and vocal. It’s a great time for birding. Download the Merlin Bird ID app on your phone to really increase your birding aptitude. It will listen to the calls and tell you what it hears, among other amazing functionalities.
Along the river and its backwaters, waterfowl dot the waters. Last week’s rain helped recharge some of the wetlands and the ducks and geese are loving it. 

Whitetailed deer have all lost their antlers, leaving them somewhere in the woods for intrepid forest walkers to find. If ever you needed an excuse to stroll the woods on a beautiful spring afternoon, shed hunting is as good a one as can be imagined. Second only to morel mushroom hunting, I suppose.

I’ve even heard that the catfish are biting. Other fish will be too as the water warms. 

It all beckons me outdoors. How about you?

As much as I like going outside now, I also know that warmer, longer days are on the near horizon, and I’ll want to be outside even more then. Thus, I like to make plans for when those days come. As a busy working professional and parent, I know that it’s just too easy for days to slip by while we’re lost in the hustle of life. To combat this, I put things on my calendar. Fun, outdoor things. Then I protect those events like a bear defending its territory. It works. 

Here are a few of the things I have on my calendar.

I Heart County Parks Banquet

The inaugural “I Heart County Parks” banquet hosted by the Partners for Conservation Foundation is coming up on April 4. The event will raise money for Des Moines County Conservation parks and programs. It will feature auctions, raffles, games, and a BBQ dinner. It’s sure to be a fun night for park enthusiasts and outdoorspeople. It all takes place at Barn on the Ridge just north of Burlington on Irish Ridge Rd. Doors open at 5:30 PM. Everyone is welcome and tickets are only $40, available online at 

All proceeds from this event will support local county parks such as Big Hollow and Starr’s Cave as well as programs such as summer camps, Hike-a-Parks, and others.

Project AWARE

In July, hundreds of volunteers will embark on a seventy-five-mile journey down the Skunk River, equipped with canoes and a shared commitment to rid the waterway of debris such as cans, shoes, and tires. This annual cleanup effort, organized by Iowa Project AWARE, is scheduled from July 7-12, spanning from the Keokuk/Washington County border to near the Mississippi River in Des Moines County.
Following their cleanup endeavors, volunteers reconvene for educational programs that delve into topics like geology, ecology, local history, and more. Participants can also take part in interactive activities, including hands-on water quality testing, enriching their understanding of the watershed.

In the past two decades, over 6,000 volunteers have joined forces to remove an astounding 489 tons of trash from 1,429 miles of river, with an impressive 81% recycled.

Registration for this year's event opens on March 20th at Iowa Project AWARE, facilitated by N-Compass, Inc., a nonprofit based in Marion, Iowa, strives to protect and enhance the environment through education and community engagement. Visit the website for further information and registration details.


If you haven’t already, now is the time to make your reservations for campsites and cabins for this summer. Find those open weekends on the calendar and reserve your spot. Many weekends at Big Hollow north of Burlington are already full. But we’re building more sites now. We’ll have another 18 open before Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer. We also have the “new” Ranger House Cabin available for rent at Big Hollow. This three-bedroom, two-bathroom house sits on a couple secluded acres with its own fishing pond access. It’ll make a great weekend getaway or a great place for relatives to stay when they visit. There are many other great campgrounds and cabins throughout the state. Go to to see what’s available in the county park system.

Winter is on its way out and spring is moving in. Summer isn’t far behind. Don’t let it slip away. Get out and enjoy it now, but when you come back in, fill that calendar with even more. 

You won’t regret it.

published Friday, March 15, 2024

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