Monarchs on the Mississippi River!

 Bellevue State Park Butterfly Sanctuary

Bellevue State Park, near Bellevue, Iowa, just south of Dubuque, is located atop a 300-foot high limestone bluff with panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley and Lock & Dam 12. It also shelters the largest Butterfly Garden in Iowa.

The Garden Sanctuary for Butterflies near the South Bluff Nature Center in the Nelson Unit contains a variety of interesting displays on the plants, animals and geology of Bellevue State Park.

. This unique area contains over one hundred separate plots, each featuring plants which provide food and habitat for butterflies. A network of pathways allows visitors to walk through the garden and see a wide variety of butterflies as well as enjoy the beautiful array of flowers and the pond in the center. For more information visit the website at Butterfly Garden.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, butterflies found in Iowa are either in the process of migration or are completing one of the various stages of their life cycle. Approximately 60 species of butterfly can be expected to make their appearance at the Butterfly Garden each year. Host plants for butterflies include wild aster, ragweed, goldenrod, lamb’s-quarters, daisy fleabane, milkweed, cottonwoods, wild cherry, hackberry and willows.

Drainage Map of the Mississippi River and its Tributaries. Some Facts and Figures

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!
For Jack, who wants to know more about all the tributaries of the Mississippi River: how many there are,  their names, and how long they are!

NPS.gov watershed tributaries

There are some 250 tributaries of the Mississippi which drain a total area of more than 1,247,000 square miles–one third of the nation’s landmass–extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west!

Remember the Mississippi River Flood of 1993? It wasn’t just the Mississippi River flooding that wreaked havoc, it was that all those tributaries flooded as well! At one point, the volume of water flowing past St. Louis was eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls!!

We start here with quick facts on the Mississippi River and several navigable tributaries! Please follow links for a little more depth of historical interest and to see our collection of hand-painted maps!

The Mississippi River, from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, is approximately 2,348 miles long. The combined reach of the Missouri-Mississippi Rivers is 3,741 miles–a length exceeded only by the Amazon and Nile rivers. The Mississippi River has shortened by several hundred miles since the days of Mark Twain. Even today it varies 30-50 miles each year.

The widest navigable part of the Mississippi is Lake Pepin, on the Upper Mississippi, where it is approximately 2 miles wide. The average current flows from 1.2 miles per hour nearer Lake Itasca, and about 3 mi per hour nearer New Orleans.

Our Mississippi River Ribbon Map has been a best-selling Gift for many years. Lisa now offers her own custom ribbon map designs of both the OHIO RIVER and the Missouri River. Please click on any map image for more info on the map or the tributary. Or PHONE 888-255-7726 to order any map. Mention you saw it on greatriver.com for a one time 10% discount!   Click on map images for more info on the tributaries.

 

 

Continue reading

Rail Trespass Law Hearing, Stoddard, WI. Continued.

Marc Schulz of the La Crosse County Conservation Alliance said of the trespass issue, “There is no bigger issue regarding the river.”  He added that greatests percentage of fatalities on the railroad happen at designated crossings.  Schulz said that, “Young professionals come to western Wisconsin because of its natural resources.”  He added that, “This is the people’s land and water.”

John Wetzel representing the Wildlife Federation said, “We need more state oversight.  Minnesota has done that.  He added that this isn’t just a Mississippi River corridor problem saying there are, “. . .hundreds of places in the state where this is a problem.”

Pat McCabe of De Soto said, “I have property on the other side of the tracks.  I will not stop crossing.”  He added, “I beg you make them (trains) slow down.  Who are you going to call? (if there is an accident.)”

Guy Wolfe of Stoddard representing CARS-Citizens Acting for Rail Safety said, “There is a public trust doctrine law.  We have a right to these waters.”  He added that he has seen derailed cars on both sides of the tracks on “our property.”  He urged people to photograph and report issues with the tracks and rail bridges.  He said he feels that after reports about decaying rail bridges the railroad started enforcement of the trespass law.  He said after letting the permit to repair the Coon Creek bridge at Stoddard expire, the railroad suddenly worked “24-7” to repair it.  Wolf added that at least one bridge still in use along the river was built in 1867.  He said, “We can’t afford to let (rail) bridges fail.”

Commissioner Wadhwa replied that, “The new fast act law requires that we put bridge inspection results on websites.”

Kirk Holliday of De Soto said that, “BNSF is making threats to the village sewer.” De Soto’s wastewater treatment plant is across the tracks on the river side.  He added, “The government bails them (the railroads) out.  They get billions to fix their problems and then they basically hold us hostage.”

Gary Moltert of De Soto told about railroad rolling stock that hauls Bakkum crude and ethanol.  He said, “Double hulled tankers are safer.  Canada is being very proactive enforcing this.  Here investors have $80 to $90K in old tankers and the government allows them six years to replace them with safer cars.”

Commissioner Wadhwa replied, “We can’t do anything, but the feds and USDOT can.” He added that, “New tank cars constructed after 2015 and existing cars must be retrofitted and have an advanced brake system installed.”

Sherry Quamme, representing the Mississippi River Parkway Commission said that, “We’re concerned with Wisconsin issues for eight counties of the Great River Road . . . we want to see that there is legal pedestrian access . . . additional crossings are not the answer because it requires a large capital investment.”

Mike Collins of the La Crosse Snowmobile Alliance said, “We purchased a building across the tracks.  We asked the railroad for a recreational crossing.  We asked them for $6,000.”  The railroad denied the request.  Collins added, “They said it’s a safety issue.  It’s not.  It is straight and level for miles.”

Frank LeMay commented that, “Point of access changes won’t work because the river changes from day to day.”

Joan Wolfe of Stoddard asked about changing Act 179, “What’s the downside?  Why wouldn’t the governor want to sign it?”

Senator Schilling said that, Assembly leader Van Wanggaard didn’t bring up the trespass law change proposed by 96th Assembly District representative Lee Nerison in the Assembly because,  “Governor Walker would likely veto it and the Republicans in the legislature don’t want to be put in the position of overriding the governor’s veto.”

Phillip Hooker of Victory said that the railroad speed limit is too high.  “It should be 45 mph max,” he said.

Monique Hooker of Victory expressed her concern about being able to do river cleanups, “The Friends of Pool 9 need to clean along the Mississippi and on the Wisconsin side.  Students and volunteers need access to clean up the river banks.  We have to look at the environmental issue and put your money where your mouth is.”

Ralph Knutson of De Soto said, “We need more rail inspections.  There is no state accountability – no rail inspectors.”  He added that, “The railroad is also interested in having only one person on a train to operate it to save money.”

Commissioner Wadhwa said that, “The federal safety board is taking comments on fewer crew.”

Senator Shilling added, “There is a bill in progress to improve emergency preparedness along the railroad and to train first responders to deal with (railroad) emergencies.”

A larger group attended the 1 PM session at Stoddard.  More than half a dozen people said they had received trespassing warnings from BNSF officers.  The railroad calls it, “ a public safety education campaign.”

Vernon County Sheriff John Spears asked those who received warnings if the officers were polite and courteous.  They all replied, “No.”  Spears who supports a compromise, told the Stoddard crowd that his deputies were not enforcing the law.  “If anybody gets arrested, they’re not spending a night in my jail. That’s for sure,” he said.

Dick Jensen of Stoddard said, “It’s almost like that railroad track now is a fence.”

Richard Meyer of La Crescent, Minn. ““This whole situation has damaged the state’s reputation and the railroad’s,” he said. “People are furious.”

Mike Widner of Boscobel, “The only folks who will likely obey the laws are hunters, fishers and trappers.”

Stoddard Village President Kevin Gobel said, “The enforcement campaign started soon after rail safety groups and the village complained about the condition of BNSF’s bridges.”

 

Monarch Butterflies Migrate Along the Mississippi River…Destination, Mexico!

Bellevue State Park Butterfly Sanctuary

Bellevue State Park, near Bellevue, Iowa, just south of Dubuque, is located atop a 300-foot high limestone bluff with panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley and Lock & Dam 12. It also shelters the largest Butterfly Garden in Iowa.

The Garden Sanctuary for Butterflies contains over 100 separate plots, each featuring plants which provide nectar for adult butterflies and/or host plants for caterpillars. Pathways allow visitors to enjoy the wide variety of butterflies and flowers. An area has been established next to the garden to allow close-up viewing of the butterflies.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, butterflies found in Iowa are either in the process of migration or are completing one of the various stages of their life cycle. Approximately 60 species of butterfly can be expected to make their appearance at the Butterfly Garden each year. Host plants for butterflies include wild aster, ragweed, goldenrod, lamb’s-quarters, daisy fleabane, milkweed, cottonwoods, wild cherry, hackberry and willows.

ALMANAC, August 3,  MONARCHS IN THE CEDAR TREE
c Pat Middleton. May not be reproduced or used in any format without permission.

beautiful monarch cluster DAVE COLLINS IMAGE

beautiful monarch cluster DAVE COLLINS IMAGE

The gentle shift to fall is palpable around us. The sun sets southward, over the neighbor’s pathway, rather than behind the northern bluffs. Geese fly from cornfield to cornfield in great flocks. 64 degrees today, 40 tonight. We gather firewood.

For the second year in a row, a swarm of Monarch butterflies have set up camp in the old cedar in the side yard. They hang motionless from the branches–like dull brown seed pods–until a late-comer flutters by. Then all gently beat their orange-colorful “hello” and “where’ve you been” until the traveler, too, is accommodated comfortably to its own berth for the night.

September 6, 2015  Each night this week we have had a single Monarch roost in the old Cedar tree and we remember how we once saw 100s. It takes our nightly guest a long time to settle in… perhaps it too “remembers” that there should have been more of his fellows here…

Along the Mississippi by Ruth Nissen, Wisconsin DNR

Monarchs Ready to Head South

About this time of year we begin to notice more monarch butterflies fluttering in the wind and congregating (or staging) in areas where bountiful supplies of nectar are available.

But what isn’t readily apparent is that those butterflies are moving with a purpose and direction. Every year, in late summer and early fall, millions of monarch butterflies from the Eastern United States and Southern Canada find their way to Central America. This is a journey of more than 2,000 miles from the Upper Mississippi River.

The monarchs are heading to the Transvolcanic Mountain Range, located west of Mexico City, to spend the winter. They gather there in huge colonies of tens of millions of butterflies, literally hanging from fir trees in clusters so thick they look like bundles of dead leaves.

The butterflies arrive in November and remain largely inactive until undertaking the return trip north in mid-March. How they find their way is a mystery because the monarchs that leave Mexico in spring are at least three generations removed from those that will make the journey back in the fall.

Monarchs leaving the wintering areas migrate 800 miles to the Southern United States, where they lay their eggs. The next generation on monarchs continues the northward migration to the upper United States and Canada. This continued movement north is necessary because southern milkweed plants die out in June. Two to three more generations are produced during the summer before the monarchs begin to flutter their way back to Mexico.

About 12 wintering sites have been identified in this mountain range of central Mexico. The monarchs are attracted to the high altitude fir forest of these sites because the combination of temperature, humidity, and wind velocity create the conditions essential to their survival. The canopy of the fir trees also protects them from large temperature fluctuations and winter storms.

Unfortunately, monarch experts say bad weather is not the greatest threat to the butterflies. As is the case in other forested areas, habitat destruction by humans is a much more serious concern. A monarch reserve has been created by the Mexican Government, but the reserve on includes five of the known wintering sites. In addition, logging pressure is heavy on 75% of the reserve area. Logging affects the microclimate to such an extent that either the monarchs may not use the site, or if they do, their survival over the winter is dramatically impacted.

In order to insure that the phenomenon of migration doesn’t disappear, it is very important that humans find some way to work together to preserve the livelihood of the local people in the wintering sites, which in turn would lower the economic pressure on the monarch reserve.

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Along the Mississippi is an ongoing series related to the Mississippi River. Articles are prepared by officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and comments can be directed to the DNR office in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

 

Sandwich Islands, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, West Indies1878

DESTINATION MEXICO!!

    We’ve recently added this section for those who wish to follow the Monarchs to Mexico. The most visited sanctuary is El Rosario, and the best place to base yourself is the town of Angangueo, an old mining town. Seeing the butterflies, so thick that they sometimes BREAK tree branches (!) will require hikes of up to three hours, though it is not a strenuous hike. It is recommended that visitors hire a local guide or travel with a guided tour group.

If you travel independently:
If you approach from Brownsville, the first important city you will reach will be Ciudad Victoria, capital city of the state of Tamaulipas. By continuing on south you will cross the Tropic of Cancer at Jaumave, and at every mile you will notice more and more butterflies which often take the attention of even the disinterested tourist. At CiudadMante you will be at the very foot of the Sierra Madre Oriental range. Just south of Ciudad Mante the highway divides — one route goes to Tampico on the coast; the other veers southwest into the mountains towards Mexico City. Be sure to choose the latter route for best butterfly viewing. This route takes you to Nuevo Morelos and CiudadValles, and there is good butterfly viewing all the way from here down to Tamasunchale.

Our guided tour itinerary will give readers and idea what to expect from a journey. Looking for a good organization to travel with? Search the Internet and also have a look here.  Natural Habitat World Wide Tours offers tours (you guessed it!) world wide.

Rosario / Angangueo
From Mexico City, travel through the central highlands to the picturesque mountain village of Angangueo. The nearby Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary offers your first encounter with the king of the butterflies. The path is groomed, but sometimes fairly steep, trail with convenient benches for occasional rests. At the epicenter of millions of monarchs cover the tall oyamel and fir trees! Mexico’s sanctuaries may be the only places in the world where you can actually hear butterflies’ wings beating. Many Mexicans still hold the Aztec belief that the souls of the dead are reborn as monarchs.

Chincua / Angangueo
The Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary offers a second memorable experience with the monarchs. For those who choose, horses are available for this excursion. As Carlos Gottfried, president of Mexico’s Monarca A.C., says, “When you stand in a monarch sanctuary, your soul is shaken and your life is changed.” In Chincua, we ride our horses most of the way then walk down into the area of high butterfly density.

Piedra Herrada Sanctuary / Toluca / Mexico City
Relax in luxury at the luxurious Hotel Avandaro Spa & Resort in Valle de Bravo. A visit to the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary is the newest spot opened for viewing the monarchs. Once again, horses take us most of the way and we then walk, often through thick vegetation, to the spot where the butterflies are located. This area is “wilder” than the other two sanctuaries and often provides a more remote nature experience. During your return trip to Mexico City, stop in Toluca, originally an Indian settlement dating back to the 13th century.

 

Information: The El Rosario Sanctuary is accessible from either Angangueo or Ocampo. Angangueo is approximately 115 kilometers from Morelia and 205 kilometers from Mexico City.

When to Go: August through October

Flood impact is “noticeable” but not traumatic!!

OK, as happens almost every year, folks are starting to call about flood conditions along the Upper Mississippi River. Especially with 4th of July holiday around the bend! The image here shows Riverside Park in La Crosse, WI. Basically, the river is plum full and about to start climbing onto the sidewalk. (Thank you Laura Smanski!)

I heard from Davenport, IA, that, yes the riverside has water creeping in, but scheduled events have simply been moved to Higher Ground. Since many campsites along the upper Mississippi River can be impacted by high water, you might want to make a phone call. If sites are available, your reserved site might be moved slightly to higher ground.

riversidecroppedBoating of any type is more hazardous in high water. There is lots of debris, including whole trees, flowing by at a mighty quick pace. Canoes and kayaks are not recommended until the river is back to a 6′ stage, rather than the 13+- it is right now. Common Sense is King in high water. Highways, river towns, the Great River Road…not so much to worry about.

Fascinating Cargo–What is it??

Fascinating CargoMy American Queen friends from the early November Upper Mississippi River cruise will recognize this heavy piece of tubular, yellow striped cargo. We first saw it on a single barge being pushed down the Mississippi River south of La Crosse, WI.

Had no idea then what it was… still have no idea, but I recently saw it again!! …being towed by a tug down the East Coast of Florida off St. Lucie County. Would love to hear from someone what it is. It is exceptionally unusual to have seen it on the Upper Mississippi, and amazing to me that I have now seen it a second time. Anyone have any idea at all??

“Toots” remembers the Delta Queen

“Toots” Maloy, who for some 30+ years was the “face” of the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen recently sent me her new memoir of her days on the paddlewheelers.


I found it doubly interesting because it was NOT a history of the company, but truly a memoir of her days on the boats, recounted as she made the last river journey of the Delta Queen to its current Tennessee berth.

Toots also serves as our eyes and ears as she gets a last look at the mold-infested shell of the Mississippi Queen. All of us who loved traveling the Delta Queen fleet, who loved traveling with Riverlorians “Toots”,  Bill Wiemuth, and the rest of the crew, will find this a poignant reminder of how much has been lost with the cruising paddlewheelers.

“We haven’t just lost a vessel,” Toots writes, “we lost a way of life. And with just a stroke of a pen it could have been saved.”

Yes, we have Toot’s book available online at our Mississippi River bookstore. Just $7 plus shipping for a limited time. 54 pages, with 8 pages of photos.

Please click on the link below to order instantly online, or phone 888-255-7726.

A Page Out of History

by Riverlorian, Karen “Toots” Maloy

SECURE online Order Form!

As of 2012, the AMERICAN QUEEN will be BACK on American rivers! Click link to see the update.


Imperial Moth in Vernon County, Wisconsin

IMPERIAL MOTH SIGHTING

A first sighting of an Imperial Moth has been recorded in Vernon County, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.  According to our source, the moths appear to be making a slow progression northward up the river.  It had previously been found in southern Crawford County, the county below Vernon.

 
Have you found a moth or butterfly you’d like to report to someone? The USGS has a link where you can do just that…    Please see http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/faq/report for reporting instructions.
USGS National Biological Information Infrastructure
Big Sky Institute, Montana State University

Wisconsin Travel Update: BIKE TRAILS and more

The Mississippi River crested last week just over flood stage at around 16.3 feet at Prairie du Chien. The river dropped to about 13.5 feet this week and is forecast to steadily decline to around 12 feet by this upcoming weekend.

The Wisconsin Journal has reported the following park openings as milder weather allows for needed repairs:

Both campground at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo and the Elroy-Sparta State Bike Trail have been reopened.  Wildcat Mountain State Park is scheduled to reopen July 3.

While the park and campgrounds at Devil’s Lake are open to visitors, a number of trails and facilities will remain closed due to flooding and storm damage, including both the North and South Shore boat landings; most hiking trails; portions of picnic areas; and the South Shore bathrooms. Portable toilets will be available for visitors using the South Shore picnic area. The park’s beach is underwater, but it has tested as safe, and swimming will be allowed. Most hiking trails are closed.

The 400 State BIKE Trail and portions of the Military Ridge State Trail remain closed. Military Ridge is closed in two locations because of standing water under the second box culvert approximately 2 miles west of Verona and approximately one-half mile east of Klevenville on a section of blacktopped trail.

Check the State Parks current conditions page of the DNR Web site for more information.

The Lower Wisconsin River has dropped considerably in the past week and is approaching near normal seasonal flows. Some sandbars are returning but people considering any paddling this weekend need to be aware there is much more debris and more contaminants in the river than normal due to the flooding. The Kickapoo River has also dropped considerably, but is still well above seasonal normal flows.

Rain amounts in the north have finally filled many lakes for the first time in a number of years, although some lakes are still considerably below normal water levels. Northern river systems like the Flambeau and Chippewa are currently at good seasonal levels for paddling.

Though the Wisconsin River has dropped back down to a normal flow level, Lower Wisconsin and Wisconsin River users are staying away due to DNR warnings of contaminated water. All of the streams in Southwestern Wisconsin have been affected by the flooding, causing wide and braided channels.

The floods have scoured silt-laden places and deposited sediment and rock in other. Streams that have been constricted by bridges and culverts have completely blown out or have created large pools downstream.  Be aware that in many areas banks have eroded and may give way underfoot. Strong currents in rivers and streams pose an additional threat.

Fishing on the Mississippi River has been getting better as the water recedes, with channel catfish moving to find nests and being very catchable. Fishing for sauger and walleye also picked up a little late in the week.

While rains have diminished and floodwaters are receding, along with the damage they’ve left in their aftermath, mosquitoes are out in hoards, so don’t forget the bug repellant when venturing out this week.