River tie to Yosemite Nat’l Park

 Riverbuffs watching Ken Burn’s THE NATIONAL PARKS Sunday evening might be interested to know that the Upper River has a tie to Lafayette Bunnell, who named Yosemite Nat’l Park. From DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD, Volume 1, p. 78 . . .

“Five miles south of Winona, in the tiny village of HOMER, MINNESOTA, is the historic “Bunnell  House.” This gothic gem was the home of Willard Bunnell, the first permanent settler and last Indian trader in the area. Bunnell’s brother, Lafayette, was among the men who discovered and gave the name Yosemite to the National Park in California.”

Here’s the scoop on the Delta Queen.

Delta Queen Steamboat to be Floating Hotel in Chattanooga

Updated: Jan 27, 2009 06:43 PM CST

 

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – The historic Delta Queen riverboat will call Chattanooga home for a while, as a floating hotel. The leader of a grassroots organization to save the Delta Queen, Vicki Webster, emailed the Channel 3 Eyewitness Newsroom on Tuesday afternoon.

Ambassadors International, Inc. has announced that they have chartered the boat to a company in Chattanooga for use as a hotel.

In a message sent to the boat’s supporters, Webster said, “Our mission is to make sure that indeed, this is a temporary move and the Delta Queen will soon be back in operation, plying the entire Mississippi River system as she has done proudly and safely for 60 years.””

The Delta Queen has been nominated for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2009 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America. The final selections will be announced in April.

Webster said, “There is only one remaining example of the hundreds of steamboats that once traversed our heartland, weaving our nation together in the process. There is only one example of the steamboats that inspired the work of creative giants like Mark Twain, Jerome Kern, Louis Armstrong, Edna Ferber, and Walker Evans. To stand idly by and watch the destruction of the Delta Queen would not only be a betrayal of the Trust’s mission. It would also be an act of pure treachery to our culture, to the pioneers who came before us, and to future generations who deserve the chance to travel on this quintessentially American treasure.””

 

                      The “Rarest and Cutest” Creature on Earth!
A White Phase Lion cub with siblings!

Do I love this? A white phase lion cub with siblings!!!!

You may know that I have a special interest in “white phase” critters on this earth. On a recent trip south, the airline magazine featured the “cutest and rarest creature on earth.” Guess what? It was a white phase LION cub. The article noted that it was not an albino, but a “white phase” LION due to a recessive gene.To recap, it takes TWO parents with recessive “white phase” genes to produce a “white phase” cub. Why a recessive gene in an African lion???

On a recent birding trip to Panama in December, I was priviledged to sit next to a Smithsonian scientist who had been studying tropical Panama for 30 years. He spoke of the difference between cold weather creatures and tropical creatures. The key word for mammals that must survive in temperate climates is ADAPTABILITY. Tropical plants and animals are experts in finding SPECIALIZED NICHES. Lions have not always been confined to Africa! More about that to come!

Meanwhile, visit our new TRAVEL PHOTO site at www.greatriver.smugmug.com to see photos from the Panama Trip!

“White Buck” harvested in Waukesha County

Here is another WHITE PHASE story from the deer hunt this weekend. In Western Waukesha County, Wis., a hunter snagged a “rare prize”… a white buck. Today’s newspaper notes that the buck was “white” not “albino” as it had brown eyes and some light brown areas. The story notes that white deer are seen sporadically throughout the western regions of Waukesha County. Also note that while white deer are fair game in Waukesha County, it is normally illegal to take a white buck and can result in a steep fine and up to a three year loss of hunting license.  Scroll down or click on GENERAL to see photos of white bear and white sparrows. If you have a photo of a white buck, please email it to info@greatriver.com

On Tundra Swans, Pelicans, Golden Eagles!

We don’t talk a lot about Golden Eagles on www.greatriver.com, because they really are few and far between! But I’ve heard twice now since duck hunting started on the Upper River that they’ve been seen by hunters. They are not black and white like adult Bald Eagles, and they are not mottled as many juvenile bald eagles are… look for the Golden ruff on and below the neck. Let us know if you see them.

Tundra swans are being seen in very small numbers, mostly passing by north of Genoa, Wis. and Brownsville, Mn. These are largely the bachelor swans. Family groups will arrive some time in November, just ahead of ice formation on the river.  More at www.greatriver.com/swan.htm

American White Pelicans are still clustering in quiet backwaters. Last year we had an overlap of pelicans and tundra swans in November. More at www.greatriver.com/pelican.htm

Pelicans and Wabasha Eagle Counts

March 23, 08 and the American White Pelicans are back in Pool 8.  Read our feature story on the return of the AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS to the Upper Mississippi River.

Also got a count for the March 08 eagle count from Wabasha. Note that Golden Eagles are included in the count! I, too, have seen Goldens, but they have been so few and far between we haven’t even mentioned them. I guess the word is now out! The bulletin board at www.greatriver.com/pbb/ shows a huge increase in eagle counts for Iowa.Eagles have been especially abundant on Pool 8 for the past two weeks as “winter” eagles wait for the waters further north to open and “summer” eagles start arriving for nesting. I counted 9 adults in two trees near open water on March 23.

Eagle Sightings Winter 2007-2008

The NEC’s 2008 Annual Golden Eagle Survey Count was on Jan. 19, 2008. The 2007 count was 41 golden eagles for the day and 51 for the week, up from 2006’s 23 for the day and 29 for the week. 
2008 results are being tallied now!

Eagles Counted On or around March 14:

  • Red Wing (Colville Park) 15
  • Reads Landing 63
  • Wabasha 24
  • Alma 15
  • Buffalo City 16
  • Lock and Dam 5A 5

Some eagles are flying, however most are roosting.

Save the Delta Queen – An American Treasure

Ways to help. | Contact talk radio and Presidential candidates

My Goodness, I am a fan of the Delta Queen and all the cruising steamboats.  Enjoy the U-tube video then have a look at the Blog entry below. There’s lots more to the tug of war over the DQ than is commonly known. 

The Delta Queen is equipped with the latest in modern fire monitoring devices and a powerful sprinkler system, and includes 3 onboard crew dedicated to safety monitoring on a 24 hour basis. The steamboat has had an 82 year spotless record of safety on the river, and is popular with tourists who want a one-of-a-kind experience. So why is so-called fire safety being noted to force it out of operation? Read the full story.

Spring Flood Reports ’08

While another 6-14 inches of snow that fell in Wisconsin on Good Friday is likely to be short-lived, melting snowpacks in the north and massive rains (up to a foot in many places) in lower Midwestern states has precipitated a flurry of Flood Reports to www.greatriver.com  Here’s what I heard overnight:

Floodwaters at Poplar Bluff, Missouri (Photo by James Ramsey)

The high-water crest is likely to be April 8  in Baton Rouge. Water levels are not expected to breach any levees. 

A flood warning is currently in effect along the Mississippi River for parts of Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. The Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau is still expected to crest at 44.5 feet Sunday despite levels being lower than expected north of the region. Flood stage is 32 feet. In Cape Girardeau, crews are racing to close the big steel flood gates that safeguard the town from the rising river.

Widespread flooding in Arkansas has washed out some highways and led to evacuations in some areas, said a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Heavy winter snow combined with recent rain indicates parts of Wisconsin and Illinois should see minor to moderate flooding, with as much as a 20 to 30 percent chance of major flooding on some rivers in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Some residents of southern Illinois had to evacuate. In Marion, Illinois, firefighters used their own fishing boats to rescue residents. At Paducah, Ky., the flooding on the Ohio River is expected to peak at 47.0 feet by Wednesday morning. The river’s flood stage is 39.0 feet. From historical floods, officials know that property damage begins along the river’s banks when the water rises to 47.0 feet.

A record flood is forecast for the Meramec River near Eureka, Mo., which is located south of St. Louis. By Saturday afternoon, the river is expected to slightly rise past the current record flood level of 42.9 feet from Dec. 6, 1982.

While the recent heavy rain bypassed the lower Mississippi River, residents along its banks are being warned that prolonged flooding will ensue. As water from its tributaries continues to flow downstream, the river will continue to rise.

The Mississippi River at Natchez, Miss., is forecast to exceed its flood stage of 48.0 feet by Tuesday. The river is expected to rise at least 5 more feet by Sunday, April 6. The National Weather Service is reminding people to be aware and be prepared for flooding in their communities. There is no expectation that current flooding will be more than a passing crest… unlike 1993 when the high water settled in and the entire river was closed for two months.

As for travel in these states, I know from our flood experience in Wisconsin that nothing devastates tourism like these flood reports. Yet pictures like the one above are generally tiny pockets in the overall travel picture. Call ahead to double-check. Be aware of your surroundings. NEVER drive onto water covered roadways. But chances are there is no reason at all to cancel travel plans unless you planned to be right in the path of a flood-cresting river.

Last word on Snow Country

Photo by Rich Middleton, White Phase Sparrow, flying with a flock of field sparrows near La Crosse, WIWell, now that our Sandhill Cranes, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, Kestrel, and Canada geese are back in the valley, my observations on snow country must suddenly give way to spring. But not before I share some pictures of one of my favorite “collector” items…Every so rarely a genetic WHITE PHASE appears in animals that are normally not white except as albinos. But the two pictures shown here are not albinos, but a “white phase” black bear and a “white phase” sparrow.

I’ve also heard of river islands with concentrations of “white phase” muskrats, and “white phase deer”, and of course, white phase buffalo.  I’d love it if you could share photos of your “white phase” creatures for use in a future feature article.

Any way, the short story is that these “white phase” or “Spirit” creatures are expressing recessive genes that helped to protect the species during the ice ages. In Wisconsin, a northern game warden told me that in his life time, he’s only heard of two white phase bear cubs… both in the vicinity of Superior, Wisconsin. Hmmm… makes sense. The same game warden has seen only one white phase sparrow… nearly 40 years ago. I wonder if the white phases of various birds of prey are also expressing recessive genes related to living along the edge of glaciers?

Anonomous Photo, White Phase Black Bear Cub, near Superior, Wisconsin

Above is a very rare “white” black bear cub. Also known as Kermode or “spirit” bears. Normally found only in areas where the recessive white gene was encouraged by small populations cut off from the larger populations, probably by glacier formations. The white gene would have been advantageous to bears living on the edge of the snowfields.