A warm September sun added to the experience of spending a day on the Mississippi River and activities at the Genoa Interpretive Center and the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center. With guidance from instructors Lisa Welsh (Kee) and Andrea Christopherson (De Soto) 66 students had an Autumn day they'll long remember.
Activity centers at Black Hawk Park involved a search for macro invertebrates with small dip nets and a "throw net," and a beginner's course in canoeing on Green Lake. Both activities gave students the chance to set aside normal classroom learning strategies and get "down and dirty" with nature. Under the direction of Ross Geerdes (Allamakee County Conservation Naturalist) students captured all sorts of beetles, nymphs, flies, insects, and frogs of varying stages of development, both adult and frog pollywogs, some with appendages and some without. And they even captured a fish or two (a 12 inch bass).
Canoeists soon learned (by trial and error) the importance of working together to maintain a straight course. There were no "tip-over's" during the day's activity, but wet feet were pretty common. Russ Hagen gave each group instructions on proper life jacket positioning as well as paddling techniques. However, many decided to set their own course of travel and were on a collision course with other canoeists frequently. But in the end it was a great adventure and all was well. Bob Henkel used his flat as a safety boat and accompanied all the groups onto Green Lake.
Students were instructed by Orey Eckes (Genoa National Fish Hatchery) on the proper procedure for tagging Lake Sturgeon in the sturgeon building. Students implanted a 3 mm metal tag in the third scoot along the backbone of the six-inch fish. Genoa tags thousands of these fish annually for transport to northern Wisconsin and Minnesota lakes.
Angela Baran Dagendash (Assistant Manager GNFH) led the groups through the new Genoa Great River Road Interpretive Center. Students were captured with the historical drama depicted at the Battle of Bad Axe (1832), as well as the many other fascinating displays at the Center.
Groups convened at the shelter house at Black Hawk Park for lunch and then were transported to the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center for a full slate of afternoon activities.
Activities included a bird hike led by US Fish and Wildlife, McGregor District Manager, Brandon Jones; Ross and Jarrod Olson had activities in the building where the "den of rattlers" was a popular station. And groups also spent time dangling a piece of a night crawler in the river along the walkway next to the Center. There was limited success as fish where not "taking the bait" and it was a lot of fishing but not much catching. Never the less, it was the experience that counted.
Students had a super day sharing experiences with their counterparts from opposite sides of the river, and they learned a whole lot about this special area called the Mississippi River. Plans are already being made for a follow up event in 2019. All expenses for the day were paid by Friends of Pool 9, including bus transportation, canoe rental, and noon lunch. Special thanks to Lisa Welsh and Andrea Christopherson for planning the day and the school personnel in the EACS and De Soto School Districts that supported the event. Thanks to the presenters at Genoa National Fish Hatchery and Ross and Jarrod from the Allamakee County Conservation Board, thanks also to Manager Brandon Jones from US Fish & Wildlife Service. Thanks to Eric Hammer and his staff at Black Hawk Park, and all the FOP9 volunteers, led by Russ Hagen and Bob Seeley.
It was a combined effort of folks from the US Army Corps at Black Hawk Park, Genoa National Fish Hatchery, McGregor District US FWS staff, Allamakee County Conservation Board, Eastern Allamakee Community Schools, De Soto Area Community Schools, and the Friends of Pool 9 organization, that made the day possible. It was a very special day of learning away from the classroom, the computer, and the cell phones. Kids will long remember their hands-on experience with nature, and their encounter with the river valley we all love and appreciate so much.