Iowa — Pools 8 and 9
of the Upper Mississippi have attracted enormous numbers of tundra
swans and waterfowl in recent years — well over half a million.
and Bluffs Fall Birding Festival, on two
successive weekends — Nov.
7 to 9, and Nov. 14 to 16 — aims to give people every chance
to see and appreciate this amazing seasonal
event. There will be more field trips than
last year, along with resident bald eagles
and other birds, opportunities to view
waterfowl at close range, sourdough pancake breakfasts, and boat
trips aboard heated excursion boats. The weekend is sponsored by
the Friends of Pool 9 groups, who will post details on their website
after Labor Day, and the Friends of Upper Mississippi River Refuges.
Iowa Wine Trail’s fall festival, on Nov. 1 and 2, celebrates “Heirloom
Family Cuisine with Iowa Wines.” Seven wineries in northeast
Iowa take part in the celebration. Each
will provide wine samples as well as samples
of local holiday foods, with recipes. The
trail takes about four hours to drive, not including time spent
at each of the wineries. Designated drivers may sample the foods
for free. All others will need tickets, which are cheaper if bought
New Refuge Friends
Trempealeau, Wis. — The
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,226-acre refuge within
the boundaries of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife
and Fish Refuge, just upriver from the village of Trempealeau,
made some new friends this summer. The Friends of Trempealeau Refuge
group will help with wildlife surveys and habitat restoration,
besides lobbying for support for this and other refuges.
The latter has turned out to be a powerful
tool. Spokesperson Peg Zappen, of Trempealeau,
said that the recent increased budget for refuges is likely due
to an outpouring of support letters from citizens, organized by
friends groups. Refuges hadn’t received an increase in funding for many years.
Trempealeau Refuge is an isolated backwater,
cut off by dikes from both the Mississippi
River and the nearby Trempealeau River. The refuge includes sandy
dunes, woodlands, prairies and wetlands, and is a favorite place
for both birds and birders.
The refuge’s new Comprehensive
Conservation Plan was approved
in June. It will be used as a management
guide for the next 15 years. It includes plans for additional dikes
and water-control structures near the Marshland entrance and new
islands in the eastern end of the refuge, near Kieps Island Dike
and Trempealeau Mountain.
Links for the Trempealeau
National Wildlife Refuge (between Trempealeau,
Wis., and Winona, Minn.)
National Wildlife Refuge
& Wildlife Service Profile
on Nature:The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National
Wildlife Refuge Visitation (Sept. 2007)
(pdf) Trempealeau Refuge statistics on pdf pages 172-175.
Tow vs Bridge
Dubuque, Iowa — In high water
and a fast current, barges from a 15-barge tow hit the Julien Dubuque
Bridge between Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Ill., on June 9,
closing the bridge for less than a day. The towboat, crew and 14
of the barges were okay, but one of the barges was damaged after
it bumped into a bridge support, lodged there and partly sank.
More than four weeks passed before it could be removed.
With a Little Help
Balltown, Iowa — Breitbach’s
Country Dining was already famous. It was the oldest restaurant
in Iowa, having opened in 1852. The owner’s great-great-grandfather
bought the place in 1861. It was also a mainstay of this community
of 70 people and was regarded as a second home by most of them.
That was before it burned down. It’s even more famous now
that it’s been rebuilt, because of the way it was rebuilt.
Breitbach’s restaurant burned down on the day before Christmas
2007, for reasons unknown, although no one suspects foul play.
Owners Mike and Cindy Breitbach, both in their 50s, considered
throwing in the towel, then decided to rebuild. In March contractors
told them the new building could be finished by October.
That’s when the volunteers started showing up. It seems that
the Breitbachs had made a lot of friends over the years. Former
Balltown residents donated their architectural skills. A fellow
who had become friends with the Breitbachs while motorcycling through
town years ago hauled building supplies from Ohio. Townspeople
and longtime customers came to pour concrete, raise the roof, frame
the walls and cook for each other while they worked. Amish people
in Indiana donated 175 handcrafted chairs. Breitbach’s Country
Dining opened in June, four months ahead of schedule.
Besides receiving attention from the local
press, the New York Times sent a writer
(6-14-08). Bloggers read that and commented on it. Blog readers
commented back. Now the restaurant is really famous. Not only does
it serve great spicy pork ribs and homemade pies, but it’s become “a testament
to the existence of good people out there who are willing to pull
together to do the right thing,” as one blogger said.
If you’re traveling the Great River Road northwest of Dubuque,
look for the new Breitbach’s in Balltown, near a scenic overlook.