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Volga River,   April 28-29
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Volga River Paddle, April 2001

The weather was exceptional. The Volga River was even better. Its clear, albeit, low waters, revealed bass, carp and drum. The limestone outcroppings, now greening up, were painted with splashes of Dutchman’s breeches, false rue anemones, Virginia bluebells, may apples (not yet blooming), yellow buttercups, white and purple violets; all of this and so much more was a spring feast of another sort. Enjoying the beauty around us had to be balanced with an ever watchful eye on the current, the ever curving channel and the endless series of drops and riffles that needed to be navigated.

The wild life was spectacular too. Killdeer and plovers, geese, Mallards, Coots, as well as other ducks, pleasant, Northern Flickers, Cedar Waxwings, Belted Kingfishers, Mud Swallows, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vultures, Owls and Red-tailed Hawks were all seen. My wake up call each morning was a Brown Thrasher, a mimic that varies its song in patterns of two. Bill, a seasoned birder, could most likely go on and on.

And he did. But it was mostly about laundry. Guy style: one big heap, no need to separate colors and off to the laundry mat. This appeared to be the only crack in a seamless marriage, now nine month long. I guess Leslie and Bill still have a bit to work out yet in their love grotto on wheels. Even more interestingly, there was a fox on one of the many rock outcropping bluffs along the river, seemingly unaware of us far below. A Pileated Woodpecker flew overhead as we paddled. Earlier we had admired some of the telltale large rectangular holes that are their calling card. A bit further downstream, an Egret flew off as we approached what appeared to be its nesting grounds.

One of the pleasures of paddling with others is they know, see, and share things that you somehow overlooked. This however, does not quite fit all of Mad City Doug’s sights that he shared with us. Doug’s Dead Report, in part, was a deer, a raccoon, a turtle and other undistinguishable mystery meat. He decided, as a side adventure, to get a hawk or owl feather as his pick off of another find. For him, Lynn’s offer of a chicken feather as a substitute, just wouldn’t do. Other treasures were at our feet too. River treasures included petrified wood, jasper, coral with grids, fossils, one later determined to be 400 million years old, and shells and magic stones. Doug, however, did not mention these things.

The Volga River Recreation Area offered a few more treats. A hot shower, however, was not one of them. The pit toilets, this early in the season, were not particularly ripe, so that wasn’t a big deal. A major equestrian park, horses abounded. There was also one mule. Restless the first night in their new surroundings, they all were as still as still can be by Saturday night.

Our evenings were cool enough to enjoy our campfires, companionship, and stories, as well as just sitting around together enjoying a quieter time. The light of the half-moon was enough to cast our moon shadows far into the darkness. There was also the gobble of turkeys, the calling of barred owls, coyotes howling, and prairie chickens thumping in the night. Our armada had tandem canoes, white water kayaks, and a few sea kayaks. A few places needed to be lined, but mostly we managed. Even walking our boats for short bits didn’t distract the eleven paddlers from the beauty of the river. Still, a few tight turns led to a couple of spills. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Clearly, the stretch of the river between Klock’s Island Access just outside Fayette to the bridge just past Wadena is best paddled in a boat that can take shallow waters, with at least a bit of rocker, and paddlers comfortable in reading water, backstroking, draws, prys, eddie turns, and braces. Dan and his able partner Kris had just the right combination of boat, a hardy Old Town Discovery 174, and skills for this river.

Rick and Greg, however, had white water kayaks, compliments of ISU Paddlers. They appeared to enjoy their chance to play in the drops, riffles and navigate the narrow channels sometimes clogged with a strainer. They had to work a bit, but the pace was relaxed enough to keep up in the slower moving waters.

The last section of the Volga River that we paddled on this trip, just downstream from Wadena, the limestone outcropping and wooded bluffs became less frequent and the river took on more cut banks, but still had a few riffles, drops, strainers and that remarkably clear water. Whatever lies beyond this stretch of river will have to wait for another trip.

And yes, apparently you can get lost in Fayette, according to Juan and Mark.

CS SRP              

Juan at Langeman's Ford Doug at Langeman's Leslie & Bill Greg & Mark Doug & Lynn

Klocks Island Park to the Volga River Access   (approx. 9.5 miles, 5 hours at 275 cfs/4.75 ft)
Grannis Creek to 1st bridge east of Wadena   (approx 6 miles, 3 hours at 265 cfs/4.65 ft)

Volga River description, Langeman's Ford to Garber   or

Current Streamflow conditions (Littleport gauge)

DeLorme EarthaMaps
Search for "Volga River State Recreation Area, IA" and Zoom in one bar (Magnitude 11) on the scale at right.

Klocks Island Park: On Hwy 93 just West of Fayette & Hwy 150

Langeman's Ford: (alternate put-in) On Hemlock Road 1 mile north of C24 (Kornhill Road) just east of Fayette. The public access is on river right.

Volga River State Recreation Area:
(319-425-4161) 2.5 miles north of Hwy 93 on Hwy 150. Turn at Ivy Road.

Volga River Access: On Heron Road just south of Ivy Road on the east edge of the Volga River State Recreation Area ("Lima" on DeLorme map). The access is on river left below the bridge; an old steel bridge is just upstream.

Osborne Outdoor Education Center Park: On Highway 13 five miles southwest of Elkader. Access is river right at the campground. The 300 acre park includes a Nature Center, Historic Site and wildlife exhibits. (Plan to spend some time here.)

Fayette County Conservation Board   (319) 425-3613
Rod Marlatt, (319)422-5146

Clayton County Conservation Board/Osborne Outdoor Education Center
Don R. Menken, (319) 245-1516

Eastern Iowa Links