Thoughts inspired by a week in the Boundary Waters

Mike Delaney is the founder of the Raccoon River Watershed Association. -promoted by Laura Belin

I just returned from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. My son Connor, his friend Brad Cross, Ty Smedes, Forrest Corson, and I ventured forth on what has become an almost annual event in early July.

Why write? A week in the wilderness gives one a little focus sometimes.

A painted turtle climbed the path to the middle of our campsite, found some soil she could work with, wet it down then dug a hole and laid her eggs. She was focused on her instinct-induced duty while we watched or otherwise went about our business.

A family of beavers circled the bay in front of us each evening as we had our after-dinner drinks in our fireless campfire circle. We read our various books in hammocks during siesta time, with an occasional distraction from a mosquito or a deer fly. My book, Wolfer by Carter Neimeyer, ended with the author stating that his wolf reintroduction work was not only about wolves but the whole ecosystem. It reminded me of another friend of the wolves and a defender of the Boundary Waters, Aldo Leopold, who wrote, “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.”

As we Iowans go about destroying the wildlife around us and corrupting our waters, I want to compliment Laura Belin for her effort to generate more interest in what is left of our native flowers.

Restoring a prairie is great fun and does have a little impact on the Iowa ecosystem, but it is nothing compared to the real thing. Greene County bought Tipton Prairie between Cooper and Rippey to preserve forever. Tom Rosburg, an ecology and botany professor at Drake University, has agreed to lead a walk sometime in August. I encourage you to join in the walk and see a never-plowed prairie. Greene County is “keeping the parts.”
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Editor’s note from Laura Belin: The Raccoon River Watershed Facebook group is a good place to learn about nature and find out about special events, like guided prairie walks or the upcoming Izaak Walton League Iowa Water Quality Summit on July 20.

I’m so grateful to Mike Delaney for welcoming me on his restored Dallas County prairie, which has provided source material for more than a dozen Iowa wildflower Wednesday posts (most recently last week’s piece about yarrow). Other posts that featured mostly or exclusively pictures taken on Mike’s land:

  • Culver’s root
  • blazing star
  • tall thistle
  • false boneset
  • white wild indigo
  • prairie sage
  • flowering spurge
  • prairie or stiff sunflower

    Top image: Photo Mike Delaney posted on Facebook following his canoe trip to the Boundary Waters.

    • Thank you, Mike Delaney

      It’s true that good original prairies are stunning in their diversity, structure, and integrity, and that prairie reconstructions can’t match them. At the same time, a good prairie reconstruction has very high value for insects, birds, herps, mammals, the plants themselves, soil, clean air and water, and those among Iowa’s human inhabitants who long to experience outdoor beauty amid the endless rowcrops. Nowhere are good prairie reconstructions needed more than they are needed in Iowa. Thank you for the work you’ve done to create and share a very special piece of land.

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