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Learning History in Siouxland, Queen Bee Mill, Sioux Falls, SD

20 Mar
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a visit to the Old County Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD there was a small exhibit telling about early Sioux Falls history involving various businesses. One of those businesses involved a flour mill at a small waterfall area now known as Falls Park. The mill provided jobs and a necessary industry for food processing which everyone needed as grocery stores or general stores didn’t always stock such “packaged” items. The Queen Bee Mill stood alongside the falls, construction began in 1879 and was completed in 1881.

A flour mill used to stand where the ruins are seen in the background at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Saturday Sept. 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The former turbine house for the Queen Bee Flour Mill at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque commemorating the Queen Bee Flour Mill on its former site, now the Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The mill operated until 1883 when owners found the water power wasn’t sufficient enough to power the mill and enable it to reach capacity. Its operation began again in 1911 and ran intermittently until 1929. From that time it served as a warehouse until a fire in 1956 destroyed most of the mill and surrounding structures.

The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The area is now popular as a park which people visit it and see the falls of the Big Sioux River throughout various seasons, often a destination for people shooting portraits.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Big Sioux River runs fast over the rocks at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A 21st century “Ansel Adams” creates images at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Unusual in Siouxland, Eagles at Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

18 Mar
Two eagles sit on ice eating fish in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This passing year and the beginning of this year has seen some unusual events in Siouxland, as they have in other parts of the nation as well. One of those happenings is the migrating birds passing through the area. Listening to folk who follow such explain because of recent weather patterns the birds that normally pass through the Siouxland area, generally one species following another, are occurring within the same time frame. And in some places, in greater abundance than previously seen.

It’s been reported that between 100-150 bald eagles visited Snyder Bend Park for a few days and some are still there, prompting curiosity for some visitors and local birders to get out and take a look. In addition to the eagles other waterfowl are also passing through during their spring migration.

Local birders visit Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021 looking for various bird species passing through on their yearly migration. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Canada geese fly through a wetland area of Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ring-billed gulls stop on their migratory journey at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the most fascinating part of visiting the park were the amount of eagles that stopped and hung out. When visiting the first time I saw an email of a friend reporting what other birders in the area had seen. The water in the oxbow area of the park was mostly still frozen, and the bald eagles were feasting on dead fish caught in the ice or floating as the ice melted. A few days of warmer than usual temperatures led to more ice melting and more dead fish floating to the shoreline. Last year the Siouxland area received less than normal rainfall which led to lower water levels in many bodies of water, and for some, it then became difficult to sustain the fish or aquatic life normally there, which made it easier pickings for the traveling eagles on their journey north.

A number of bald eagles sit on ice eating fish at an iinlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple of ring-billed gulls walk among eaten fish bodies as they look for food while nearby a number of bald eagles are also on the ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Dead fish line the bank of the oxbow at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a year of lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus getting outdoors to enjoy nature is appealing to a lot of people. Fresh air, despite the sometimes colder than normal temperatures, is always rewarding in and of itself. But add to that the chance to see a enormous migration of birds because of the unusual temperature fluctuations this year has just made it more rewarding.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A hiker makes his way across the oxbow to get a closer look at eagles on that side of the water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of bald eagles roost in a tree across the oxbow pond at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two bald eagles feast on dead fish as a couple of ring-billed gulls fly in either direction to steer clear of them at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A redwing blackbird calls out from its perch on a grass stem at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of eagles sit on ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A crow calls out while sitting on the ice where dead fish can be found at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese fly over the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Pelicans fly to another part of the oxbow inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese come in for a landing at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Making Friends at the Zoo in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

16 Mar
A child doesn’t see that a curious penguin has come to visit through the glass portal at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun to watch people interact with the animals at the Henry Doorly Zoo. During this past year with the pandemic I read an article where zoo people said they could see the animals there were missing “time” spent with people who come to visit. I thought that an interesting observation.

A child waves at a penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As spring arrives and temperatures get warmer more people will be getting out, enjoying sunshine and a chance to be outside without freezing temperatures. But it will also be interesting to see if people still heed some caution as the pandemic continues, even with vaccinations ongoing everyday. I would guess the animals would hate to see a pause in folk wanting to visit them because of carelessness and not remaining safe until everyone is safe from the coronavirus.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A child watches a penguin swim inside its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring Slowly Arrives in Siouxland, Sioux City

14 Mar
Another starling looks to join a crowd of birds around the top of a chimney for warmth Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. While temperatures today are above zero compared to the last few days and evenings of -20 degrees weather, birds are still looking for warmer days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As spring slowly gets to Siouxland and other parts of the country, the lingering cold is still a reminder of the winter that was this year. Recently temperatures have been in the 50’s and 60’s, but cooler temps are predicted and the previous 14 days of below freezing temperatures in February, many approaching -40 degrees with wind chill was tough to deal with.

Birds in the area looked for warmth where they could find it, trying to crowd in to a space that would help them survive, even if it was in the open. Time will tell if spring is really come to stay, or just toying with everyone hopeful for warmer and sunnier days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Starlings crowd around the top of a chimney for warmth Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. While temperatures today are above zero compared to the last few days and evenings of -20 degrees weather, birds are still looking for warmer days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Meeting Strangers in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

12 Mar
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when meeting “strangers” when out and about in Siouxland they can be a little shy. Especially the feathered ones. Sometimes it’s good to have a telephoto lens when out doing nature photography.

A bald eagle watches from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently a number of bald eagles have gathered at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County taking advantage of fish they have found in a small inlet at the park which is located near the Missouri River. One friend estimated at a minimum 100 or more bald eagles congregating there as they journey to Minnesota suggested another friend. It is amazing to see these creatures. But evidently I was not someone this guy wanted to meet.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Railroad History in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

10 Mar
An old locomotive sits on tracks at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring in Siouxland is always a pleasure, even during cold winter months when some places are not open, but then gives one a reason to return in warmer weather when it is. The Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs is one place relishing in the rich railroad history that encompasses the area. The General Greville M. Dodge historical house is also located in Council Bluffs and he was instrumental in mapping out the railroad expansion westward but made Council Bluffs his home turf to work from.

The museum’s website states: “The restored depot was originally built in 1899 for the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (the “Rock Island”), one of 15 rail lines serving Council Bluffs.  The last Rock Island passenger trained pulled out of the depot on May 31, 1970.  March 31, 1980 was the last day of operations for the Rock Island Railroad.  

Engineer Grenville M. Dodge surveyed the westward route of the Rock Island Railroad to Council Bluffs in 1853.  Years later, Dodge would survey the route west from Council Bluffs that enabled the city to become the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.

The construction of the transcontinental railroad played a major role in the development of southwest Iowa, and vice-versa. The history of this era is well preserved in our depot and museum.   It is the last survivor of a half-dozen passenger depots which at one time dotted the Council Bluffs landscape.”

The depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A locomotive and some cars are seen at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So this trip was spent looking at rail cars and a locomotive and cars sitting on a track without the chance of a tour but definitely might be something to explore when the facility again opens up and allows visitors in for a peek and to regale them in history of the railroad and its expansion west from Council Bluffs.

A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

At least a sunny January day made it possible to linger a bit to look over the facility and try to glean a bit of its history with a casual look. Spring and summer will hopefully bring back those seasonal temperature expectations to make such an outing enjoyable.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A courtyard is dedicated to veterans from the area who served in the armed forces is located at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Feeling the Sunshine in Siouxland, Sioux City

8 Mar
Sitting in a sunlit window on a cold morning in Sioux City, Iowa March 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Temperatures in the Siouxland recently have reached into the 50’s and some places even 60’s. It’s a nice relief to feel the warm sunshine and see snow melt and brown grass once again reappear. Eventually that grass will turn green weather forecasters are predicting an unusual spring with roller coaster weather patterns involving severe storms and yet more cold temperatures.

When summer arrives with the heat and humidity, I am sure the thoughts of cold mornings may not surface as one might complain about the heat and humidity. But for now, living in the moment and enjoying sitting outside and reading is something to relish and enjoy, until one can’t.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Flying to the Moon in Siouxland, Hitchock Nature Center and Sioux City

6 Mar
Moon rise in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I’ve never been one who has studied astronomy or other aspects of planetary science. I just enjoy looking skyward in Siouxland and seeing the moon or other planets that I can identify with the naked eye. Being a little older it always reminds me of “Ralph Cramden” of the show “The Honeymooners” and his favorite reframe when taxed by his always sweet wife. Or of the Board Chairman singing about an adventure of love.

Moon rise in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s an object in the sky sits out of reach to most mortals and allows one’s imagination to roam inspiring folk like Jules Verne and others to pen journeys to far away destinations. Journeys in men’s and women’s minds that still exists today with a renewed interest for whatever reason to travel, while many of us just gaze skyward and enjoy a view of an earthly companion.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The moon and a jet trail appear during a cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Understanding History in Siouxland and a “Black Angel” statue, Council Bluffs

4 Mar
A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ruth Anne Dodge was the wife of General Genville M. Dodge, who settled in the Council Bluffs area of Siouxland after the Civil War in which he played an important part, not to be outdone with his work for furthering the expansion of the railroad system throughout the United States after the war. I learned about this statue by reading a story from a newspaper in Omaha that recounted the history of the statue and Mrs. Dodge’s part in its creation.

A stone dedicated to Ruth Anne Dodge at her memorial fountain in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque explaining a statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mrs. Dodge had a vision or dream that included an angel which appeared to her prior to her death. And from an account of that dream a memorial statue and place was created in Fairview Cemetery In Council Bluffs, which overlooks downtown Omaha in the distance.

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Downtown Omaha, NE can be seen from the Ruth Anne Dodge memorial fountain where the statue, known as the “Black Angel” stands above her memorial n Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The article and account detail the dream and subsequent occurrences in a better story telling fashion. Again, I always find it fascinating to find history so close at hand and then be able to visit it after reading about it. To many an inconsequential footnote in history, yet part of the history of Siouxland of just one resident of many who passed this way and made a home in the then wilderness and western frontier of the time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Selecting a Subject in Siouxland, rural Iowa and Nebraska

2 Mar
A lone leaf, left behind at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Setting out with a purpose when photographing is always a good course to take when time is limited and the destination known. But it doesn’t always work out that way. In a free wheeling photo course I offer at a local community college I take the “students” to various locations I have previously visited and share with them a place in which to become familiar and find photographic opportunities.

Finding a perfect photographic subject at Preparation Canyon State Forest Overlook north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes depending on the place and subject matter it can be challenging to different students at different times with different interests. Hence the purpose of the class in being prepared to change one’s photographic perception whether for class or a vacation or whatever the occasion. Circumstances change and one should be ready to pivot with those changes which may bring opportunity or not.

Greeted by a subject at the No Toll Troll Stroll park in Oakland, NE Saturday, October 31, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having worked for a few smaller newspapers I always enjoyed getting out and photographing and learned that my preconception of what I might encounter may not always hold true to what I found Thinking on one’s feet is probably a good way of putting it. Seeing the opportunity to photograph something as opposed to photographing what one might think is possible when getting to a destination. One never left a newspaper assignment without having something “usable”. I had a few editors “disappointed” because I didn’t come back with the photograph of what they imagined in their mind. And never mind that what they imagined may not have existed except for in their own head, one just has to be open to the opportunity of what is, rather than be disappointed with what is not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding some color on a fall day at Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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