Tag Archives: hiking

Close, Closer, Closest in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

5 Feb
A barred owl watches its surroundings while also trying to nap in a tree at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

My attempts over the last couple years or so in photographing animals, especially birds, has taught me that I need to become more patient. And to walk more slowly. Yet be ready to photograph when it’s possible otherwise the opportunity will be missed. Photographing a barred owl on a couple different occasions at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove meant moving very, very slowly. Not even nonchalantly, but more like a glacier. Millimeters at a time until one is in position. Others might have a better technique than I. But I have to rely on my skills.

When formerly working for various news publications I learned long ago that when the opportunity presented itself, photograph the scene. Then move to a better position and photograph some more. Even in the days of shooting film. One never really knew when something might go awry and the opportunity would be lost. Things chance in moments and animals like birds error on the side of cautious, flying away for safety rather than being curious. Probably a good strategy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.
A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.

Making a Photo Choice in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, South Dakota

17 Dec
Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times while out photographing in Siouxland I come across various scenes and shoot a number of photographs, worrying at the time about capturing or creating an image and deciding later which ones I should work up in the post processing. Much like developing rolls of film and scanning through the negatives with a loupe or looking at a contact sheet and then deciding which one(s) I should spend time on in the “darkroom”.

During an outing at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve this fall I was lucky to find some Canadian geese hanging out at a small lake area in the park not having yet left for the day to find a nearby corn field to eat and maybe spend the day. The lake area is bordered by trees and brush and I was at one end or part way down to the end and was photographing through a break in the trees without branches obstructing my view or appearing as an aberrant line that is visible but looks like something on the camera’s sensor.

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found the geese flying through what remaining fall foliage more appealing that past bare branches, but the ability to get a clear angle to photograph them was limited and frustrating in that the color helps tell part of the story, as the geese are migrating to a an area for winter. I much prefer the line of the geese in the second and third photographs as they show the line of ducks in flight but believe the colorful foliage helps set them apart from their background although the flying geese’s formation began changing at that point, and would soon be leaving the grove of trees and wetland area. Shooting with somewhat of a super telephoto lens gave me a very slight and limited angle of view, in addition to the photographing through a break in the grove tree’s branches that line this wetland area. Sometimes one has to made do with what one has and be happy for a decent image as compared to telling maybe an interesting story ending with that famous line, “Trust me when I tell you………”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Perseverance and Luck in Siouxland, Saw-whet Owl, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

13 Dec
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

Some times when I am out and about in Siouxland I feel lucky in that I was able to photograph something I previously had not, and able to create some images I am really happy with. Not all folk might agree with my photographic choices, but I am not them, and they are not me. During a recent outing I was with friends trying to find and photograph a saw-whet owl in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove. The 500 acre park is mostly timber with some pine trees, where occasionally saw-whet owls will winter, coming south from the Boreal Forests of Canada to a “warmer” winter climate.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I would not have gotten so lucky had it not been for a local photographer and nature enthusiast, Don Poggensee. Mr. Poggensee has been photographing these and other owls in the area and elsewhere for years. Probably decades, but who’s counting. After the previous opportunity to photograph the small 6″ inch owls didn’t pan out, I had planned to go back to the park. In corresponding with Mr. Poggensee he mentioned he would let me know if the owls might show up as he tends to check the area every morning, and undoubtedly has thousands of images of these owls. He also said that over the years he has probably escorted a few thousand people who have travelled hundreds of miles to come and photograph the small winter visitors.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I was guided back to a place I and others had just been too two days prior. As we reached The small stand of pine trees Mr. Poggensee stopped and asked, “Do you see it?” I was scanning the tree and remarked that the first time out (and probably more) I could stand right in front of the tree and look right at it, but not see it. And sure enough, we were standing in front of it and I didn’t see it. But eventually I did. And I was thrilled. I had seen tight photos of this owl for a couple of years and thought it would be fun and “cool” to be able to photograph it myself. Sometimes one gets lucky, with a little help.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is satisfying to be able to photograph such a majestic little bird. While not an eagle or equally large raptor, the cute little guy was cooperative and allowed itself to be photographed without darting away. We kept a respectful distance and I worked slowly positioning myself. The sun was a little higher in the sky but was pleased with the highlights of the surrounding vegetation that help set off and distinguish the owl from its surroundings. Mr. Poggensee said that if you get lucky and can photograph the bird with its eyes closed, the feathers on the eyelids look like snowflakes. And going forward this Christmas holiday season I believe I will continue to see snowflakes dancing in my mind.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Day out in Siouxland, Owl Searching, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove.

1 Dec

A photographer walks about Moorehead Park as he and others looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I joined some other photography enthusiasts searching for what seems to be illusive owls that winter in Moorhead Park in Siouxland in the community of Ida Grove. A local nature photographer and birder, Don Poggensee led the group around the park looking for barred owls and a northern saw-whet owl that comes from the Boreal Forests of Canada and winters in the “warmer climes” of Iowa and elsewhere. I always enjoy being outdoors although it was a brisk morning with temps in the teens and a stiff enough wind that was to become stiffer as the day wore on.

An empty tree cavity where nature photographer Don Poggensee said a barred owl generally occupies at Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee leads a group of photographers on a walk about Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee leads a group of photographers on a walk about Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mr. Poggensee told the group about the two species of owls while I came up empty on the barred owl, one member of the group was able to photograph it in the empty cavity of a tree. The rest of the time the group walked about search different pine tree stands looking for a 6″ owl that really blends into its environment. This particular day it seems its natural camouflage was working overtime, or maybe it was just wearing a cloak of invisibility. Even our guide told us that finding the little guy was hit and miss and it might be in a neighboring field next to the park enjoying its time while visiting the area.

One of a group of photographers walking about in Moorehead Park looking for owl species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A cut trail in Moorehead Park where a group of photographers spent half a day looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A group of photographers walking about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee points out a possible area where an owl might situate itself as he leads a group of photographers on a walk about at Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though the group wasn’t successful in finding and photographing the smaller owl, or even a chance to photographer the larger owl, it was a very nice park to hike through. Cut trails make walking easy in parts and deer paths allow easy walking through the timber. Although during summer and early fall that might be different as green plants and ticks could make a barrier to some intrepid souls. But I find it’s always nice to get to see another place not too far a drive and getting tips and locations from an experienced nature photographer and area local who knows the “hot spots” to find bird species.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Nature photographer Don Poggensee talks about an experience looking for saw-whet owls as he and other photographers check Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee and another photographer pose for a quick image while on a walk about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee with a group of photographers on a walk about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading Fall Colors in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

29 Nov

A hiking trail seen from a ridge at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular fall season in Siouxland seemed fleeting and unfulfilled. While there were pockets of color here and there, this fall was like a poem of unrequited love. It is always so nice to see brilliant colors and many hues when fall comes around. It is one of my favorite seasons as it is others as well. But this year that love of fall was not returned by Mother Nature. Mood swings in temperature in extreme seemed to have dampened expectations and the colors. So one must then hope and wish that next year’s fall will be better and somehow like memories past of a period of cooler temps and slowly changing colors that last a bit and not washed away with wind and rain.

Fading colors seen at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Railroad tracks seen from an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There were nice days though when the temperature seemed perfect for sweater, fleece or jacket wearing. Too cool for shorts but not cool or cold enough for a heavy jacket. The sun and its light rays caressing the path with direct yet diffused lighting. Adding another element to be cherished in photographing landscapes and such. Not the harsh, direct light of summer. And once the colors have faded, the brown landscape emerges and holds sway until spring and warmer temperatures prevail and green shoots reemerge. But now patience is key and the ability to embrace other styles of photography until winter has passed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A trail takes a hiker to an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading colors during a fall hike at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pausing in Siouxland and Enjoying the Moment, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

1 Nov

A couple watch a farmer harvest a crop in a field below a bluff that is part of the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. The couple said they met 40 some years ago on a grade school outing at this very site overlooking the area below which is approximately 30 miles north of Omaha, NE where they now live. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days it’s not a bad thing to take a pause, and slow down, ponder and just enjoy the moment in Siouxland. I found a couple doing just that recently at the Hitchcock Nature Center which overlooks farmland from a bluff region and part of the Loess Hills that is found in western Iowa.

The couple said they visit fairly often, and met while in school decades ago during a class trip to the preserve, and always enjoy coming out and enjoying the moment. Until a talkative photographer interrupts the reverie.

But pausing, watching and enjoying is always a good thing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Learning About the “Turin Man” in Siouxland, rural Monona County

17 Jul

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently during the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held early June in Siouxland I learned a little history involving the “Turin Man”, discovered in 1955 by a gravel pit operator in Turin, Iowa. The operator according to a brochure was a Asa Johnston who found a skull while removing wind blown silt known as loess, from which the Loess Hills received its name and which travels from the top of northwest Iowa down to the Missouri border in the south, mostly along the Missouri River.

A view from atop Turin Hill during an outing at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Johnston discovered a skull and skeletal remains during his excavation for soil ,and later three more skulls and bodies were also discovered in near proximity. It was determined that there was a family of four buried here, probably a nomadic people, and charcoal, indicating fire usage, was found next to the body of a child. It is believed the four people were a family unit buried together, living some 6,000 years ago traversing this area before the United States was in anyone’s dreams as a New World waiting to be “discovered”.

According to the brochure about the information surrounding the find of skeletal remains, the four individuals, two adults, two children, one male and one female, were buried within proximity of one another in what is called a Flex Burial. The Turin skeletons were assigned to the Middle Archaic period based on radiocarbon dating that places them somewhere in the 2770-589 B.C. period.

Found with the skeletons was red ocher sprinkled over the bodies along with Anculosa shell beads. The discovered folk are believed to be from the Late Paleo-Indian period. Soil strata indicates Thea hunters roamed this region during the last glacial period according to the information in the “Turin Man Discovery” brochure. It states that the pattern of oral health indicated by the skeletal remains the people consumed a diet of hunting and gathering.

Also found at the site in the gravel pit were rib bones of either a mastodon or mammoth, prehistoric horse legs bones and a leg bone of an archaic camel. These bones were discovered in another area of the gravel pit and were probably from an earlier era that the human remains.

Who knew or even thought about that Life in Siouxland extended so many eons ago. One can only imagine how different the area looked compared to farm fields one sees these days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view from Turin Hill and Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Persinger, who lives in Turin, Iowa, attends the hike where Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hikers leave Turin Hill after hearing Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning About the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, rural Monona County

3 Jul

Hikers head out from a group that Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads in the background where he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently there was an annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held in SIouxland in rural Monona County at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve. Runkel was an author of a few books about midwestern wildflowers, including those found in the Loess Hills in western Iowa near the Nebraska border with the Missouri River. I had never previously walked the trail to this particular preserve although I had driven past it numerous times and had seen a sign for it. But I think it rivals the Loess Hills State Park Overlook near the state forest a little further south. And evidently it is a birder’s paradise when it comes to finding those feathered friends.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, center back, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This hike was lead by a professor from Drake University, Dr. Tom Rosburg, an expert in the native plants that exist in the Loess Hills, who did his Ph.D thesis about the plants native to the area. But I will admit, my feeble brain had a hard time keeping up with the scientific and horticultural names for these plants, although I had seen a number of them on hikes through various places in the Loess Hills which I previously had hiked. Rosburg has also written a few books about plant life. This area had recently had a fire prevention and restorative burn done to it so the plants were not at a stage the professor seemed to have liked for examining and talking about the various species and how to recognize them. But he and many in the entourage recognized a great deal of them. Some of those I believe were also students who were taking copious notes and were learning from the best.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, right, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Remains of a recent fire burn appears Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did find it fascinating and somewhat exhausting that every few steps taken a native Loess Hills plant was found and the group would stop as Dr. Rosburg explained the species, some of which are only found in this location, while others are spread throughout the Loess Hills. This all has to do with the plants’ own evolution and the kind of soil located within this particular state preserve. He explained that when doing his thesis he plotted out thousands of small areas and tracked the progress of the plants within each plot to better understand conditions and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Quite an undertaking.

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as a visual person, I was more interested in the landscape and what I was seeing and what I thought would offer some excellent sunset and possibly fall foliage later this year more intriguing. So I drifted away from the group which then gave me a “mass” for scale to incorporate into the landscape of this particular state preserve. A colorful sky with some clouds some evening will offer up some impressive imagery I believe. Now it’s trying to figure out which of those evenings that will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, South Jordan Cemetery, rural Monona County

21 Jun

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I attended a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in Siouxland which is going on 40 plus years. But because of previous work commitments in past years, I have never attended one. It is fascinating the wealth of information learned during this outing. The downside is that I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time and so while able to photograph different seminar events, learning about various subjects was limited because of that pesky timeline/time warp continuum thingy.

One of the outings focused on a cemetery I have previously driven past while cruising some of the backroads in Siouxland but had never stopped. The South Jordan Cemetery is an early Negro burial site located in rural Monona County. It was recently placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2021. A long time coming. And just as recently signage about the cemetery was put up. But without attending the hike and talk the information I have found is limited to what is available online.

Recent signage posts the way to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Off of a country gravel road the South Jordan Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 and was visited during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A gravestone at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Wikipedia account African Americans may have made their way to western Iowa using the Underground Railroad. Iowa became a state in 1846 but some believe the Underground Railroad theory is not correct because settlement in this part of the state took place after the Civil War. Of the known 20 or so burials, all but a couple are believed to be African American. Some if not all of the headstones were a bit hard to read, yet, they are there celebrating the lives of people who lived in the area prior to those of us now passing through.

I am still awed by the fact that places my feet have traversed others passed through decades if not a century or two prior. That timeline/continuum of life thingy stands the eons and knowledge that came before and will follow later is there. It’s just figuring out how to access it.

Jerry Mennenga
Sioux City, Iowa

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Backcountry gravel roads to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An aged gravestone marker at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One last Communion with Fall near Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center

4 Nov

I’ve only visited Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County just south of Siouxland once before. But it’s a very nice park of just over 1,200 acres situated in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

A view of the surrounding countryside from a tower at the lodge atHitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The lodge and lookout tower sits on a hill for excellent views at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie COunty near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It has a number of trails and a lodge that sits atop a hill and looks out over the surrounding area. There is also a watch tower at the lodge we allows birders to track the various migration periods when the birds are heading either north or south, depending on the season. The one aspect of the park I like is the elevated board walk which allows some accessibility to those with wheelchairs or walkers to “get into the woods” for a quarter mile or so with stops along the way and picnic tables for those who pack a lunch or want to stay a bit and enjoy the quietude and nature.

Part of an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An elevated nature trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s just a nice way to spend part of a day putting aside the daily rush of events and happenings and imagining what the area must have looked like to explorers and first settlers when the prairie grass still covered a large portion of land before farming began. And it’s nice to know they are concerned enough citizens who have the foresight to set aside parcels of land for others to enjoy and for future generations as well as themselves. A place to reset one’s thoughts and take a pause in life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A valley and farmsteads below a hilltop at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sunshine after a number of days of rainy fall weather made leaves almost sparkle at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A view from an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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