Tag Archives: rural iowa

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

1 Mar
Canada geese fly in and out from open water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Just recently I learned that a park in rural Siouxland was once again up and running. Snyder Bend Park had some surreal visitation in 2020 but with drought conditions and some other issues, the water area was drained and only recently refilled and stocked with fish, which brought with it the return of waterfowl. A number of Canada geese on a blustery day were doing touch and goes with one group landing on the water while another took offer and soaring on the air currents around the park.

The cacophony of noise was somewhat deafening but understandable with a large flock of geese. Some of the waterway was iced over, but a decent portion had open water and the waterfowl were making the most of it. Maybe happy to return to a favorite stop over spot on their migration route.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canada geese on open water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese do a fly over at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Unexpectedly Finding History in Siouxland, Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge, Monona County

21 Feb

A older sign designating a place as a campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition when it moved through the area exploring the Louisiana Purchase found near Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes I find it amazing as I explore Siouxland the little things that pop up, whether true or not , because of a convenient history and clever marketing or the actual truth.

While checking out the Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge area in rural Monona County I came upon a sign trying to photograph White American Pelicans on the lake area. I was walking around the lake and looking for a vantage point to photograph the pelicans through the trees when I saw the sign, almost covered by weeds and somewhat obscured by a cornfield not yet harvested.

The Sergeant Floyd Monument is located in Sioux City not that many miles from this area located south of it and where the only Lewis and Clark Expedition member died while exploring the Louisiana Purchase territory for then President Thomas Jefferson.

When the anniversary of the expedition occurred so many years ago and people were traveling the country “following” the trail, it’s only human nature to find some sort of tie-in to history. Attracting tourism dollars is never a bad thing. And it’s more than possible that remnants of a campsite and/or mention in the journals’ of the explorers account for this area being a stopping point. Travel in those days was slow, even slower via a reluctant Missouri River.

A older sign designating a place as a campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition when it moved through the area is found near Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring an area across the road from a where sign states a former campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition was located when it moved through the area exploring the Louisiana Purchase and found near Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having previously worked for various newspapers I am always skeptical about information I find. I guess it comes with the territory as people either want to embellish their importance in life or trying to deflect something about that life. That truth seems a little more evident these days, but I digress.

Still, it is fun to think that standing there at that spot were some brave souls on an adventure exploring a country still in its infancy and having no idea how the areas they explored would look centuries later. The prairie these men encountered is long gone, now mostly farmland, and the Missouri River “tamed” by a corp of engineers, whose verdict, depending on who one talks with, is still out.

But on a sunny fall day, with a breeze blowing and geese flying for a brief moment one might think you are encountering a scene those men saw so many, many years before.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Geese fly overhead of an area across the road from a where sign states a former campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition was located when it moved through the area exploring the Louisiana Purchase is found near Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring an area across the road from a where sign states a former campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition was located when it moved through the area exploring the Louisiana Purchase is found near Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History on Hallowed Ground in Siouxland, Fairview Cemetery, Albaton

28 Jan
Resting sites of early residents who may have settled the area seen at the Fairview Cemetery near the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So many small communities in Iowa, present and past, maintain cemeteries that collectively hold a lot of history of Iowa in Siouxland and elsewhere. But many times those histories of former residents or pioneers are not accessible to more than the few remaining residents or folk who live in the immediate area.

The site of the former Albaton Wesleyan Church, 1886-2005 at the Fairview Cemetery, near the early settlement of Abaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Fairview Cemetery is the final resting place of many early residents who may have settled the area two centuries previous near the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Resting sites of early residents who may have settled the area seen at the Fairview Cemetery near the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

At most sometimes one can find a listing of those buried within these various resting places like Fairview Cemetery in Albaton, but beyond that or knowing descendants or local residents, not much else can be discerned about the history of the place or its former residents.

Judging by the dates some of these folk buried here as elsewhere were pioneers to the area. Traveling by wagon train or walking to find a new life west of the Mississippi at the time. A reference to the former community I found online also showed photographs but nothing definitive about the place itself.

So a cursory understanding who settled into the area, and if they prospered will never be known outside of descendants if any exist. History is a continuum of life, but sometimes that life and history can be very fleeting on that long road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Resting sites of early residents who may have settled the area seen at the Fairview Cemetery near the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Resting sites of early residents who may have settled the area seen at the Fairview Cemetery near the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The site of the former Albaton Wesleyan Church, 1886-2005 at the Fairview Cemetery, near the early settlement of Abaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Fall’s Day in Siouxland, Lewis and Clark Park, Onawa

19 Dec
A quiet trail at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall is gone and winter is here but I still like the remnants of fall that linger when I look at various images taken this season. Not all of the days out were warm and such. One thing photographs don’t always impart is the cool or cold day when it was taken.

Enjoying a fall day at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Various fall scenes at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Lewis and Clark Park has some nicely cut walking trails beyond the area where RV camping is permitted. Nothing strenuous and pleasant to just enjoy the quiet and maybe catch glimpses of song birds flitting about in the brush and an open meadow. The park also sports a couple of small cornfields planted to feed the deer who pass through or inhabit the area. And in a good year, the color of the trees make a day outing breathtaking. Although this was not one of those years. Still, any day out taking photographs is always a good day. Something I like to remind students who take a couple classes I teach about photography at a local community college. I could think of worse ways to spend the day, and probably have spent days, and the fresh air and exercise is always a welcomed activity.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Some colored leaves still on the trees at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A cut walking trail at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some fall foliage at the Lewis and Clark State Park, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Onawa, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Waning Days of Fall in Siouxland, rural Monona and Woodbury Counties

15 Nov
Cattle graze in a field under colorful fall foliage outside Smithland, Iowa in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the first winter snow and possible snow to begin creeping into the area accompanied by high winds, I don’t expect many of the leaves and any fall color to be seen in a few days. Driving about Siouxland the last couple of weeks I have felt lucky to see find spots of changing fall foliage and the chance to take a few images. Like many folk, I enjoy fall and it was one of the reasons for returning to the Midwest after having worked and lived in other parts of the U.S. Winter will come, but it will also pass. One only hoped it passes sooner that later. Mild winters are nice, if temps remain in the 20’s and 30’s without below freezing wind gusts and sustained cold spells. Being out on days like that is not so enjoyable even if one likes winter.

An iron trestle bridge frames a gravel road as some fall color is seen in a yet to be harvested corn field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Country backroads and changing autumnal colors in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about the backroads and country roads are a joy to me. Have always been. No matter where I lived I always seemed to find country roads to drive about on and a chance to get away from the noise that sometimes daily life brings. These days maybe a little more jazz than classical music on the car radio that gives my mind a chance to wander as I drive around and just look, not really knowing what to expect over the next hill or around the next bend. Small surprises and joy when an image pops up and I am there to record it. Most times, if ever, award winning, but satisfying none the less and pleasing to me. Sometimes simple joys are the best.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Trees with colorful foliage near a harvested soybean field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Red in Siouxland, Badger Lake, rural Monona County

13 Nov
The sun rises over Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes one needs to make an effort to enjoy the day in Siouxland, like getting up early and staying motivated beyond a cup of coffee to see the sun rise. At least in the fall sunrise is closer to a “normal” hour that say 5 or 5:30 am. But still, the scene, the quiet, although I was disappointed in few critters around the lake, the morning was pleasant. Not cold, mild chilly and a nice way to start the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The sun rises behind some grasses at Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sunrise lights up plants surrounding Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Prepping for Halloween in Siouxland, Albaton

30 Oct
Two friendly Skeltons wave from a Halloween display set up at a crossroads at the former site of Albaton, Iowa, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life can somewhat be filled with surprises, even in Siouxland, finding unexpected treasures in unexpected places. While out driving about looking for some harvesting and previously having seen a roadside sign for a community called Albaton, I found it, at a crossroads in the countryside with a couple of homes nearby, along with a church.

A Halloween display set up at a crossroads at the former site of Albaton, Iowa, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A crossroad at the early settlement of Albaton, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking for information online didn’t produce an onslaught of information, but another person posting to a blog as well. From indications it may have been a regional hub for a local railroad line that faded away along with the railroad hopes of those settling around it. Now the area sits among farmland, recently, waiting for harvest. One can only imagine what early days were like. And it’s nice to see a sense of humor as someone decorates the corner with seasonal displays for the holidays. May have to make a trip out for Christmas to see if the engine is lit up and sparking with the “spirit” of the holiday, bringing a little light to the surrounding darkness in the countryside.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Halloween display set up at a crossroads at the former site of Albaton, Iowa, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Halloween display set up at a crossroads at the former site of Albaton, Iowa, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting History in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

14 Jun
Earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From time to time while driving about Siouxland I like to revisit places, even if it’s off-peak for any activity that might be going on. The Heritage Village in Sioux Center is one such place. A small replica village that celebrates the history of the early settlers and the agricultural aspect of the Midwest. The place has a different look during different seasons, even without the activity of its fall festival celebration.

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers traveled very light, or as light as they could if going west by wagon and any other means of transportation. Some of the early plains settlers lived in sod houses. The wall thick with cutouts for windows, the small abodes kept folk cool in the heat of summer and warm in winter. But with very little room to move about, it’s safe to assume most activity, weather dependent, took place outdoors. And in those days I am sure there was no lack of work to survive and hopefully to also enjoy themselves in simple pleasures, like a nice day with sunshine, light breeze and a decent temperature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Sunday Afternoon in Siouxland, rural Plymouth County

9 May
A local makes haste down a gravel road in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are days I enjoy driving out into the countryside in Siouxland and just wandering backroads. There may not be anything special about a destination or photographically appealing as the sun in high overhead and the light reflecting the time of year. As spring moves toward summer one must continually awake earlier in the day, and go to bed later in the evening to catch “the beautiful light”. Much photographic sensors, my wake time dynamic range is only so large and I enjoy my sleep.

But it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t find subjects or situations that piques one’s interest. A person might need to look a little harder and parse what could be of interest. Even if only in a documentary sort of way.

A cat eyes a visitor from afar in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Spotting something of more interest a cat leaps off its window ledge perch to explore in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And so I wander country roads looking for those moments. Sometimes starting earlier in the day and sometimes on the spur of the moment. Wondering what I might find, listening to music and with luck driving in warmer weather so I can open my car windows and enjoy the day. No expectations, no need for something spectacular, just a day to wander, contemplate and enjoy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A gravel road disappears around a bend and beyond some tree limbs in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Making Friends in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

5 May
A horse looks toward a visitor in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021, possible hoping for a little snack. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always look forward to meeting new “folk” when driving about Siouxland. One particular day I felt bad that I didn’t pack a carrot lunch with me to snack on as a couple of locals would surely have enjoyed me sharing that I met while driving some backroads.

It was a nice day and they seemed to be enjoying themselves on a hillside on a pleasant, finally, spring day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two horses eye a visitor in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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