Hurstville Interpretive Center/Lime Kilns-Maquoketa


Kiln Row

Kiln Row

Have your travels ever taken you to Hurstville?If you were in the stone construction business in the late 1800’s you would have undoubtedly been aware of  the Hurstville lime kilns as a principal source for early mortar material.The process of producing lime was very labor intensive requiring much raw wood to keep the kilns burning not to mention the process of mining limestone,a hard job for a hard product..Then along came Portland cement in the 1920’s and goodbye Hurstville!!Nevertheless these stone monoliths still stand as a reminder of an earlier time thanks to the Jackson County Historical Society.

The Trumpeter's Holiday Home

The Trumpeter’s Holiday Home

Also located near the old town of Hurstville is the educational Interpretive Nature Center where an ambitious project to restore the Trumpeter Swan is underway along with an effort to demonstrate the  natural wetlands and prairie conservancy of the area. A wonderful Visitor Center serves as a focal point for this educational endeavor.Its proximity to the Maquoketa Caves and busy Highway 61 make it a nice diversion and rest stop if you are travelling to or from Dubuque or just want some place to go on a spring/summer day.


State Trout Hatchery-Manchester


How do you hatch a bunch of trout or is trouts? What kind of bait do you use in the incubaitor? Now if you know these questions sound a bit “fishy”…then perhaps you should turn away from this page as quickly as possible for I fear you are about to be tossed a line.I had never before been to a hatchery”,I am not even sure that I knew they existed, but here I was south of Manchester peering into pools of running water containing various trout species. Each segregated pool was populated by 6000 trout, I took the DNR guy at his word, that had yet to experience hook impalement or the exhilaration of elusiveness. Further amateur questioning as to what do you feed them,where do they go and how do they get there, revealed the apparent popularity of trout fishing in NE Iowa along with this author’s ignorance of the sport. I even found out that they guard the perimeter of the pools at knee’s height with electric fence to protect against blue herons. Shocking isn’t it?

Over 250000 brown and rainbow trout are stocked from this location along with Decorah and Waukon hatcheries each year  to help restock the babbling brooks within the area.So no matter which way you approach the success story of the trout hatcheries ,be it 360 degrees in nature,….the more “anglers” the better!

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Grimes Farm Conservation Center-Marshalltown

   When planning trips to from a full review any place in Iow, it is always wise to check your destination for weather conditions and site availability ;a lesson supposedly learned after the floods of 2008 . Not!! Of course I found myself west of Marshalltown in the Iowa River basin attempting to visit and explore the Grimes Farm Conservation earlier this month..As I discovered this area is highly susceptible to flooding and the watershed received heavy rainfall a couple of days prior!! Needless to say my investigation was greatly hampered by mud etc and I am offering only a sample of this attraction..Perhaps sometime on my way home I will finish my visit under dry conditions.Until then I will abstain from a full review!!

Calkins Nature Area-Iowa Falls

   3 miles southwest of Iowa Falls and not far from the Iowa River lies the Calkins Nature Area. Hardin County has made a effort here to exhibit the diverse wildlife and natural habit native to this particular part of Iowa.There is also an effort here to provide the visitor will learning opportunities within their visitor’s center, nature trails and open air amphitheater..

   Also on site was a collection of native fauna( assorted birds ,reptiles and small mammals ,many  with names as my guide was quick to point out . I knew they were getting good care although I could help but feel a little bit sorry for the hawks, owls, etc who looked to me that they just wanted to be free to fly soar and hunt. Yet outside of a zoo this certainly is a place for children to go to learn about Mother Nature.

  I also took a little time to tromp around the surrounding timber area thus my following my predilection for exploring  nature trails and their inherent pitfalls of noxious weeds, troublesome insects and unsure footing. Needless to say I fell into all these pits, but what the hey! You can’t truly see nature by sitting in a car!! Just be prepared to be “ticked on and then ticked off!!

DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge/Steamboat Bertrand-Missouri Valley

The Visitor Center Entrance

The Visitor Center Entrance


I have always been aware of the the presence of ducks and geese in western Iowa particularly during the spring and fall migrations up and down the Missouri River Valley.I even remember participating in a festival as a student for something called the “World Goose Calling Contest” in Missouri Valley. Apparently you have to be careful what you call a goose, because that contest is no longer held there. Ah…Political correctness!!! Anyway the area is still a major flyway for waterfowl and one of the reasons is the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge located  around  a  man-made river cutoff  lake west of Missouri Valley.

Is This Where they Watch the Goose Races?

Is This Where they Watch the Goose Races?

 This area was designated a wildlife refuge in 1958 by the federal government  and is one of the best places in Iowa to observe the annual and timeless migration of thousands upon thousands of geese, ducks, pelicans,etc  The Visitor Center is well equipped to allow the expert and the novice opportunities to explain and view this phenomenon. There is one thing about Desoto Bend that is different from similar refuges, it has an unique historical attraction….in 1865 the Steamboat Bertrand hit a snag and sank here. This, in and of itself would not be particularly noteworthy, save for the fact that treasure seekers,sought and recovered almost all of its cargo over one hundred years later in remarkably well- preserved condition. It is the pristine nature of the Bertrand’s contents that today provides us  with a time capsule snapshot of merchandise available in the Civil War era. Since there are times when the wildlife viewing windows aren’t  always full of action, I will float this thought your way…. visit the Bertrand Exhibit and enjoy a slice of history.

   Sank you very much!!