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December 1996 The monthly newsletter for people who live, work and play on the Upper Mississippi River Vol. 4, No. 12 $2.75

Frolll the Mississippi to the Congo - Exploring ·the World's Rivers By Joyce Gabbert

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ast summer an old salt of the Mississippi River exchanged his canoe paddles for an 18foot, 120-horsepower inboard-outboard 1968 Starcraft named the Julie Nan. Jerry Matter's enthusiasm for the power boat is only a broadening of interest for a lover of the rivers of the world. A Naperville, Ill., native, Jerry fell in love with the DuPage River, long before he became infatuated with the Mississippi. "When I was growing up, I about lived on the DuPage, doing all the kid's stuff," he said. "I became interested in the Mississippi when I started reading Richard Bissell." In his work, Matter often traversed the Mississippi. In 1969, he decided to move his family to Denmark, Iowa, 10 miles from the Father of Waters. In 1984, he purchased his own place on Pool 19, in Sycamore Haven, a mile or so upriver from Nauvoo, Ill., a spot he considers the most beautiful on the whole river. "It's pretty at Fountain City, Wis.,

Algae in the River Part One By Pamela Eyden

and at Pike's Peak in Iowa, too," he concedes. Matter, 61, a retired industrial electrician, never let his profession consume his life. In late summer, the Julie Nan carried him on a 980-mile, round trip to St. Paul, Minn., from his home on the Mississippi. His eight-day adventure included exploration of the lower St. Croix River. Other than a broken water pump

The teenager could not believe this contemporary of his grandfather roamed these places armed only with a backpack, camera and guidebook. and a bent propeller, the Julie Nan served him well. Matter's faithful friend, Renda, an 11-year-old black lab, rode along. His other boating companions were his books. He did not stay in a motel or carry an ice chest, and only occa(Matter continued on page 4)

F

ill a glass with river water and hold it to the sun. What do · you see? Duckweed, silt and a startled minnow? Grass clippings? Clear, geometric shapes? A brown tint? A green haze? There are many thousands of different kinds of algae in the river, and every glass you fill is bound to contain a few dozen, whether you can see them or not. Their strange life histories unfold with the seasons and affect almost everything in the river. These single-celled crea(Algae continued on page 2)

Whafs Inside ••• River Map Sizing Up the Dams ......... 5

Current Events Clammer in the Slammer ..... 6

River Calendar & Almanac Eagle Watches, Sports Shows . 8


(Algae continued from page 1)

tures work on the front lines of transforming the sun's energy into food. They are at the base of the food chain in the river and everywhere else on earth.

Algae for All Seasons The amount of algae in the river varies with the season, weather, place, time, water temperature and chemistry. One way to measure the amount of algae is to measure the oxygen it produces. Another way, far more practical for field biologists, is to scoop up water, filter out the chlorophyll and measure that. John Sullivan, biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, La Crosse, has been measuring chlorophyll in Pool 9, near Lynxville, Wisconsin, since 1988. His records show the algae (chlorophyll) peaks two times a year - in the spring and again in the fall (see chart). "This surprises people who think river algae peaks in late summer, when it covers the surface in some places," Sullivan said. "In terms of biomass there's actually more algae in the river at other times of the year." Many Midwestern universities and the Army Corps of Engineers are currently working to design sophisticated computer models that

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Algae in Pool 9 (Lynxville, Wis.) 1988-1996 can calculate the effects of water flow, temperature, sewage, manure, suspended sediments, agricultural chemicals, wind and a dozen other factors on algae. This research has been spurred by the increase in algae blooms, such as the one that caused a big Lake Pepin fish-kill in 1988.

Phytoplankton in the River - A Cast of Characters Blue-green algae - common in freshwater, among the oldest algae, operate in many ways like bacteria. Green algae - common in both freshwater and ocean environments, they peak in early summer in the Upper Mississippi. Hematococcus - a red-colored alga in the green algae family, commonly found in backwater mudflats that are drying out, spreads by spores carried on the wind. Euglena - a group of algae commonly found in high school biology classes and wastewater treatment ponds, found in isolated backwaters. Afanizomenon - a common, river-dwelling, blue-green alga that frequently blooms in Lake Pepin and other slow-moving water. Diatoms - a category of algae with silica-based cell walls, they look like glass boxes and have thousands of shapes: pencils, triangles, cylinders and more, visible sometimes in a glass of river water up to the light. When concentrated enough, they can turn the water brown. Cryptomonads - brown algae with large flagella, active in the river throughout the winter, as long as sufficient light comes through the ice.ยง

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1991 1992

Big River

Life Under the Ice In the spring and fall, when water temperatures change rapidly, many algae die or go dormant. Only the silica-walled diatoms, a few cryptomonads and blue-green algae continue to move about and carry on photosynthesis. They live right under the ice, producing oxygen and providing food for fish, as long as they get enough light. If the snow builds up and blocks the light, they stop photosynthesizing and die. "Ice fishermen sometimes find a reddish band through the ice when they cut it. That will be algae that's gotten frozen into the ice," said Sullivan. In the spring, right after the ice goes out, there's a dramatic increase in the number of diatoms. That's good for the zooplankton - tiny little water animals, such as copepods and daphnia - that have to feed on them in order to provide food, in turn, for fish and birds. In late May and early June, there's a lull in the growth of algae.

December 1996


Anabaena

Then, as the water warms up, the round diatoms and the blue-green algae that have been resting dormant in the bottom sediment all winter spring to life. There are lots of kinds of bluegreen algae. Aphanizomenon flosaquae is one that's easy to see. In late July and August, when there's a lot of it, it looks like bushels of grass clippings dumped in the river. Each "clipping" is about a half an inch long and consists of many algae cells lining up together in a colony. This cooperative strategy may improve their buoyancy, just as it does for ocean-going algae, such as nori and kelp. Kelp is actually an "algae cooperative," many cells that have banded together to form air bladders, which keep them afloat and up where the light is, so they can continue photosynthesizing. During the daytime many bluegreens float to the surface to take full advantage of available sunlight. As they carry on photosynthesis, they produce sugars, which make them heavy. They sink away from the surface to a lower level where they metabolize the sugar, which creates gases that make them buoyant, and they rise toward the surface again.

Bloom or Boom In mid to late summer, when the days are hot and calm, algae reproduce quickly. This is called a "bloom," although a better word might be "boom," since it has nothing to do with flowering, just overpopulation. When there are so

December 1996

Chlamydomonas

Ceratium

many algae that the ones going up to the surface bump into the ones trying to sink, the result is a massive traffic jam, and they all start dying off. It's the algae die-off that creates the foul smell people associate with algae in general. Rotting algae uses up oxygen, anaerobic conditions that can kill fish and other water life. Dying algae often tum colors as their chlorophyll deteriorates, just as leaves do in the fall. Sullivan said the DNR gets a lot of telephone calls from people who say they've seen paint spills in the river - red, pink, green, blue or blue with red in it. Not all red algae is dying, though. The red-colored algae that appears in backwater mudflats just before the water dries up may be hematococcus, which gets its color by accumulating iron.

Euglena

Like a miniature space station, water velvet floats on the currents and rides the waves all summer. The plant provides the buoyancy, the algae provides the food. Some algae don't depend on buoyancy to get around in the water. Some, like euglena, propel themselves with little whip-like structures called flagella. Euglena doesn't bloom in the Main Channel, but can be found in isolated backwaters. As the water cools in the autumn, algae levels begin to drop. The spores of aphanizomenon and some other algae fall to the bottom and wait for spring. Next month, part two: Algae Ecology. m Pamela Eyden is assistant editor of Big River.

Symbiosis Algae seem to have a tendency to strike up unusual living arrangements that benefit all parties. Lichens are algae living symbiotically with fungi. In the river, algae have struck a deal with a water fem called water velvet. Water velvet is a tiny, free-floating plant, much like duckweed. It bobs along with one leaf extending under the water to act as a buoyancy stabilizer. The other contains a colony of anabaena azollae, a bluegreen algae that fixes nitrogen. Many blue-green algae convert atmospheric and dissolved nitrogen into ammonia ..This gives the alga (and any plant that makes use of it) a distinct competitive advantage.

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Big River Big River (ISSN 1070-8340) is published month-

ly by Big River, 701/2 East Fourth Street, Suite 203, Winona, MN 55987; (507) 454-5949; fax: (507) 454-2133; e-mail: bigriver@aol.com; web site: http://www.big-river.com. Reggie McLeod editor/publisher Pamela Eyden assistant editor Molly McGuire assistant publisher Mary Feathergill bookkeeper Jayne L. Stokke graphic artist Joshua Jacobs system analyst Subscriptions are $28 for one year, $50 for two years or $2.75 per single issue. Send subscriptions, single copy orders and change-of-address requests to Big River, PO Box 741, Winona, MN 55987. Second-class postage paid at Winona, MN. POSTMASTER: send change-of-address requests to Big River, PO Box 741, Winona, MN 55987. Big River, Volume, 4, Number 12, copyright Š December 1996. Reproduction in whole or in part without written pennission of the publisher is prohibited. Printed on recycled paper.

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(Matter continued from page 1)

sionally did he eat in a marina restaurant. A coffee thermos and a small Coleman burner were part of his gear. His staples were mostly canned. He sacked out at night in his boat at the remote end of a marina where he purchased gas. He and Renda discreetly bathed in the river. He jokes about someday writing a book, "Travelin' on the Cheap." As a lean, trim wanderer, he can go lots of places in this boat, but not to the areas where he's been in a canoe or on an airplane. In his 18-foot We-no-nah, he canoed the Mississippi headwaters in two takes Lake Itasca to Brainerd, and Brainerd to St. Paul. Well before his retirement, Matter began exploring the rivers of the world. Always a student of geography, he used atlases as study guides. In 1990, he spied an ad for an Audubon Society trip on the Amazon and went for it. In 1994, after long negotiations to obtain a visa from the State Department, he traveled alone to visit the Congo River in Africa. The next trip was in 1995 when he went to India to explore the country and see the Ganges. This year, Matter flew to Egypt to investigate the Valley of the Nile. He compares the foreign rivers. "All are muddy, the Amazon is still unspoiled." The Amazon is the biggest and widest. "Along the shore are thatched roof huts where the Indians maintain a rain forest lifestyle, fishing as families, and hunting for game." The Congo has no pollution either. Matter made his headquarters in Brazzaville, 100 miles from the Atlantic. He explained the nationals do not live along the river there, but do so in the rain forests on the river further north. There is some

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barge traffic and commercial fishing, but no public river transportation. His movements were restricted on the Congo because of the political situation. India was a whole new experience for Matter. "The Ganges is not nearly as big as the others I visited, but long. The people are poor. They use the river to irrigate, fish, wash

Jerry Matter, Renda and the Julie Nan.

clothes in it, burn bodies on it." He traveled by train and bus from New Delhi to Varanasi. "The Ganges forms the biggest delta in the world, Bangladesh," he concluded. In Egypt, Matter found that people utilize the river for everything. He rode a train to Luxor from Cairo, and joined a cruise from the Egyptian capital to the mouth of the Nile. While in Cairo, he met my 17year-old grandson, who termed Matter "an older version of Indiana Big River

Jones." The teenager could not believe this contemporary of his grandfather roamed these places armed only with a backpack, camera and guidebook. He cast off his underwear when it needed washing. As an unencumbered traveler, Jerry searches out clean, low-priced hostelries. He eats the local food and gets acquainted with the inhabitants. His journeys include a fly-in to Manitoba to camp and canoe on the Churchill River, and a similar trip to the Yukon's Nahanni, Liard and Mackenzie rivers. A neighbor and fellow canoe enthusiast, Jack Knustrom, accompanied him. Matter has also kayaked the turbulent whitewater rivers in the southeast United States. And, he points out, his three children live on rivers: Troy on the Mississippi at Fort Madison, Iowa; Julie on the Platte in Colorado and Nancy on the Chicago River in Chicago. A retired automobile racer, his non-river interests include hunting, target shooting, skiing, jazz, dancing and even sky-diving. He's a great fan of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears. As the hunting season wanes, those of us who live in his vicinity see Matter in his johnboat, also named the Julie Nan, heading off to his island duck blind. On winter nights, he will plan his next overseas trip to the Chang (Yangtze) River in China. But any season, any year, he will tell you the Mississippi is the finest river of them all. Joyce Gabbert is a retired journalist who lives on the Mississippi River just upstream from Nauvoo, Ill.

December 1996


Sizing Up the Dams St. Anthony Falls river mile 854 453 ft. (Lower) fixed crest (Upper) 3 tainter gates (Lower)

Key River mile: miles upstream from Cairo, Ill. Total width of gates (Most structures also incorporate earthen dikes and concrete spillways.) Information is on the same side of the river as the lock.

L&D 1

WISCONSIN

L&D6 river mile 714 693 ft.

MINNESOTA

river mile 679 934 ft. 5 roller, 1 0 tainter gates

5 roller, 11 tainter gates

~

IOWA Harpers Ferry *

Wisco~.

L&D 9 river mile 648 811 ft. 5 roller, 8 tainter gates

* Prairie du Chien

L&D10 river mile 615 763ft. - - - 4 roller, 6 tainter g a t e S - -

T

_/

.

he locks and dams of the Upper Mississippi maintain a nine-foot channel for towboats and barges. The dams' size and design vary. Tainter gates are basically a segment of a cylinder supported at each end by radial arms rotating on pins anchored in the piers. Roller gates are large, steel cylinders that roll on inclined tracks embedded in the concrete piers of the dam. Both types of gates are adjusted to control the amount of water passing through the dam. When the river flow reaches a certain point all the gates are lifted out of the water. Roller gates were rare in the United States in the 1930s, when

December 1996

ILLINOIS L&D13 3 roller, 7 tainter gates L&D14 river mile 493 1343 ft.

Rock Island "- L&D 15 river mile 483 1100 ft. 11 roller gates

most of the dams were built, but were used in Europe, whose rivers offered similar conditions to the Upper Mississippi. The Upper Miss needed strong, moveable gates to allow the passage of ice. , Most of the 29 locks between St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis and

Big River

the St. Louis are 110 by 600 ft., with a few exceptions: Upper and Lower St. Anthony Falls are each 56 by 400 ft.; Lock 1 has twin locks 56 by 400 ft.; Locks 2 and 14 have smaller old locks in addition to main locks; and Lock 15 uses an auxilliary lock 220 by 360 ft.ยง

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Big River Reader

An Anthology of Stories about the Upper Mississippi, from the First Four Years of Big River

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By Pamela Eyden, Molly McGuire and Reggie McLeod

Flaming Towboat On November 16, the Elizabeth Beesecker, a 3,900-h.p. towboat full of 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel, was headed downriver pushing a fleet of grain barges. Just above Hastings, Minn., a deckhand noticed sparks in the engine room and ran to get help. By the time he returned the fire was out of control. ' It took two days for the Coast Guard, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Hastings Fire Department to put out the blaze, and another two days to clean up the mess. "The biggest success was that no one was hurt and the boat didn't sink," said Lieutenant Bob McFarland, Supervisor of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in St. Paul. In the end, 40,000 gallons of fuel were salvaged, and another 700 gallons mixed with foam and water were contained and removed. The rest .apparently burned. Two rings of 011-absorbent booms were set up around the boat, and more were stationed downriver, but little of the fuel escaped. Fire fighters feared that the weight of the diesel fuel and the water used to put out the fire might sink the boat. That would have made it much harder to get the fuel ?ut of the boat before it escaped mto the river. The Main Channel would have been closed to navigation for the rest of the season. The fire apparently started in the reduction gear. Such clutch fires are not uncommon on towboats, McFarland said. They are usually easily extinguished and cause little damage.

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Dinged Queen The J?elta Queen met something in the nver near Le Claire, Iowa, on October 21st, damaging the paddlewheel and the port steering rudder. The Queen was enroute from St. Paul to St. Louis. The accident prevented the boat from its scheduled stop in Keokuk, Iowa, and crews had to scramble to make needed repairs in Davenport, but the company described the damage to the boat as minimal, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald (9-23-96).

Mayfly Indicators Mayflies are helping scientists track pollution on the Mississippi, according to the River Almanac (October 1996). Newly hatched mayfly nymphs burrow into the river bottom sediment ':h~re they feed and develop for their first year (see Big River, August 1996). Decomposing sewage or livestock manure can actually kill mayfly nymphs, so the mere presence of mayflies in the river in the Twin Cities shows that the water quality has improved during the last two decades. Scientists track some contaminants by measuring them in mayflies. "Mayflies collected near large metropolitan areas (Twin cities, Quad Cities, St. Louis) are typically the most contaminated with patterns of either sudden o~ gradual decreases occurring downstream. For example, in the late 1980s, PCBs apparently discharged from the Twin Cities area were still being accumulated by mayflies as far away as 230 miles downstream" explained Mark Steingraeber, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. He also said that mayfly research and other work indicates that the Flood of 1993 apparently covered some of the more contaminated

U.S.

Big River

areas of the river with cleaner sediments. His research also found lead in the digestive tracts of nymphs collected near Galena, Illinois, an area with large, natural deposits of lead. However, much lower levels of lead was found in adult mayflies, which is good news for the birds that eat them. Work still needs to be done to ~ind out whether nymph-eating fish m that part of the river contain higher-than-usual levels of lead.

Bigger Power Utilities Mergers, deregulation and nuclear waste are drawing a lot of attention to power utilities these days. Environmental and consumer groups are concerned that deregulation and two large mergers in the Upper Midwest may lead to higher prices and environmental damage. Minneapolis-based Northern States Power (NSP) has announced its plans to merge with Wisconsin Electric to form a new company to be named Primergy. Meanwhile, the Prairie Island Indian Community asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reverse a decision by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) that would allow NSP to store spent nuclear fuel near its nuclear plant in Red Wing, Minn., next to the Mississippi. The state legislature had told NSP to store the waste somewhere else in Goodhue County, farther from the river, but neighbors organized against a proposed storage site near Frontenac. The EQB then sent the hot potato back to the nuclear plant, which is next to the Indian reservation. Farther downriver, shareholders of Wisconsin Power & Light, and two Iowa utilities - Interstate Power and IED Industries - voted September 5 to merge all three utili-

December 1996


ties. The utilities say they will need to build a new 161 kilovolt transmission line across the Mississippi at Cassville, Wis., and re-establish an abandoned interconnection that crosses the river at Prairie du Chien, Wis., according to the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is based in Chicago. Environmentalists and consumer groups are concerned that both of these merged and deregulated utilities will have more clout to resist environmental regulations and compete against startup alternative energy companies. They are also concerned that they will favor large industrial users at the expense of households and that they will be more motivated to generate excess electricity to sell to other regions.

Chauffeured Salmon Boise, Idaho - Snake River salmon aren't doing very well, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent yearly to barge and truck spawning salmon past dams. A report commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers concludes that removing four dams on the lower river would be the best way to save the fish, according to an Associated Press story (11-8-96). The report by HARZA Northwest Inc. also says that removing the dams would cost electric users, shippers and taxpayers $153 million a year. However, removing the dams soon could save $75 million already budgeted for salmon-related improvements to the dams.

Barging Through The race was on during the last half of November, as towboats worked to get corn south before the Upper Mississippi froze up. But low prices and a late harvest got the shipping season off to a late start. This year's corn harvest may be the third biggest ever, despite a cold wet spring and rain in early November, which delayed the harvest. High prices for last season's corn

December 1996

had emptied out many elevators in the Upper Midwest. This year's good harvest lowered prices. Now many farmers plan to hang onto their harvest hoping for a better price in the spring.

Zebra Blockade Prescott, Wis. -The North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has asked that the St. Croix River be closed to boat traffic from the Mississippi, in order to protect it from an invasion of zebra mussels, according to a story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (11-13-96). The Upper Mississippi has been rapidly infested with the small mussels, which attach to the shells of native mussels, killing them. They can also damage water intake pipes, boats and structures in the river. Young mussels attached to boat hulls are nearly invisible. They can be removed by careful scrubbing or killed with very hot water. A few zebra muss'els have been found in the St. Croix. Boaters coming from the Mississippi are asked not to travel up the St. Croix past Kinnikinnic Narrows, about six miles above its confluence with the Mississippi. Many boaters ignore the request. Since 1993, the National Park Service has enforced a ban on boats that have been in contaminated water travelling past the Arcola sandbar, about 26 miles above the Mississippi. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have laws against transporting zebra mussels, but neither state is enforcing its laws aggressively enough, claims Tom Clarke, a spokesman for the group.

Bean Blockade European environmentalists are blocking the importation of genetically-engineered soybeans, which have been shipped from the United States mixed with regular beans. In November, Greenpeace protesters prevented a boat from unloading at

Big River

a Cargill wharf in Antwerp, and others occupied a Lousiana grain terminal owned by Archer Daniels Midland. Both companies are big grain-shippers on the Mississippi. The soybeans in question have been genetically altered to tolerate the herbicide Roundup and have been declared safe by the U.S. government and the European Union. In October, Greenpeace members trampled an Iowa test plot of the altered beans.

Oammer in the Slammer Savanna Army Depot, Ill. -An Illinois man was sentenced to 27 months in prison and fined more than $8,000 for illegally harvesting mussels from the Mississippi and trying to transport them across state lines. Not only did Timothy Riley try to take three barrels of the bivalves from the Illinois side of the Savanna Army Depot into Iowa, but he got in more hot water a month later by breaking into a business to steal mussels. He will serve his prison terms for the two crimes concurrently.

Something to Carp About One of our favorite fish, the carp, queen of the river, has hormone problems, according to a new study. U.S. Geological Survey researchers discovered fish in 25 freshwater streams and Lake Mead (Nevada) with abnormal levels of sex hormones. In Lake Mead, the female carp had too much testosterone and the males had too little testosterone and too little estrogen. The study of the freshwater streams, which includes the Mississippi River basin, shows links between altered hormone levels and certain pollutants. Two named are phenols, usually from urban sources, and dissolved pesticides from agriculture and urban uses. Other studies have found river otters and alligators with abnormally small sex organs. ~

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Special Events & Festivals December Saturdays through Dec. 28 Fly with the Falcons, Bell Museum, Minneapolis, (612) 624-7083. 5 Christmas Walk, Clinton, Iowa, (319) 242-1138. 6 Christmas Walk, Bellevue, Iowa, (319) 872-5830. 6-7 Christmas Walk, East Davenport, Iowa, 6 p.m. - 9 p .m., (319) 322-0506. 6-8 Fulton (Ill.) Hometown Christmas, (815) 589-4545. 7-8 Civil War Christmas, Fort Snelling, St. Paul, (612) 726-1171. 7-8 Norwegian Christmas, Decorah, Iowa, (319) 382-9681. 7-8 Old Fashioned Christmas, Norskedalen, Coon Valley, Wis., 1-800658-9424. 7-9 Clean Water Network Week, Washington D.C., (202) 289-2421. 8 Christmas House Walk, Guttenberg, Iowa, (319) 252-2323. 13 Christmas Victorian Walk, Genesco, Ill., 5 p.m. - 9 p .m ., (309) 944-2686. 14 Birding field trip, Winona area, (507) 452-2482. 31 Fireworks over the Mississippi, St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, (612) 6735123. National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Check with local clubs to participate and info for other areas. 21 Trempealeau and La Crosse, Wis. 28 Winona, Minn. and Dubuque. January 10-12 Winterfest, Allamakee County, Iowa, 1-800-824-1424. 25 Candlelight skating, 5 p.m. - 8 p .m., Merrick State Park, Fountian City, Wis., (608)687-4936. 25-26 Winter Fest, Lake City, Minn., 1800-369-4123. Bald Eagle Watches through March Eaglewatch, Wabasha, Minn., city deck staffed Sundays 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., (612) 565-3918. January 4 Lock & Dam 13, Fulton, Ill., 8 a.m. 4 p.m.; Albany (Ill.) Boat Landing, 8 a.m. - noon. Programs and exhibits, 9 a.m. - 3 :30 p.m., Clinton (Iowa) Community College, (815) 259-3628. 4 & 5 Lock & Dam 14, Le Claire, Iowa, (319) 289-3009. 4, 11, 18 Sauk City and Prairie du Sac,

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Wis., bus trips, exhibits, live raptor shows, 1-800-68-EAGLE. 11 Lock & Dam 11, Dubuque, 8 a.m. 4 p.m., programs & exhibits, Marshall School, (319) 557-9200. 11 & 12 Rock Island, exhibition at Expo Center, (309) 788-5912. 25 & 26 Cassville, Wis., four viewing sites, live raptor shows, hayrides and guided bus trips, (608) 7255374.

Exhibitions December 6-8 Winter Sports Show, St. Paul, 1-800451-8360. January 9-12 Quad Cities Boat, Vacation & Sports Show, Davenport, Iowa, (319) 232-0218. 14-19 Boat, Camping, & Vacation Show, St. Paul, (612) 224-7361. 22-26 Boat Show, Minneapolis, (612) 8275833.

Meetings & Hearings December 3-4 Army Corps of Engineers River Resources Forum, Bloomington, Minn., (608) 687-3011 . 5 Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission, Red Wing, Minn., (612) 436-7131. 9 St. Croix Valley Sierra Club, 6:30 p.m., Methodist Church, Stillwater. 11 Twin Cities Conference on Global Climate Change, St. Paul, Minnesota Environmental Initiative, (612) 334-3388.

Keynote speaker, economist Robert Mendelsohn. 12 Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, Muscoda. 12 Dubuque Audubon Society, 7 p.m., American Trust & Savings Bank, bring favorite slides. Public hearings, Minnesota electric utility changes, (612) 644-5436. Possible changes could result in increased generating capacity at plants along the Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix rivers. 3 Plymouth Administrative Offices, 6:30p.m. 4 Stillwater, Washington Co. Courthouse, 6:30 p.m. 10 Minneapolis, Hennepin Govt. Center, 6:30 p.m. 12 Roseville Activity Center, 1:30 p .m . and 6:30 p.m.

Workshops & Conferences December 8-11 Sensible Management of Today's Altered Ecosystems, Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference, Omaha, (402) 471-0641. January 8-9 Our River, Our Economy - Your Stake in the Future of the Mississippi River, Davenport, Iowa, MARC 2000, (314) 436-7303. 16-17 Maritime seminar, New Orleans, (504) 865-5900. !jg

December Almanac By Kenny Salwey In nature's calendar - the Circle of Life - December is an ending and a beginning, the tag end of autumn and the beginning of winter. Small clusters of ice anglers sit on their pails, backs to the wind like horses in a winter pasture. Along the bays, beaches and swimming holes, the ice is swept clear for skating rinks. Night brings warming fires, hot chocolate, clacking hockey sticks, skate blades slashing the ice and laughter drifting on the clear crisp air. It's a time of watching and waiting, patience and tolerance, rest and death. Scattered flocks of ducks, geese and swans drift between the few patches of open water. Red tailed hawks glide in ever widening circles on blufftop winds. Bald eagles wait in naked cottonwoods near open water. Muskrats and beavers sit in dark silence in their winter quarters. At night I stop by an open spot to stare at the full moon reflected on the water. Christmas lights blink on the snow shadows. I hear distant church bells and carolers. It seems like Old Man River is saying, "I might be sleeping, but with one eye open, 'cause I'm a round river, and there ain't no beginning - nor is there an end." Merry Christmas, my friends. ~

Big River

December 1996

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