By Teri Stickler, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger and her Samoyed, Kaia
Located only minutes away from home, Kaia and I enjoy exploring Smith’s Island and Locks and Dam #14. Located just off Highway 67 between Interstate 80 and Pleasant Valley, Iowa, this is a local treasure boasting beautiful views, wildlife, and local history.
We often see bald eagles in this area. It’s a good spot for them to grab fish from the chilly waters. But it’s not only the eagles doing the fishing. Some days we see ice fishermen out on the river. For today’s walk however, we have the whole place to ourselves. That is what is so spectacular, the serenity. It’s never overly busy and there’s always something to see or hear and enjoy. Even the fresh air smells good.
On this particular walk, we enjoyed seeing animal tracks or evidence in the fresh snow where an owl or hawk found its lunch. Along the trail there are a few benches, but we generally just find a fallen tree or stump to stop by and relax a bit.
You should smell what you’re missing
From Kaia’s point of view, the best part of the walk, what she enjoys the most, is all the smells. Because a dog’s sense of smell is at least 10,000 times greater than is a human’s. Her sense of smell is actually more powerful than our sense of sight. As I rely on what I see, for Kaia, her nose tells her all that has happened. Being allowed to spend time checking out a tree trunk or a compressed area of grass stimulates her brain and is an important source of information. For Kaia, the saying, “Stop and smell the roses” has a much broader meaning.
So, of course, Kaia is most interested in the river and the trails. Our walk takes us across the auxiliary lock chamber walkway and to a wide-open grassy area that has a good-sized pavilion with electrical outlets, water and grills. A good place to enjoy a picnic or just to come sit.
But we walk a bit further. We pass a prairie demonstration plot on our way to a foot bridge that takes us to Smith’s Island. The island has a mile and a half long primitive nature trail with some interpretive signage. Its 40-acres of forest and marsh is surrounded on both sides by the river and follows through areas of indigenous plant and river bottom tree species.
The Locks & Dam system along the Mississippi River is an amazing engineering achievement in and of itself, and something quite unique and worth seeing. Currently much work is being done within the lock chambers. Every 20 years the locks are drained, inspected, and repaired. This work will be completed this spring, so now is a good time to come and inspect the process.
Taking a walk through history – right in our own backyard
There is a bit of history to the island. At one time it was owned and farmed by John Hoepfner. He sold recreational and residential lots on the island and brought supplies there via a hand- pulled ferry across the canal. During the winter months, some people earned extra money cutting blocks of ice which were then used for home refrigeration. Along the nature trail, you will pass what is left of a foundation from one of the homes that was once there.
What Kaia and I both enjoy about this hike is not in the form of strenuous exercise from some challenging trail, but rather just taking it slow and easy. We like to take the time to actually look at things, hear the water lap the shoreline, or in today’s case, hear the ice crackle as it shifts. We like hearing the woodpecker pounding at a tree trunk, and we enjoy the time together out with nature.
Come spring the eagles will leave and the pelicans will arrive. Throughout the whole year, geese, gulls, herons, and various species of ducks all call this home as do turtles and a wide variety of birds. And although the trail is only a mile and a half long, we like to make the time last, stopping here and there to take it all in.
The island offers a wide variety of spring wildflowers, always a thrill to discover. The area offers a boat launch, picnic areas, restroom facilities, the locks and dam system, a prairie plot, nature trail, fishing, bird watching, photography. The list is endless.
For Kaia and me, it is a perfect place to put the worries of the day behind and just enjoy a walk.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
Pictures from Kaia and Teri’s adventure on Smith’s Island
- Shelter reservations can be made by calling the Mississippi River Project Office.
Phone: 309-794-4524 or email: email@example.com
|Meet Teri Stickler. Teri is a retired Quad-City teacher. She thoroughly enjoys the out-of-doors, sharing most of her adventures with her Samoyed companion, Kaia.|