From farm to wetland…farm.

Voas Nature Area in Dallas County used to be a farm. Today, the site acts like…a sort of wetland farm! Or perhaps a duck factory? Let’s have a look.

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Nice crop of cattails you’ve got there, Farmer Voas. Looking mighty green & dense…

If you wanted more wildlife—say, ducks to hunt—you might try to build or restore a wetland, to increase suitable habitat for the species. Open water for swimming? Plants for food and cover? Nesting structures? Providing such amenities is rather like caring for crops or livestock:  farming the area, to increase the yield of your “crop.” Around Iowa, you will find designated “Waterfowl Production Areas” which are intended to be waterfowl farms, or perhaps factories. Parts of the Voas nature area are actually open to hunting, including a section just for youth.

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How do we “farm” this ecosystem? As always, we need water in our wetland! Pictured here is a water-control structure. The taller the drainpipe is set, the deeper the water will be. This structure is reinforced with stacked rock (riprap). As it turns out, the fish seem quite keen on that rock. These are Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus). I believe these individuals are at spawning locations…where females will lay eggs…males seem to aggressively chase away rivals.

 

The wetland also features a nice “crop” of Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris), the pretty yellow flowers seen growing alongside the cattails. Other than the blossoms, they are submersed, and free-floating. I presume the combination of cattails and bladderwort creates conditions supporting food and shelter (cover) for a variety of wildlife. Even at midday, I heard numerous frogs and toads calling).

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So, how about the ducks? Truthfully, I only saw a couple during my short visit. Might be worth another visit to see “the crop come in” during waterfowl nesting season. It might also be fun to check out the Oak-Hickory timber, the museum, and other attractions. In the meantime, you can read more about the facility at the County Conservation Board’s web page. It provides information on how the Voas family dedicated this place to “farming” wildlife.

Voas represents a variety of aquatic & wetland habitats (water depths, vegetation types, substrate at the bottoms of the systems) and a site for wildlife observation, hunting, and enjoying a pretty stroll not far from Iowa’s largest metropolitan area (Dallas County is adjacent to Polk County, home to Des Moines and associated areas).

A student suggested I feature Voas here at 99wetlands, citing cherished childhood memories mucking about. So maybe the best harvest of all, will be the next generation of naturalists and ecologists, inspired by Iowa wetlands.

Feel free to share a childhood memory of an encounter with nature.

Author: Paul Weihe

Associate Professor of Biology at Central College, traditional author (Textbook of Limnology, Cole & Weihe, 5th ed.; Waveland Press), and now...blogger!

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