A series of special meetings last fall with landowners along the Upper Iowa River revealed some disturbing behavior by individuals who frequent Iowa’s signature inland stream.
Trespassing. Alcohol abuse. Underage drinking. Public nudity. Public urination. Littering. Vulgar language. And the list goes on.
Floating the Upper Iowa River was once included on the National Geographic’s America’s 100 Best Adventures list, but to those living nearest the river, much of its attraction has been diminished by those who use it.
“We heard stories of people coming home to find an intoxicated person in their kitchen making a sandwich, about encounters with intoxicated people looking for a ride home, or vomiting or urinating on their property,” said Nate Hoogeveen, river programs coordinator for the Iowa DNR.
Hoogeveen met earlier with other players in the area to discuss the possibility of designating the Upper Iowa River as a state water trail. At these listening sessions, a number of concerns were discussed about the existing behavior by some of the river users.
“We want people to have fun on the river but not at the expense of others. We need to take these reports seriously,” said Hoogeveen.
The local meetings lead to an effort to remind river users that their behavior affects other people, including neighboring landowners.
Keep it Clean, Keep it Fun for Everyone is a new campaign to improve the behavior on Iowa rivers.
“These problems didn’t develop overnight and won’t go away overnight,” said DNR Director Chuck Gipp. “We need support locally to report problems and hold individuals accountable for their behavior. The Upper Iowa River is one of our most unique treasures and we need to treat it with respect and appreciation that it deserves.”
The DNR is working to target law enforcement presence on the river as a way to reduce some of the illegal activity. The liveries will also include materials in their rentals to help paddlers report illegal activities they witness.
Littering is a significant problem on the Upper Iowa River, especially at access points, and the DNR will be distributing green mesh bags that people can take with them and pick up litter as they go.
“We need all of our users to respect the resource and take out what they bring in,” he said. “Respect the private property rights of landowners living along the river, including the sandbars and riverbanks. Nearly all of Iowa’s river bottoms are privately owned.”
Another thing users can do to make the Upper Iowa more inviting is to clean up the language, he said.
“Rude behavior, foul language and loud music were noted by landowners on several occasions as something that needed attention,” Hoogeveen said.
Businesses and public agencies who want to support this campaign can request posters and decals from Iowa DNR by calling Todd Robertson at (515) 979-9538 or sending a request toTodd.Robertson@dnr.iowa.gov.