Funded by REAP

Resource Enhancement and Protection

What's New!
 Director's Desk | Nature Talk 

Our Quarterly Newsletter now On-line

Naturally Speaking is now available in PDF. Click here for Winter 2015 Edition.

Other issues also available. Click here for Autumn 2014 Edition. Click here for Spring 2014 Edition. Click here for Winter 2014 Edition.

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Also, if you want to look at last summer's Dutch Oven Cook Off, the 2014 Dutch Oven Cook Off newsletter is also available. Click here - may take a while to load.

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Upcoming Public Programs


Iowa's Frogs. Friday, April 24th, 7:00 p.m.

Come learn about Iowa's various species of frogs and toads. We'll start indoors to learn about their adaptation and songs and then we'll head out to a nearby wetland to listen for a few of the early spring species.



Birding at the Bridge: Warbler Watch. Saturday, May 2nd, 7:00 a.m.

The first two weeks of May are peak migration time for warblers. These colorful birds are a joy to see but because many tend to feed at the tree tops you often develop "warbler neck". Well, we think we MIGHT have solved that birding closer to the tree tops! Join naturalist/photographer Diane Porter and naturalist Therese Cummiskey at the Cedar View Trailhead early on Saturday, May 2nd. Bring along your binoculars AND a lawn chair. We'll shuttle you down to the Cedar View Bridge, set up our chairs and enjoy a few hours of warbler watching. This bridge is 60 feet high over Cedar eye level with some, though not all, of the neighboring trees. Hopefully it will be a unique way to view some warblers. The "shuttle" will run from 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m....but after that you'll have to hike it yourself. Pre-registration is appreciated but not required. No fee. Call Therese at 472-4421 or e-mail


Critters of the Night Spring Hike. Saturday, May 23rd. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Bring along the kids for an evening hike and along the way you’ll meet some unusual characters...perhaps a batty scientist, or a critter lady, maybe the critter itself! Small groups led by a tour guide will leave every 12 to 15 minutes from Shelter #1. After your hike your tour guide will bring you back to your starting point so you can warm up by the fire and enjoy a hot chocolate. You don’t have to have kids to participate but all kids must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration is appreciated but not required. No fee. Call Therese at 472-4421 or e-mail


Need more info? Call Therese at 472-4421, or e-mail to



Spring Into Summer Dutch Oven Cook Off

Come to compete...or just to eat!

Competing: Whether you're a newcomer or have been Dutch oven cooking for most of your life, we hope you'll join us for our 8th Annual Dutch Oven Cook-Off on Saturday, May 30th, 2015 at Jefferson County Park located just southwest of Fairfield, Iowa off Libertyville Road. The goal of this event is to have fun, demonstrate Dutch oven cooking skills, and to amaze the public with the great food that comes out of cast iron.

Like last year we will be having both novice and well seasoned divisions. To register for the event contact or call 641-472-4421. For the Dutch Oven Cook Off rules and competitor information Click here.


Eating: The public is invited to come watch and visit with the cooks. Individuals can pay a small fee ($5.00 for 13 year olds to adult; $2.00 for 7 to 12 year olds; $1 for kids under 6) that will allow them to sample the food after the initial judging is done. Once judging is finished the food is returned to the competitor and "those who have paid for the privilege" can line up at the various booths for a sample. Visitors to the event last year had the chance to taste test over 50 dishes including Braised Pork Belly, Death by Chocolate Dessert, and Sweet Potato/Apple Hash. The money raised from the cost of the spoons goes to benefit the Cedar Creek Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.



Judging Times:

Desserts: 11:15 a.m. (well seasoned cooks) and 11:45 a.m. (novice)

Side Dishes: 12:15 p.m.

Mystery Ingredient: 12:45 p.m.

Breads: 1:15 p.m. (Novice) and 1:45 p.m. (well-seasoned)

Awards - no later than 2:30 p.m.



From the Director's Dennis Lewiston

Update. The Jefferson County Conservation Board had another busy year. Campers from 28 different states visited Jefferson County Park and paid over $22,000 in camping fees. $4,521 was collected in camping fees at Mac Coon Access and $1,645 at Round Prairie Park. The JCCB recorded 119 shelter reservations this past summer collecting $2,200 in rental fees. There were also 52 cabin reservations with $5,670 collected in rental fees. Therese Cummiskey worked with 166 groups (3,723 individuals) in naturalist-led programs from July of 2013 through June of 2014.

Did you know that every county in Iowa (99) has a county conservation board? The Iowa County Conservation system was established in 1955. Since that time, over 1,832 county conservation areas, encompassing over 193,624 acres have been established. 24 million park users spending 851.5 million dollars visit Iowa’s county parks each year. For some interesting facts on Iowa's County Conservation Boards check out this winter's newsletter. You can find the newsletter link at the top of this page.



Nature Talk... by Therese Cummiskey

Summer Programs for Youth

Pre-registration required for all summer programs. Registration opens May 14th.

kayak birding

Young Birders: Jefferson County Park. Thursday, June 11th; 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

For youth 3rd grade & above who love birds and bird watching. This is the first of three Young Birders programs this summer. We'll meet up around Shelter #3 by the big pond and bird through three different habitat types: water, woods, and prairie. Fee: $5.00.

Young Birders: Neff Wetlands. Tuesday, June 23rd; 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

For youth 3rd grade & above who love birds and bird watching. This is the first of three Young Birders programs this summer. During this June morning we'll be birding around the Neff Wetland and along the trail at Lamson Woods. Fee: $5.00.

Nature Tots. Wednesday, June 24th and Thursday, June 25th; 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

For 3, 4 & 5 year olds. This hands-on nature exploration for preschoolers and kindergarteners runs for two mornings. Meets at nature center in Jefferson County Park. Fee: $10. $5 if parent accompanies child.


Tadpole Camp. Tuesday, June 30th through Thursday, July 2nd; 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.

For youth going into 1st & 2nd grade. Tadpole camp celebrates everything that’s fun about the outdoors: walking on logs, searching for frogs and toads, exploring a stream, climbing grape vines! Meets at Jefferson County Park nature center. Fee: $30.


Young Birders: Backroads Tuesday, July 7th; 9:00 a.m. - Noon.

For youth 3rd grade & above who love birds and bird watching. We'll load up in the van and head out to different spots around the county to find birds...perhaps along a backroad looking for horned larks or a messy fence row in search of bobwhite quail. Limited to 10 youth. Fee: $10.00.


Bear Creek Geodes. Wednesday, July 8th; 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. OR Thursday, July 9th; 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

For 3rd & above. Once again we’re heading to Van Buren County to visit Bear Creek in search of Iowa’s State Rock. Geared for 3rd grade and above but those younger are allowed if accompanied by an adult! Bring along a bucket and your lunch and wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Because of the popularity of this program we will be offering it on two different days. Fee: $20.00/child. $5.00 for accompanying parent.

Kayak Basics for Beginners. Friday, June 21st; 9:30 a.m. - Noon or 1:00 - 3:30 p.m.

For 5th grade & up. For students new to kayaking this class will introduce you to kayak basics, followed by time on Pleasant Lake to practice. Meets at Pleasant Lake parking lot off Pleasant Plain Road. Fee: $10.00. Limited to 8 participants each class. This class is made possible by the naturalist staff of Lee County Conservation. Registration due by June 7th.


Bug Week

July 18 to 26th is National Moth Week and we're working with local entomologist Moni Hayne to spotlight the biodiversity of moths (see Wednesday, July 22nd's program). But we thought we'd take the opportunity to celebrate all sorts of bugs during this week by offering a variety of insect programs for both youth and adults. Each session begins at the Jefferson County Park nature center which is located southwest of Fairfield off Libertyville Road.

Bugs: Up Close and Personal.
Monday, July 20th; 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

All ages of youth. Children under 1st grade must be accompanied by an adult. This unique program will allow participants to get a much closer look at bugs! We'll start indoors with a hands-on presentation and head outdoors to do some sweep neeting in the prairie. Fee: Free. No registration necessary.

Good Bugs. Bag Bugs.
Tuessday, July 21st; Noon to 1:00

For adults. Come join entomologist Moni Hayne over the lunch hour. We'll provide you with lunch and the opportunity to learn about the beneficial species of insects you have in your yards and gardens and about those species that are pests. Participants are welcome to bring along any bug they want identified. Pre-registration required. Call Therese at 472-4421 or e-mail Fee: $8.00 (includes lunch).


Moths at Midnight!
Wednesday, July 22nd (10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. OR 11:30 p.m to 12:30 a.m.)

For all ages, youth and adults. All youth under 11 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. On July 22nd we're offering two late night sessions for mothing. 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. for those individuals who don't want to stay up too late. And from 11:30 to 12:30 for those who do. (Moni says the coolest moths come out at midnight...and so will we!). Fee: Free. No registration required.

For more information about National Moth Week go to: National Moth Week.

luna Insects of the Pond.
Thursday, July 23rd; 1:00 - 3:00 p.m..

For 3rd grade and above. We know that ponds have cool things like frogs and turtles but there's also giant water bugs, whirligig beetles, water scorpions and other cools insects! Come explore with us. Kids need to wear boots and wear clothes they don't mind getting dirty. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. Call Therese at 472-4421 or e-mail Fee: $5.00

Frass & Tracks.
Friday, July 24th; 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

For 3rd grade and above. Many of us are familiar with the signs of animals like foxes and squirrels. We can follow their tracks or fnd their scat along a trail. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. Call Therese at 472-4421 or e-mail Fee: $5.00


Need more info? Call Therese at 472-4421, or e-mail to

See some articles from our newsletter, Naturally Speaking.