The Big Flood in NE Iowa

Elkader Flood

During the summer, much of the Turkey River is shallow enough to walk across. Not so right now!

NOTE:  The flood videos I made are at the following locations.  Each is less than a minute in length.

Motor Mill and Downtown Elkader Flooding

Turkey River at Big Spring Hatchery


Hello friends and welcome to the blog.  This week has been heartbreaking in the NE Iowa area.  On Tuesday we had a terrible series of severe thunderstorms that caused widespread flooding.  On that day I’d been fishing at Bloody Run park in Clayton County and brought back a limit of very nice trout.  But how the day changed in just a few hours!


Elkader Bridge

Let me back up a bit.  A person knew on Tuesday that something big was going to happen.  The humidity was oppressive and the skies quickly darkened as storms started to fire.  A stationary front set up near the Minnesota border and the northern counties in Iowa received as much as 8.5 inches of rain as a line of storms “trained” over the same areas for many hours.

One of the hardest hit cities was Decorah.  Another place ravaged by torrential rain was the town of Dorchester in Allamakee County (the farthst NE county in Iowa).  At that location the Upper Iowa River was at highest level on record.  Trout streams became raging rivers, streets flash flooded, and a lot of homes were damaged.  The flooding hit so hard and fast that camping units were swept away.  I watched the video of a 5th wheel camper floating down the Upper Iowa River and being smashed to bits against the Highway 76 bridge.

BS Campground

This was all of the hatchery campground that remained dry. Normally the trees you see are around 12 feet above the river.  The bank edge follows those trees on the left.

On Tuesday evening it was difficult watching the scrolling TV messages advising residents to avoid creeks and rivers such as “Trout Run, Upper Iowa River, Waterloo Creek, Bloody Run, Paint Creek, Coldwater, Bear Creek, the Turkey River”, These are all places the blog has featured many times — favorite locations for retreats in that part of Iowa known as “Little Switzerland”.  The area is like a second home.  I hang out and fish here all throughout the year.

Turkey River before and after

That’s a lot of water!

One of the hardest hit areas was the Turkey River.  Gary Siegwarth, the fish biologist at the Big Spring Hatchery, said the flood could possibly reach the highest level ever recorded and might flood the hatchery.  State workers had to evacuate 150,000 fish from the trout hatchery raceways in case the river should breach the levy and allow the fish to escape.  Working around the clock, fingerlings were relocated to Manchester, Iowa; the “catchables” were moved to the Decorah hatchery.

Hearing the news stories was distressing.  On Friday I traveled north, offering to volunteer in Elkader.  The way things worked out, no more volunteers were needed for a few days – well after the waters had started to recede.  Stopping to walk around and take pictures and videos, the allure of the goodies at Pedretti’s bakery was just too much.  I bought a few peanut butter cookies and a donut.  The donut was so dang good I ate 1/2 and flung the rest out the window to keep from doing damage to the blood sugar.  🙂


The next stop was upstream a few miles.  Thankfully, the raging Turkey River did not invade the hatchery… but it was very close to the top of the levy.  Workers parked their vehicles on high ground just in case.  The campground was almost entirely covered in water.  I was amazed because the camping area towers at least a dozen feet above the river… but one would not know that from the looks of it.

Not everyone was worried about the high waters.  The favorite Muldovy duck (who I call “Edgar”) was hanging around the hatchery’s pond.  He enjoyed a couple of the Pedretti’s peanut butter cookies, happily waddling away and munching them down.

Edgar with cookie

He was one lucky duck!

After scoping out the hatchery and making videos, I decided to do some fishing.  The pond was flooding a bit as river water seeped through the levy.  A pump continually drained it back down.  But the muddy water (and perhaps the vibrations of the pump) had the trout spooked.

All was not lost though. On the way home, I took a different route and visted a stream called “Mink”.  Though having passed by many times, I’d never fished there.  Mink is in Fayette County near the towns of Elgin and Wadena.  That area was unaffected by the rains and the stream was in good condition.  Five nice fish came home that day.  The next time Mink is visited – and it will be – I’ll get some pictures.

It was therapeutic to see the damage from the floods firsthand.  Though serious, it was not as bad as it was made to  sound on TV.  Some of the favorite creeks were likely changed, but only time will tell if it was for better or worse.  We shall see one of these days!

That’s about it for now.  There was an interview last week and I got a new job – a desk job that starts 9/12/2016.  It should be a little less intense and there is plenty of oppotunity to learn and grow.  More about that later.

Thank for visiting!  Happy and safe travels always!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

brad shirt

I’d rather be in tie dye and stink like dead fish… But it’s nice to get cleaned up now and then!


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