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Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 12:17 p.m. CDT

Memorial weekend

There’s nothing like a good winter storm to get people in the mood for camping. By 11:30 Monday morning, more than 60 percent of state park campsites for Memorial Day Weekend that offer electricity or full hook ups had been reserved.

Camping options for the big holiday weekend in a state park are quickly shrinking.

Campers wanting to spend the holiday weekend at George Wyth, Lewis and Clark, Viking Lake and Walnut Woods state parks should plan to arrive a few days early for one of the walk up sites with electricity – all the reservation sites have been taken.Other parks are close to hanging up the no reservations sign.

Ledges, Green Valley, Springbrook, Prairie Rose and Maquoketa Caves state parks only have the handicap accessible site available. Lake Ahquabi and Macbride have two electric sites, Backbone has three, Lake Wapello has four, Stone has five and all have a handicap accessible site available.

At Brushy Creek, two electric sites in the equestrian campground remain. Lake Anita and Union Grove have five electric sites and Fairport and Waubonsie each have four. Rock Creek has three electric sites and two handicap accessible sites.Most parks will have nonelectric sites available for the Memorial Day Weekend.

“We had a flurry of reservations since the 17th when campers began getting their sites for a two-week stay that includes Memorial Day Weekend,” said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.

Campers can make reservations for a site three months ahead of their first night stay.Not every campsite is available on the reservation system. Parks maintain between 25 and 50 percent of the electric and non electric sites as non-reservation sites, available for walk up camping.

Information on Iowa’s state parks is available online at www.iowadnr.gov including links to the reservations page.

Fish barrier

SPIRIT LAKE — The electric fish barrier that will keep Asian carp from entering the Iowa Great Lakes through the Lower Gar Lake outlet is in place and operational. All that remains to be completed for the nearly $1 million project is final site restoration.Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said if a high water threat arose, they could activate the barrier to prevent invasive fish from entering the Iowa Great Lakes from downstream.

“Invasive species seem unstoppable and are negatively impacting aquatic resources across the nation. This is an example of coming together as a community to win an important battle against them,” Hawkins said. “The electric fish barrier is currently the only effective tool to prevent upstream migration in this case.”

Electric barriers are superior to physical barriers because they do not obstruct water flow or collect debris. The system creates an electrical field in the water that prevents fish from moving past it. Most fish will avoid the electric field, but if a fish tries to swim past it, the electric field immobilizes the fish and the flowing water pushes it back downstream unharmed.

The electric fish barrier project became a priority after big head carp and silver carp were found in the lakes while sampling fish populations on three separate occasions.

Two bighead carp were collected during a routine population survey in August 2011. In March 2012, 88 big head and 55 silver carp were collected during a seine haul at the East Okoboji Lake narrows. During the same time, two silver carp were collected in Big Spirit Lake.

The fish likely entered the chain of natural lakes during the flood of 2011 that allowed them to pass over two dams in the Little Sioux River and over the outlet dam on Lower Gar Lake at the bottom of the Iowa Great Lakes. There was a sense of urgency locally and within the DNR to protect the lakes that are important for the area’s tourism industry and economy. The ecology and lakes are too important.

The Iowa Great Lakes are fed by streams flowing from Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR contributed $261,000 to the project with funding provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The fund, which receives revenue from Minnesota sales tax dollars, may only be spent to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife.

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