Calling All Nature Photographers!

June 13th, 2014 by

Dragonfly Kevin Railsback

Photo by Kevin Railsback


We know you are out on the trails at all hours photographing the beauty and wonder of nature. Now we want you to share your photos for a special exhibit! Submit an 8 X 10” print of a favorite photo taken at the Nature Center by July 15. The staff will then create a special exhibit of all photos that will be on display from August 1-31. Join us for a reception to meet the photographers and enjoy a cool beverage from 7 – 8 PM on Friday evening, August 1.

Please mail your 8×10 prints to:

Indian Creek Nature Center
c/o Photo exhibit
6665 Otis Rd SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

Please include the following with your submission:

  • Full Name
  • Title of print, if desired
  • Address
  • Email

Please note: only your name will be displayed with the photo. All mailed prints become property of ICNC. If you would also like your photo featured on our Facebook page, please email an electronic copy of your photo to Lindsey Flannery.

We look forward to seeing your photos!


Volunteers deconstruct 1920s era barn in Marion for use in Amazing Space project

May 14th, 2014 by



May 5, 2014  This week, over 100 volunteers are assisting Indian Creek Nature Center in deconstructing a 1920s era barn, located at 4002 Winslow Road in Marion. The barn’s salvaged boards, sliding door hardware and more will be repurposed in the Nature Center’s new building, slated for construction in 2015 as part of the Amazing Space project.

The barn sits on land slated for commercial development as part of the Tower Terrace Road expansion project. Current landowners Dan Engle and Tim Mooney of Mooney-Engle Land Company LLC did not want to see the barn end up in the landfill, so they went to social media looking for anyone interested in tearing down and repurposing the barn. There, Engle connected with Indian Creek Nature Center Executive Director John Myers, who saw the barn’s potential.

“We made a conscientious choice to salvage the barn boards, save them from the landfill, and offset the number of trees being cut down for our new building. We will use them in public spaces to showcase the natural beauty of the wood and bring elements of the barn indoors,” Myers said. The Nature Center’s new campus will be Iowa’s largest sustainable, net-zero energy project, and the only Nature Center worldwide to pursue the Living Building Challenge certification.

Engle and Mooney are donating other structures on the farm to be repurposed as well, including the chicken coop and grain bin. “We’re pretty community-oriented, and we always try to do the right thing,” said Dan Engle. “Just because the barn has to come down, doesn’t mean it has to die.”

Project volunteers represent several organizations throughout the Corridor, including GE Capital, Transamerica, Alliant Energy, Marion High School, Eagle Scouts, and US Green Building Council.

Some Really Mammoth News

October 14th, 2013 by

Naturalist David Brenzel has been even busier than usual at the mammoth dig site!  They’ve formed an interesting and important theory about our mammoths and he shares it with us. I’ve included a couple of his photos here; all eight are available on our Facebook page.

Indian Hills Community College Science Club digging at the mammoth excavation site.

Stratton Bond (left) and Brandy Millikin (right), Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa) Science Club, September 21.

I’m just back from the Oskaloosa mammoth site–my 5th trip in a month. With school back in session, teacher demand is high to visit the site with students and experience digging first hand. The Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa) Science Club came September 21.  Grinnell College brought their introductory geology class October 5. It was the Cornell College Archaeology Club October 12 with various teachers and naturalists sprinkled throughout. In-between, there’s been a parade of geologists trekking to the site to study the bones and test a new theory about how the mammoths ended up here. 

Dr. Deborah Waggett, Castleton State College, Vermont (right); on sabbatical for a year to study with Dr. Art Bettis UI Department of Geoscience (left).    Setting up a GPS base station at the mammoth site, October 2.

Dr. Deborah Waggett, Castleton State College, Vermont (right); on sabbatical for a year to study with Dr. Art Bettis UI Department of Geoscience (left). Setting up a GPS base station at the mammoth site, October 2.

It has been said get three UI geology professors in a room and ask their opinions and you’ll get four, so it’s remarkable Dr’s. Art Bettis, Frank Weirich and Holmes Semken, Jr. have come to consensus about the origin of the bones. The fossil bed has always been noteworthy for its depth of 2+ feet. The bones weren’t buried flat on the ground, some are standing almost straight up! We’ve long assumed they eroded from their primary deposit and were transported to the site in a flood, where they were dumped into a deep pool. But looking at the layers of sediment we exposed in the course of digging over the summer, the professors developed a new theory: that we have discovered a deep ancient spring that drew these elderly woolly mammoths to it to die. Like some professors coincidentally, their teeth were worn, they couldn’t chew very well and were hungry all the time, but at least they weren’t thirsty. So we’re no longer searching for a primary deposit–we’re in it! The new game plan: trace the shoreline of the pool around this ice age spring to find the missing bones. The landowner has multiple springs emerging from the same geological stratum for about 300 feet along his creek. They are all worth checking for fossils.

Dr. Chris Widga, Illinois State Museum (left) with Dr. Holmes Semken, Jr. (right) examining gnaw-marks on a mammoth tibia (shin bone).

Dr. Chris Widga, Illinois State Museum (left) with Dr. Holmes Semken, Jr. (right) examining gnaw-marks on a mammoth tibia (shin bone).

Last week we hosted a visit by Dr. Chris Widga, assistant curator of geology, Illinois State Museum, and expert on ice age megafauna. He confirmed we’ve discovered three individuals–all woolly mammoths, likely two old bulls and an aging female. That makes the site unique in the Midwest.  It’s not unusual to find multiple mammoth remains in a gravel pit, but those bones have been transported a long distance and are far removed from their sites of origin. We know our mammoths lived right here and are buried with the evidence of a wider ice age community. There’s a treasure chest of ecological information here about mammoth times (e.g. seeds, wood, pollen) and years of digging and research fun ahead determining how these incredible beasts lived.

City Chick

October 10th, 2013 by

Nature Center board president Rebecca Mumaw was the driving force behind the passage of the ordinance allowing backyard chickens in Cedar Rapids. She and CR-CLUC (Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) have since helped other communities craft ordinances to spread the “chicken love”. There is no question that Rebecca loves “her girls” and they return her affection with amusing antics and delicious eggs. Rebecca shares her thoughts with us on why she remains committed to raising chickens at home.

chickens in snowFour years ago the city of Cedar Rapids approved zoning ordinance changes to allow its citizens to keep up to 6 hens in the backyards. The Indian Creek Nature Center was involved from the beginning and gave immediate credibility with the city council. The Nature Center also offered to teach classes to potential backyard hen owners about the basics of keeping a few hens. Together with the city and the neighborhoods, we crafted an ordinance that addressed both the concerns of the neighbors and city officials.

I am pleased to say our work has resulted in an ordinance that the city of Cedar Rapids considers a success story in community and city council cooperation. Over 200 people have taken the backyard chicken class at the Indian Creek Nature Center to learn how to become backyard chicken keepers. The ordinance and process has been used as a model in several communities in the U.S. as cities continue to encourage sustainable living practices. Surrounding communities have been encouraged by our success and enacted ordinances of their own.

Kids enjoy getting up close with a chicken as they learn to raise hens in their backyardEncouraging backyard hens has had many benefits for the hen owners and for the community as a whole. Keeping chickens is a healthy way of gardening that provides free fertilizer for the garden that needs no packaging or transporting. Backyard composting reduces the amount of methane produced in landfills reducing the carbon footprint of the home owner and the city as a whole. The hens eat garden pests reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides in the yard. Since the hens eat kitchen and garden waste, less waste needs to be transported and disposed of by the city. Best of all, the eggs of free-range hens are healthier than the eggs of caged hens. They are locally produced and consumed making Cedar Rapids more sustainable and resilient.

Raising chickens in the city is no longer a big deal. It is now just another way to healthfully garden in your own backyard – and it’s fun! Chickens each have their own quirky personality and place in the flock. We spend hours watching them in the garden. If you’d like to learn more about the joys of raising urban chickens, join us at the Backyard Chicken Class at ICNC or visit our Facebook page at

Why Join the Nature Center?

September 30th, 2013 by

hikingWe have a new member special going on right now at the Nature Center – first-time members who join now get BONUS membership months! Our usual membership cycle is March through February each year, but if you join now, your membership will be valid until March of 2015! That’s a big bonus! Nancy Lackner, our Development Assistant and membership guru, shares her thoughts about why it’s important to join. I think they’re all pretty darn good reasons.

Children get answers to scavenger hunt questions from the Honey Fest Honeybee at the Indian Creek Nature CenterWhy become a member of the Indian Creek Nature Center? Let me count the reasons.

(1) Help keep a corner of Cedar Rapids green, beautiful and open to everyone to enjoy.

(2) Keep the resident groundhogs’ playground open.

(3) Support healthier habitats where children and wildlife can roam and thrive. (Sometimes children and wildlife are synonymous. A topic for another time.)

(4) You’ll know your membership dollars will be valued and used wisely.

(5) So children can hear a frog chorus in spring, catch and release butterflies in summer, taste honey in fall, watch bald eagles soar in winter, and smell fresh air all year long.

(6) Because it’s a great time of year to join! Purchase a new membership in September 2013-February 2014 and it won’t expire until March 2015. So you get more than a year of benefits for your investment! The sooner you join, the longer your membership term.

(7) Because it feels good to do something beneficial for our planet…and the groundhogs, the frogs, the butterflies, the bees, the eagles, and you.