Friday, January 13, 2012


This week my friend Dennie, who works for the Iowa DNR, came by with a large cooler full of native fish species for the kids to check out.

Here they're checking out the sharp scoots that run down the back and along the side of a shovlnose sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus platorynchus.

In the mainstream Mississippi River, numbers of shovelnose sturgeon have decreased sharply since 1900 (Becker 1983), although the species is still commonly taken by commercial fishermen. While shovelnose sturgeon roe is used as an acceptable caviar, over harvest has become a major detriment to the species. Alteration of large rivers and construction of locks and dams for navigation purposes has contributed significantly to the decline of shovelnose sturgeon by blocking access to ancestral spawning grounds.

 Dennie is also a great wealth of knowledge about Iowas 45 native  fresh water mussels.
Freshwater mussels are also an important part
of Iowa’s history. Searching for pearls imbedded
in mussels was a common hobby in the mid to
late 1800s. By 1899, 41 factories in Iowa alone
used freshwater mussel shells to make buttons,
but the introduction of plastic buttons brought
the pearl button industry to a halt in the 1940s.

Bellevue was home to a pearl button factory, a common industry in river towns, where mussels were harvested from the river to make buttons.

Bellevue, seems serene. But it, has the rowdy history of a river town. Bellevue was known as a haven for thieves and counterfeiters.  Twice I've been involved with the reenactment of the Bellevue War.  Once as a good citizen and once as one of the outlaws.
The Outlaws hung out at Brown’s Hotel until vigilante groups joined the sheriff in what became known as the Bellevue War to clear them out in the 1840s. The crooks were set adrift with only a few days supplies, and threatened with hanging if they returned.

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