Approximately 11% of Iowa's surface area was once wetland. Wetlands were part of every watershed in the state, but nearly 95% of them have been drained post European settlement.
Wetlands are some of the most diverse biological communities in Iowa -- a healthy wetland is teeming with life. In fact, the majority of Iowa's endangered species live in or are associated with wetlands. Wetlands are also extremely important for water quality (filtering pollutants, nutrients, and sediment) and quantity (managing droughts and floods). Wetlands can be temporary (also called ephemeral) or hold water year-round.
A specific type of wetland, called an oxbow, is a freestanding body of water that was once part of the river channel, but sediment deposits or erosion slowly cut it off from the river over time. These unique ecosystems can also be found in SCC parks, many of which are along the South Skunk River or East Indian Creek.
Because of the multitude of environmental, economic, and recreational benefits, SCC works to construct or restore wetlands and oxbows where possible. Studies are performed to make sure the soil is hydric, or was once permanently/seasonally saturated long enough to result in anaerobic conditions, before starting a restoration project. Sediment may be removed to reform the basin, and plantings are done with a combination of species that grow under or above the water. Sometimes control structures are installed that allow us to drain the wetland in the future if maintenance is needed.