Improving Public Access and Usability at Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area
Partners of Scott County Watersheds and the Iowa DNR are collaborating to improve the public access
and usability of Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) with an established boat ramp, trail improvements, and educational signage. These added and improved amenities will greatly enhance the site’s accessibility and result in a more sustainable place for the North Scott and greater Scott County community to engage in recreational activities.
Owned by the Iowa DNR and adopted by Partners of Scott County Watersheds in 2020, the Crow Creek WMA is a popular site for local outdoor enthusiasts. The 56-acre natural area is just north of Davenport city limits off Highway 61, centrally located within the county, and free to use. These attributes make Crow Creek WMA a popular place for fishing, swimming, paddling, hunting, and hiking; the Iowa DNR estimates 7,500-10,000 people use the site each year.
Since adopting the site, Partners of Scott County Watersheds and the DNR have co-hosted a number of volunteer workdays. These workdays have led to improved habitat and shore access, but it has also revealed other issues, including an eroding hillside and poor public access. With the brush removed, steep slopes, undercut banks, and muddy shorelines are now visible and alarmingly hazardous. These issues are most predominant at the southwest corner of the site, where most of the brush has been cleared (see Figure 1). This corner is heavily used due to its clear access and close proximity to the parking lot, which has resulted in trampled vegetation and eroded banks (see Figure 2).
Not only do these issues pose limitations to access and recreational use, but degrade the health of the watershed as well. Run-off from the rutted trail and sediment from the eroding hillside feed into the lake, which is directly connected to Crow Creek and part of the Crow Creek Watershed. This project will improve the sustainability and accessibility of the site, as well as the health of the overall watershed.
Partners of Scott County Watersheds are fundraising to address these hazards, stabilize the hillside, and improve the accessibility at Crow Creek WMA. With this project, the primary lake access point along the site’s southwest corner will be regraded to a gentler slope (16%-20%) to create an easier walk down to the lake and reduce erosion. Further, a concrete boat ramp will be installed to allow the Iowa DNR to back their boats into the water for emergency services, research, and stocking fish; it can also be used by kayakers and canoers as a boat launch, by fishers as a pier, or by recreationists as a trail to the water. The concrete ramp will help funnel foot traffic, reduce trampling, and once again prevent erosion.
The east side of the concrete ramp will be graded to direct run-off from the upland trail and protect the hillside. The rest of the slope will be seeded with native grasses and armored with rip-rap at the shoreline. The native grasses will stabilize the soil and enhance hunting opportunities by providing more habitat. The rip-rap will protect the edge from erosion and overuse, as well as create macroinvertebrate and fish habitat.
Additionally, this project will address the trail from the parking lot to the concrete boat ramp. Currently, the path is rutted and sparse in vegetation, often creating muddy, unfavorable trail conditions. To further improve usability of the site, this trail will be leveled and lined with gravel.
Finally, this project will improve the public’s understanding and proper use of the site with educational signage. Provided by the Iowa DNR, signs will be added to the Crow Creek WMA parking lot and at the boat ramp to inform users of the site’s rules, safe boating practices, and ways to be good stewards of the site.
Overall, this project will improve the sustainability, accessibility, usability, safety, water quality, biodiversity, aquatic habitat, and stewardship of Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area.