New book celebrates rebirth of Brook Creek

'Creekfinding' is locally written, illustrated

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A new children’s book by a local author and illustrator tells the true story of the rebirth of a long-lost northeast Iowa trout stream.

“Creekfinding,” written by Mount Vernon author Jacqueline Martin and illustrated by Iowa City artist Claudia McGehee, tells the unlikely story of the transformation of a cornfield waterway into a tallgrass prairie stream in which Iowa’s only native strain of trout flourishes.

Martin said she wanted to write the book immediately after reading an account of the creek’s rebirth in a 2011 Gazette article.

“There was something so uplifting about the story, a whole ecosystem coming back after a more than 50-year absence,” she said.

McGehee said she was attracted to the “timely inspirational message” that nature responds to care.

During a visit last fall, the two took off their shoes and waded in Brook Creek, reveling in the fish, frogs, birds and insects inhabiting the reclaimed ecosystem.

Martin, seeing Brook Creek for the first time, said it exceeded her lofty expectations.

While Martin credits a Gazette article as inspiration, there’d have been no article and no book without the vision and determination of the man who made it happen, Luther College graduate and University of Minnesota professor Michael Osterholm.

In 2002, Osterholm bought a small farm near Dorchester in Allamakee County, intending to convert it to prairie. Its previous owner told him that, as a child, he had once caught a trout in a stream that had since been bulldozed to make room for more corn.

Osterholm used a 1949 aerial photo to pinpoint the location of the long-gone stream. He hired earth movers to re-create its original course, trucked in rock to replicate its bed and, with the help of many volunteers, replanted its banks with native vegetation. The spring that fed the original creek was diverted back to its ancient course, and the re-christened Brook Creek was stocked in 2009 with native brook trout fingerlings, which by 2011 had begun reproducing naturally in their new/old home.

After a recent visit to Brook Creek, Osterholm reported, “There were brook trout fry all over the place, and the stream looks like it’s been there forever.”

Martin, McGehee and Osterholm will talk about the book and the rebirth of Brook Creek at 3 p.m. Saturday at Prairie Lights Books. 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City.

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