Outdoors

A reintroduction to Cedar Lake

The Nature Call: Urban lake offers best of both worlds

Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids is getting cleaner and offers the best of two words. (John Hanson/correspondent)
Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids is getting cleaner and offers the best of two words. (John Hanson/correspondent)
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We stood in two worlds.

My feet were wet but my head was dry. Beside me a son. He was in two worlds, too.

It was a fitting place to be reflective. But his eagerness to hook a fish overwhelmed his ability to think past the immediate task. His mind was in the world of the present, mine was elsewhere.

In a silvery flash our worlds were shocked. The fish hit my lure at our feet. Smack, and then it was gone. I forgave him for breaking the third commandment. He forgave me for almost sinking a gang of hooks into his face.

We were standing in two worlds, between wet and dry, between wild and civilization. We were standing in Cedar Lake.

I recently got a charitable invitation to tour Cedar Lake by one of its foremost anglers. Tim “Bugs” Moran figures he fishes it five times per week. We both moved to Iowa about the same time. He in 1995, me in 1997.

Cedar Lake is his domain, a constant companion. For me it had long been a suspect piece of water. Sure, I had used its trail even back when it would hiss at you, before the Flood of 2008 silenced that steamy voice.

But I had never wet a line, until now. What took me so long?

For many people Cedar Lake is that neighbor you’ve lived near for many years, a familiar face but unknown quantity. We so often fear what we don’t understand. Allow me to reintroduce you.

Iowa’s only urban trout stream pours its clear and cool water into the northwest part of the lake. McLoud Run parallels a stretch of Interstate 380 before it disappears under Shaver Road into a pipe; it runs under the Alliant Energy property until it resurfaces for a dash to the lake.

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The inflow of high quality water is an attractant for wildlife. The blending of the lake and stream water creates an aesthetically pleasing scene as well as an ideal spot to fish. It was the place where I started this story.

Years of industrial and urban abuse took its toll on Cedar Lake. But relief from maltreatment and time heals. The water quality is improved, the fish are safe to eat and the variety of wildlife that find refuge there is heartening.

Heartening, too, is the dogged work by a small group of people trying to make our community a better place. The Friends of Cedar Lake, spearheaded by Dale Todd and Felicia Wyrick, have faithfully cultivated an expectation of transformation, moving the property from an afterthought to a vitalized community jewel (I’ve attended the Friends meetings for several years).

Now paired with the Smokestack Bridge project envisioned by Steve Sovern, they go by the combined handle of Connect CR. They plan for the city to gain title of the lake bed from Alliant when the final environmental testing is completed and hopefully with a good bill of health.

Fisherman can be vexing friends. We revel in one another’s catches but often guard, jealously, our best spots. Fortunately, Bugs’ evangelizing brought me into the fold. You’re invited, too.

As the boy and I stood in the lake, at the transition of cold and warm water, we marveled at the missed catch. The McLoud Run water coming into the lake was 66 degrees, it felt good running through my old shoes. The water in the lake was 79 degrees. We were between the world of trout and sunfish. I was in the world of age, my son in youth.

The sun had set. Twilight endued the historic industrial buildings with beauty. When darker still I noticed an inclined elevator, rising from one grain tower to a higher one. Cedar Lake is our inheritance and, like it or not, we need to take care of it.

The elevator had three prominent lights. To me they were Faith, Hope and Charity. If I applied more faith, hope and charity, then the fulfillment of Connect CR’s master plan for Cedar Lake would happen faster. What can you apply?

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I suppose most times a person finds him or herself in two worlds of anxiety and tension. Reconciliation of such a predicament is the stuff of novels and film. But at Cedar Lake, being in two worlds is just a good thing.

Looking up, looking ahead and keeping my pencil sharp.

l John Lawrence Hanson, Ed.D., of Marion teaches U.S. history with an emphasis on environmental issues at Linn-Mar High School and sits on the Linn County Conservation Board.

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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.