QUASQUETON — A blessing to residents since the town’s founding in 1842 — and to the first Americans long before that — the Wapsipinicon River has been especially well loved during the ongoing era of coronavirus social distancing.
With Iowans eager to get out of the house for some safe fun and relaxation, the river has lately attracted more visitors than at any comparable time in the 15 years since Sally Manson and her late husband Jim built their house overlooking the Wapsi, she said.
“The river is a fountain of peace and joy. I don’t know how else to say it,” said Manson, who has been spreading those welcome but increasingly rare feelings through regular Facebook postings of river photos.
From her patio not just overlooking but almost overhanging the river, Manson sees kids skipping rocks, boats and kayaks plying the water, hikers and dog walkers in Veterans Memorial Park across the river, drivers parking near the river to enjoy the view and a seemingly endless succession of anglers taking turns at likely spots along both sides of the river.
Manson herself is among the anglers and, like many of them, she said she enjoys the experience whether the fish are biting or not. Watching the moving water, she said, has “a very calming effect” that brings her “peace and contentment.”
The sound of water tumbling over and around boulders in the rock arch rapids in the heart of town similarly affects most people.
The Wapsi, which often runs high and muddy in March and April, has remained remarkably clear and fishable during the spring of 2020.
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In addition to the river’s default contribution of peace and contentment, it also can enliven dull days when one of its denizens strikes a lure.
Without such instances, my life since mid-March would have been devoid of excitement. In the weeks since, I have caught enough nice smallmouth bass for several self-portraits — an experience that proved I’m better at fishing than at selfies.
While a few states have closed or restricted recreational angling as part of the effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, Iowa anglers are free to fish as long as they practice responsible social distancing.
Most Iowa anglers maintain a responsible distance even in the best of times simply because it’s rude to crowd another angler.
Having regularly visited the river, often as many as four times a day, since the onset of the pandemic, I can say no one has gotten in my personal space and that I have kept my distance from other anglers.
As the pandemic has progressed, putting students out of school and workers out of work, the river’s pull has strengthened to the point where, on a nice day, all the likely fishing spots are occupied.
Like many of the increasingly numerous Wapsipinicon enthusiasts, I have plenty of time on my hands and don’t mind waiting my turn.