Spring Brings Visitors

March 21st marked the beginning of Spring and the official day of Ice Out on Lost Island Lake.  Since then, we have seen numerous visitors of all kinds come by the Nature Center.  The trumpeter swans have come in pairs to the marsh just north of our building, along with Wood Ducks and Canada Geese.  The Pelicans are numerous almost daily right now and they bring with them a mix of Cormorants, Mud Ducks, and even a couple of Loons.  Songbirds are migrating through our area or staying to breed.  On April 11th we hosted Kelly McKay as he led a bird hike.  What amazing skills he has for seeing and hearing bird species.  As a group we were able to check off 41 different species in just 90 minutes.

Speaking of visitors, we have seen several people from as close as Emmetsburg or as far away as Colorado, all coming into the Nature Center to see what’s new.  It is a wonderful place for kids of all ages to read a little history of Lost Island Lake, play some learning games, touch the furs displayed, or hear what a rain stick sounds like.  We have extended our hours to every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.  You are always welcome to visit the Nature Center.

Photography Contest through October 2021

What: Photography Contest

When: Photo must be taken between October 1, 2020 and October 1, 2021

Where: Photo must be taken in Palo Alto County

Provide the following information with photo submission:  Name * Address * Phone# * Title of Photo * Location of the Photo * Age of Photographer

Photo must be nature-related.  Please submit photo in an 8 x 10 format.  Photo must be delivered to Lost Island Nature Center by October 9, 2021.

There will be monetary prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in two separate categories;
ages 18 and up or youth under 18.

All photos will be displayed during the annual Dad’s Belgian Waffles Fundraiser for the Lost Island Nature Center on October 17th, 2021 from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm

Guests of the breakfast will be voting on their favorite photos. Good Luck!

Please drop off your entry in person or mail it to:

Lost Island Nature Center
PO Box 417
3267 350th Avenue
Ruthven, Iowa 51358                                             Questions? Call 712-837-4866

Take it Outside!


Take it Outside!

180 hours outdoors challenge

The Palo Alto County Conservation Board is challenging you to spend at least 180 hours outside this year. That is only 30 minutes per day!

Who can participate:         Great for all ages!

How to sign up: Call 712-837-4866 and we will send you a chart to keep track of your time spent outdoors. This chart needs to be turned into the Lost Island Nature Center by December 31, 2021 and you will receive a prize!  Find a copy of the chart here.

What is there to do outside:  Just some ideas to get you started – sledding, skiing, fishing, kayaking, walking, biking, birding, ice skating, gardening.  Many of these activities are offered through the PACCB.  Watch for programming to try some new outdoor activities!

You Otter Know about the Otters

With trapping season approaching, one of the animals that may come to mind is the river otter.  The river otter was almost extirpated from the state of Iowa due to unregulated trapping and habitat loss.  Reintroduction efforts began in 1985 at Red Rock Reservoir.  A total of 345 otters were released between 1985 and 2005.  Reintroduction, along with wetland restoration and conservation, has allowed for the growth and distribution of the otter population in our state.

Otters are a lovable creature and a great source of entertainment. Otters are a playful animal, starting as pups when their mother pushes them out of their den in order to teach them to swim. Pups are born in an underground den, usually one abandoned by a beaver or badger.

As otters mature, they will take part in playing on their own homemade slip-and-slide. Running up the hill of a river bank and sliding down into the water, you can see them pop back out and chirrup at each other.

With their desired pelts and playful personality, Iowans can be thankful for the efforts to make sure river otters are no longer threatened in our state.


No See Ums

No See Ums

You usually don’t see them coming, which has earned these pesky bugs the nickname of “no see ums”.  They are minute pirate bugs and can actually be a helpful insect when they aren’t biting you.  This insect is a top predator for corn earworm eggs, which makes them an ally to grain farmers.  They will also feast on prey in gardens, lawns, and greenhouses.

Despite their small size, these insects can give a powerful bite! The minute pirate bug feeds a lot on eggs of other insects. In order to feed, they puncture them with a long beak that is moistened with a bit of saliva. They will then suck out the fluids. It is not a blood sucker, but it bites potential prey to see if it is an insect or an egg. The fluid on the beak is what causes the reaction we feel. The stinging sensation is not caused by acid or urine.


Big Bluestem

If you have been driving around lately, you have probably noticed a color change on some of our prairies and even in some ditches.  These grassy areas are now appearing to have a blue or purple color.  Big Bluestem is the reason for the color and is one of Iowa’s native prairie grasses.

Big Bluestem can grow 6′ to 8′ tall.  This grass is a favorite to grazing livestock and wildlife, giving it a nickname of “ice cream grass.”  Another common nickname for this grass is “turkey foot” because of the appearance of the flowering head typically having three stalks similar to the toes of a turkey.  Not only do mammalian herbivores enjoy this plant, but many insects, including caterpillars of a variety of skippers, and grasshoppers also feast off of Big Blue.  This native grass also serves as cover for many songbirds.

Big Bluestem grows tall in height above the ground, but like many of our prairie plants, the roots can grow downwards of 10 feet!  These long roots help with the stabilization of the soil, making Big Bluestem an important grass on the prairie.



Lost Island Trail Improvements

This summer the Lost Island Trail was extended and now provides two miles of paved surface for joggers, walkers, and bicyclists.  People are getting out more and enjoying the expanded trail along Lost Island Lake.

A bike fix-it station and bench was also added to the trail near Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center.  The bike fix-it station has a tire pump area, as well as a tower with a lift and tools to help repair a bike that may break down on the trail.  Pictured are the Degen and Danielson families using the bike fix-it station this summer to tune up their bikes for a morning trail ride.

Explore nature on the Lost Island Trail!

Our Amazing Campground Hosts

Every summer Bill and Tammy Horst welcome campers as hosts for the campground at Huston Park near Lost Island Lake.  They have been campground hosts for at least eight years.

Bill and Tammy have a love for nature and the outdoors that they share with guests to our campground.  We appreciate all that Bill and Tammy do for us at Huston Park Campground.

Thank you, Bill and Tammy!

New Exhibits at the Nature Center

Visitors are enjoying new exhibits at the Nature Center, including an interactive digital kiosk, balancing challenges, a large tree and forest interactive exhibit, a nature blind, bird houses and creature homes display.

Musical Patio

Sounds around the Lost Island Nature Center have become livelier lately with the addition of the Musical Patio.  Kids of all ages enjoy making music with the outdoor percussion instruments added to the patio near the nature center.

Salton Park Picnic Shelter

The Palo Alto County Conservation Board constructed a picnic shelter at Salton Park. Take a drive, go fishing, and enjoy Salton Park located on the northwest side of beautiful Silver Lake.

Lost Island Huston Park Campground

The Lost Island – Huston Park Campground has been updated to electrical and water sites, along with adding a playground.  We hope you plan to come and camp this spring and enjoy the new amenities.  Huston Park also has walking trails, a boat ramp, a swimming beach, three docks, a fish cleaning station, and three fishing accesses on Lost Island Lake.  Don’t forget to visit the Lost Island Nature Center too.

New Dock

IMG_9552.This new boating, fishing, swimming dock is located near the south picnic shelter in Lost Island Huston Park. We hope visitors enjoy this new addition!

Campground Construction

CampsiteLost Island Huston Park Campground will be closed due to construction as of August 3, 2015. Check back as dates are tentative.

Viewing Binoculars

Lost Island-Huston Park has a new addition – viewing binoculars. They overlook the marsh near the boat ramp. Be sure to take a closer look at the scenery next time you visit!Binoculars

Relay for Life

Relay for Life Saturday, June 23, 2015 – at Soper Park in Emmetsburg. Events will begin at 3 p.m., opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m., luminaries at 8:30 p.m. and the closing ceremony at 10 p.m.


Crazy Days


Crazy Days will be at the Court House lawn on Friday July 24th.  The event12_CrazyDaysJester_409x3601 will start at 8:00 and end at 2:00.