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June 9, 2018     Field Trip to Cedar River Crossing (CRC) and Ciha Fen Preserve, both in NE Johnson County.

In addition to providing native plants and excellent birding, this field trip will generate discussions of the ecological restoration efforts now being initiated at CRC, as well as the site’s rich human history: CRC hosts an 1800s gypsy encampment site, Native American river-fording site, sporadic Catalpas which indicate Native American trading in past centuries, and the 1897 Sutliff Bridge.

Nearby Ciha Fen Preserve, with its short-grass prairie, ancient massive oak trees, and uncommon fen, is an ecological treasure with numerous rare plant and animal species.

Any trip to CRC is dependent on the river levels.  If the Cedar River is too high, or weather is rainy, most of the property may not be accessible, and the field trip will be cancelled. If in doubt, call the Conservation Board office at 319-645-2315, or email lgullett@co.johnson.ia.us and put INPS tour of CRC in the subject field.  

Preregistering for the event by calling the above phone number or sending an email is helpful, but not required. Doing so will help with event planning.

This field trip is sponsored by the Iowa Native Plant Society and Friends of Johnson County Conservation, with significant input from Johnson County Conservation Board staff.  Trip leaders include Rick Hollis (FJCC), Connie Mutel (INPS), Larry Gullett (JCCB Director), Dave Wehde (Natural Resource Manager) and Jeremy Rieck (Natural Resource Specialist).  John Larson, Principal Ecologist with Applied Ecological Services will also attend.  Larson and AES is guiding the wetland and savanna restoration efforts. Aaron Basten will contribute his knowledge from his studies of Ciha Fen.

NOTE:Be sure to prepare for possible ticks, especially at Ciha (where plants may be taller and trails less established). Long pants, closed shoes, and insect spray are recommended.

If available, bring bag chairs in case these are needed for overflow seats during hayrack rides.

Carpooling is encouraged.

9:30am: Meet at the CRC shed and board hayracks for a ride through the property to the sand prairie (see route in red on map) where we’ll identify a number of unusual native plants; from there we’ll hike a half-mile to an upland woods that is undergoing restoration; then return via hayrack to the shed.

11:30-12:45:  Lunch at Baxa’s Bar and Grill just across the bridge in Sutliff, enjoy a sack lunch at the picnic tables on the bridge, or travel into Solon for lunch.

12:45pm: Drive a few miles to Ciha Fen Preserve for a walk to explore a myriad of native plants and the preserve’s rare fen.

Feel free to come to either the morning session, the afternoon session, or both.

More Site Information:

Cedar River Crossing (CRC) is a 467-acre lowland preserve along the Cedar River near Sutliff, IA. The land was recently purchased by the Johnson County Conservation Board with goals of restoring oak woodlands and prairie, and recreating wetlands for a mitigation bank.  Since the woodlands and wetlands are in early stages of restoration, native plants (other than trees) may be sparse in these sites, and the emphasis will instead be on what is being done and why. However, visitors may see native beauties in the 14-acre lowland sand prairie, such as Fragrant Sumac, Blue Toadflax, Prairie Larkspur, Venus Looking Glass, Virginia Spiderwort and Fringed Puccoon.  Conservation Board staff will also discuss the benefits and uses of ecological restoration, and what we might see here in coming years as the land heals.  Plan to revisit CRC in 10 years to see native habitat restoration at its finest.

The nearby 80-acre Ciha Fen Preserve, which is higher and drier, consists of a sand prairie/savanna/wetland complex blanketing a wind-deposited sand ridge.  It contains the Ciha Fen, which is one of the only two documented remaining nutrient-poor fens known in the state of Iowa, with numerous rare plant and animal species. The site has a short faint trail loop and no restroom facilities.


Cedar River Crossing: 5473 Sutliff Road NE, Solon, Iowa 52333   From Highway 1 north of Solon, turn east onto 140th St (also F-14), which becomes Sutliff Rd.  Continue from Hwy. 1 a bit over 5.5 miles to where Sutliff Rd. makes a sharp left curve north toward the new Sutliff Bridge over the Cedar River. At that curve, the entrance path into CRC continues straight ahead (east), toward the old Sutliff Bridge. Meet at the small poll barn used as the operations center just inside the property.

Ciha Fen Preserve:  5656 145th St. NE, Lisbon, IA 52253About 1 and a quarter miles SE of Sutliff.  From Sutliff, go south on White Oak Ave, then turn east onto 145th St. and proceed to the preserve. Park along 145 St.

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