You may be wondering why you haven’t heard from us in a while here on UpstreamMatters.  We hope this update on the IRWP’s latest ventures will reassure you that we are always hard at work in preserving, protecting, and restoring the land and water of the Illinois River Watershed in Northwestern Arkansas and Northeastern Oklahoma!


We were so fortunate to recently spend a day with EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry, giving him a tour of watershed conservation and education projects that have been implemented in the Illinois River Watershed and introducing him to our great partners.  Photo: Touring the Siloam Springs Kayak Park with Jimmy Mardis, Tyson Foods and IRWP Board of Directors; Delia Haak, IRWP Executive Director; Administrator Ron Curry, EPA Region 6; Ralph Weber, NWA Master Naturalists and IRWP Board of Directors; David Cameron, City of Siloam Springs Administrator; Mayor Mark Turner, City of Siloam Springs; Mark Simmons, Simmons Foods and IRWP Board of Directors.



Thanks to nearly 50 volunteers from Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, NWA Master Naturalists, Cave Springs 4-H, and Siloam Springs Kiwanis, we were able to plant over 250 native tree seedlings at the Bentonville Community Recreation Center and the Siloam Springs Kayak Park on Saturday, September 13.

Jim and Lynne Walton taste testing

The Water Bar, an educational art installation by Works Progress, opened as a component of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s “State of the Arts” exhibit.  The Water Bar offers insight and perspective on three NWA drinking water sources and how to protect them: Beaver Lake, the Illinois River, and an artesian well.  The Water Bar is being staffed by 8 IRWP interns from the University of Arkansas, NWA Community College, and University of the Ozarks.  Pictured above: Riley Young, IRWP intern, serves a flight of three local drinking water sources to Jim and Lynn Walton at Crystal Bridges.

Sun on the Lake

We have a full lake once again!  A new control gate was installed to address flooding issues that arose due to a defect with the old gate.  Once construction was complete, the cave spring filled the lake within 6 days.  The public unveiling of the new lake name will take place Saturday, November 8, during our Centennial Celebration at the Watershed Sanctuary!  Please plan to join us for this free event from 11 AM to 4 PM to participate in a time capsule dedication, a hike through history, canoeing, fishing, food, art exhibit, and more!



The Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary and Learning Center have been buzzing with activity for fall field trip programs.  Photo 1: Har-Ber High School EAST students and teacher Debbie Lamb take a rainy nature hike over the top of Cave Springs Cave.  Photo 2: Haas Hall Academy Environmental Science students and teacher Kelly Magoulick take advantage of a photo op in front of the lake.


Becky Roark, IRWP Rain Garden Resource Specialist, reported on the success of the Rain Garden Project at the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission’s annual meeting in Little Rock.  Through this grant, over 60 rain gardens were installed in public spaces like schools, churches, and parks in the Illinois River and Beaver Lake watersheds in NW Arkansas.


The Illinois River Salon art exhibit is now on display at the Watershed Learning Center.  This exhibit features 70 diverse pieces of art representing the scenic beauty of the Illinois River Watershed.  The public is welcome to drop in Oct. 6 – Nov. 15 on weekdays from 9 AM to 4 PM to view the show.  Public reception to meet the artists is Saturday, November 8, from 11 AM to 4 PM.  Featured painting: “City Lake Willow” by Bill Garrison, 2014 Illinois River Salon.


The IRWP’s Restoration of Our Rivers Annual Conference is taking place October 2 – 3 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  We have a phenomenal lineup of presenters on the topics of sustainable community growth, conservation in agriculture, economic benefits of watershed protection, and more.  The Illinois River Salon and Golden Paddle Awards Ceremony and a conservation bus tour are also part of the conference agenda.

As you can see, autumn is an awesome season for the Illinois River Watershed.  If not for the cooling weather and vivid transformation of color, it’s for the reminder of just how captivating our area can be in terms of community, quality of life, and people who commit themselves to making this a better place to live, work, and play.  Let this season inspire you to take action, to be a watershed steward, to contribute to the legacy we will leave for residents of the Illinois River Watershed 100 years from now.

Have you helped the land or waterways of the Illinois River Watershed this year?  We want to hear your story and include it in our 2014 time capsule at the Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary! Please share in the comments below.

Related Posts:

2014: Making It Count

Celebrating National Volunteer Week!

Partners with a Passion

10 Adventure Destinations in the Illinois River Watershed

Additional Resources:

Take the 2014 Action Challenge!

Restoration of Our Rivers Annual Conference

IRWP Conservation and Restoration Projects