Once again, it’s backpack season.  It’s time to dig out the pencil pouch, track down the trapper keeper, and unlock the lunchbox for another year of classes.  Where did summer go?  For the first time in 17 years, I am not a part of the “back-to-school frenzy” that is so common in mid- to late August, but I still find myself reminiscing over a thrilling, eventful, and rewarding summer of 2013.


Canoes on the lake


The Watershed Sanctuary had a LOT of new visitors this summer, from young scientists to scuba divers to artists and beyond!  The Illinois River Watershed Partnership hosted four weeks of kids’ camps this summer, including two weeks of Art and Nature Camp and two weeks of Watershed Camp.

The Art and Nature Camp, led by local artist John Lasater of Siloam Springs, featured art as a medium to teach kids about the Illinois River Watershed.  Using watercolors, modeling clay, and artifacts found along the trails at the Sanctuary, campers learned about local tributaries, water conservation, and karst ecosystems while creating masterpieces to take home to their families and friends.


Art Camp


Watershed Camp focused more on science and outdoor recreation, with macroinvertebrate surveys, water quality monitoring, rain garden education, canoeing and fishing lessons, and nature hikes.

What, might you ask, are “macroinvertebrate surveys” and what do kids learn from them?  A macroinvertebrate survey is an inventory of sorts, and it tells us what types of critters are living in our creeks, streams and lakes.  Observing these creatures up close and recognizing that their survival depends on clean water is one step in getting kids to hold themselves accountable for their impacts within the watershed.  The more that children understand the spectacular human and non-human life in the Illinois River Watershed, the more they will want to take part in preserving, protecting and restoring our watershed.


Discovering things at camp


The IRWP also hosted its annual Illinois River Splash at the Watershed Sanctuary in the middle of July.  What a fun family event!  This event attracted over 330 people of all ages and featured free food, live music, canoeing, fishing, nature hikes, door prizes, bat viewings and storytelling.  We enjoyed introducing our new facility to the public and garnering the same excitement from them that we’ve had since acquiring the property.


Kids fishing from the banks of the lake


And, to top it off, we had one last awesome summer shindig for kids and their clan.  To celebrate International Bat Night, we hosted a “Bats and Blues” event at the Watershed Sanctuary on Saturday, August 24th.  Local blues band Kyle Lee and the Second Degree played live music and at dusk we experienced the wonder of thousands of endangered gray bats flying out of the Cave Springs Cave for their nightly feast of insects.  What a treat to witness this before the bats make their annual trip to a larger cave to hibernate for the winter.

Bats and Blues

Quite a little symmetry with the bats getting ready to head north and the kids heading back to school.  The end of a beautiful summer here in Northwest Arkansas, and one that we’ll remember for a long time to come.

Did you join us for any of our summer adventures?  We’d love to hear from you and to share your photos!