By Kori Buchanan, Lakken Meredith and Eden Logslett
The Colfax High School Advanced Biology class took a trip to the Mississippi River May 9.
For many of the students, it was an early morning, waking up at 4:30 a.m. or even earlier. Once all of the students and our teacher, Mr. Mark Mosey, had gathered at Colfax High School, we left at 5:44 a.m., much to the unhappiness of some of the sleepier students.
This trip wasn’t just for our enjoyment, though; it was also educational. At each stop, we would take the turbidity level, while senior student Katy Toycen measured the dissolved oxygen level.
Turbidity is the measure of how turbid the water in a given area is; the clearer the water, the higher the turbidity level and vice versa. To measure turbidity, we filled a jug full of river water and poured it into a long tube marked by centimeters with a black/white bottom.
To measure the turbidity, you slowly let water out of the bottom of the tube until you can see the black/white marker on the bottom. Dissolved oxygen is the measure of oxygen that is mixed into the water so that aquatic animals can breathe.
Our first stop was about a half a mile from the school on the banks of the Red Cedar River at 5:45 a.m. While at the Red Cedar, some of us followed Mr. Mosey closer to the river, where we took the air temperature, 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water temperature, which was 12.7 degrees Celsius.
On the banks, we got to see the sun rise and tested the turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels. We took the turbidity level twice, and got 42 centimeters and 65 centimeters, for an average of 53.5 centimeters, which is quite good for most water. The dissolved oxygen level was 8.2.
As the sun rose, we heard birds that Mr. Mosey helped us identify, such as Canadian geese, Mallard ducks, and chickadees. Then it was back on the bus for a short trip.
That short trip brought us to the Caryville Boat Landing on the Chippewa River at 6:34 a.m. Stepping off the bus, we heard the chirps of pigeons, common grackles, and song sparrows.
When we got there, the air temperature had dropped 2 degrees, bringing it to only 55 degrees Fahrenheit, a chilly morning. The water temperature had also dropped to 10.6 degrees Celsius, and was much higher than usual due to the heavy rains and snowmelt of this year.
The two turbidity levels of the Chippewa River were 79.1 and 79.9 centimeters, combining for an average of 79.5 centimeters, while the dissolved oxygen level was 10.
After getting back on the bus, we then arrived at a chilly Reick Lake Park on the Buffalo River not far from Alma at 7:50 a.m.
Once we had all donned our sweatshirts and jackets, we braved the 54 degree Fahrenheit air and went to the banks to fish. Walking to the banks, we heard black birds and a yellow rumped warbler, and saw a muskrat nest and a beaver dam.
In the 15 degrees Celsius water, junior Andrew Larson was the first to catch a fish, a large mouth bass, just after a musky had snapped his line. When we took the turbidity levels, we found them to be 77.2 and 77.8 centimeters for an average of 77.5 centimeters, while Katy Toycen discovered the dissolved oxygen level was 6.8.
Our next stop brought us into Alma by the Lock and Dam Number 4 at 8:47 a.m.
At the dam, we learned from Mr. Mosey that the roller gates in the dam roll up to control the water levels on both sides. When barges have to go through the dam, they must go into a large compartment (lock chamber) where water will fill the chamber and either raises or lowers the barge.
While we were there, we met Paul Johnson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who told us that the water level had crested or reached its highest point on May 8. On the current day we were there, the water level was 26 feet high and the dissolved oxygen level was 8.8.
At 9:18 a.m. in Alma, the class broke into thirds and boarded a small boat to cross the river. The boat brought us to the Great Alma Fish Float, a locally run fish float near the dam. The float is available to go on for locals and tourists and contains a small cafe and many seats to lounge, socialize and fish from. After a local by the nickname of YZ caught a good-sized walleye, we interviewed him and he stated that, “The fish float is a good place to chat with pals and catch a bite.”
Then at 11:39 a.m., it was back across the river out of the chilly wind. The bus then brought us to the scenic Buena Vista Park that overlooks the Mississippi River and Alma for a quick picnic.
After our lunch, we arrived at Nelson Creamery at 12:49 p.m. for some delicious ice cream and cheese. Once we had all had our fill of sweets, we packed up the bus and headed back to school after a long, chilly day full of excitement, adventure and learning.