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Moorhead Reforest the Red Recap

Written by David Bunzow

They came on both 21 and single speed bicycles, in trucks and carpooling automobiles, on foot, and in a wheelchair – more than 110 willing volunteers aged 7-73 – with the singular purpose of assisting nature by improving a historic park section of The Red River of the North in Moorhead, MN. Volunteers from several local businesses including Anheuser-Busch, D-S Beverages Inc, American Crystal Sugar, Bell Bank, FedEx, Gate City Bank, HDR, Microsoft, Trinity Lutheran Preschool, US Bank, and Wex Health, were evident during the day; several volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were also hard at work with their planting duties and then watering of the young trees.It takes a lot of planning, patience, manual labor and dedicated people with vision and desire to help create a tree-rich legacy that can benefit the North for decades and even centuries to come. This event takes many weeks of planning to organize and would not have been possible without the strong financial support and stewardship guidance from our event sponsors, many of whom have continued their support from previous Reforest the Red events. Tools for digging, healthy mulch materials to surround the root systems of roughly 800 saplings, boxes of light blue sapling protector tubes, multiple rolls of duct tape and water to ensure an intimate contact between mulch and roots systems were all needed, helping to ensure the young trees their very best chance of survival for these one-day river giants that future generations of local residents and visitors can enjoy and admire. The Red River itself will also hopefully benefit from the enhancement of shade and soil enrichment provided by the trees in the coming years.

River Oaks Park was the site of this years’ tree plantings, and at the end of 3+ hours of hard but rewarding work on the hottest day of 2019 thus far (97 F.!), it was indeed a beautiful sight for all to behold a sea of turquoise tree supports along the watery banks and nearby fields of the Red. “Have a long and happy life, trees – one and all!”

There are many people to thank for their efforts today. Financial assistance came from the Anheuser-Busch Foundation through a grant from River Network and Muscatell Automotive.  Our project partners include City of Moorhead, MN, and the Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I leave you today with this thought, formed after a tiring but fulfilling day of planting trees:

Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. — (Luna Leopold, Hydrologist)

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More Trees Please

By Amy Barouth, volunteer


Every year, we ask volunteers to plant trees along the Red River and that is because trees play a large role in the health of a river system and a community. There are many reasons why that is the case.

Rivers are dynamic. They meander and sometimes cut new pathways altogether. Cut banks are the outer banks of an s-curve in the river where the water flows faster. On the more protected inner part of the river’s s-curve the water slows down, and sediments drop from the water creating a point bar. In open plains, this process is what allows rivers to move their banks. That is where tree roots come in to hold the bank together.

Riverside trees serve an especially important bank stabilizing role in the Red River Valley since it is made up of soft clay soils left behind by a giant glacial lake.  These clays are structurally weak and when saturated, are prone to slumping into the river. Weight such as that of buildings, septic systems or roadways or having shallow-rooted turf grass on the riverbank further magnifies the situation. Enter trees, and all the other riparian plants with a full variety of root depths, but especially trees with their thick and expansive roots. The root systems of trees not only stabilize river banks structurally, they also take in large quantities of water, lessening the saturation of the clay soils.

There are many more benefits that riparian (the area next to the river) trees provide. Banks stabilized by tree roots are protecting water quality since eroded soil itself can become a river pollutant. Forested river banks filter much of the water that runs off our urban and agricultural landscapes, slowing polluted overland flows by allowing the water to soak into the soil. Tree-provided shade keeps river water temperatures cooler (Fun fact: Oxygen dissolves better in cooler water, and that is important for fish species). The trees, along with other plant varieties, also form habitat for wildlife. Even the fallen trees, called snags, serve to create habitat and slow water flows.

If you’d like to plant a few trees along the Red River, volunteer for one of the Reforest the Red events, we have thousands of trees and shrubs to plant in 2019! This is a great chance to gather your family, friends or associates to make a positive difference together. Or, come on your own and meet some fellow tree-loving friends of the river. Go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe1kKS1DuWuofM8uAKjUJ0IYxWyxcjJT_DgNuaICDXDVEcK5w/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1 to sign up, or call Kim Morris at (701) 356-8915. We ask that at least one adult is present for every five kids (K thru 8th grade).

  • On June 7th, from 1 – 4:30 p.m. we partner with the City of Moorhead and the Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District at River Oaks Park. Short training sessions will be held throughout the event.  Subs and water served while supplies last.
  • On September 11th, from 12 – 7 p.m. we partner with the City of Fargo, Fargo Park District and Cass County Soil Conservation District at Trollwood Park. Short trainings will be held throughout the event. Hot dogs will be served from 1-3pm and 5-7pm while supplies last. Water served all day while supplies last.

Photo Credit: Jack Anderson

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New Videos

We just wanted to share how excited we are about some new videos that have been created for River Keepers to help us tell our story and share our impact.  Last year’s PaY intern, Abbie Sherva, conducted many interviews over the summer.  Our new hashtags: #LearntheRed, #SustaintheRed, and #EnjoytheRed came from the work that Absolute Marketing did for River Keepers through the Creating Good event.  These quickly became focus areas for these videos.  Then volunteer, Tyler Donnay, pulled it all together by editing and producing the following videos.  We’d also like to thank those members, volunteers and partners starring int the videos!
Check out the videos.  Each one is less than a minute.

River Keepers Impact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QaNOFOoVPw

It’s was so fun to see the work of PaY, Creating Good, and volunteers all come together!
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Watershed Education and Research Center Survey

The International Water Institute and River Keepers are exploring the feasibility of a comprehensive facility in our region which will provide opportunities for applied watershed research, watershed education, outdoor recreation, shared office and gathering space.  It is anticipated that the proposed Red River Watershed Education and Research Center will offer public and regional students of all ages, a wide range of education, recreational and research opportunities to enhance our community’s personal understanding, management and stewardship of the Red River of the North.

The International Water Institute in conjunction with River Keepers has hired Contour Design Studio & Craig Larson Landscape Architects to engage the community in a survey and public meetings in order to gain knowledge about the dreams, challenges, support and use of a proposed Red River of the North Watershed Education and Research Center.

Please assist us in this process by answering these survey questions.  It should take approximately 5 minutes to complete the survey unless you take time to provide more detailed answers.  All answers to the survey will be anonymous, provided in aggregate to the organizations and will only be used to assist in their decision-making.

Watershed Education and Research Center Survey

Thank you for taking time to fill out our survey and help our decision making regarding a potential Watershed Education & Research Center.


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Consider the Storm Drains

Written by Amy Bauroth

Just so long as it doesn’t happen too fast or all at once, most of us are ready for the snow to melt. That means our storm drains, the grated openings in the street, are going to be working overtime as melted snow and rain is moving through one of our most important urban infrastructures: the storm sewer system.

Sometimes people confuse storm sewers (see pictures to the left of a storm drain and outfall) with sanitary sewers. Sanitary sewer systems are underground pipes that carry sewage directly from places in our homes and businesses such as bathrooms and kitchens. The sewage in a sanitary system is treated at a wastewater treatment plant before it is returned to the river. No such treatment exists for the water that enters a storm drain. The storm sewer system is intended to prevent flooding and keep surface water from ponding in our urban spaces. When runoff enters a storm drain in West Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead, that stormwater is not treated at a wastewater plant, but is discharged directly into the Red River or Sheyenne River through outfall pipes. So, it’s worth taking a minute to consider how to protect our rivers from all the substances and debris that could make their way to the storm drains as the weather warms.

Many ordinary activities can affect the river’s water quality.  Of course, we should be very careful with automotive fluids.  Even diligently fixing small leaks in our vehicles can prevent problems for river water quality. Washing a car is better done on a grassy surface where soapy water is soaked into the soil and won’t run off into the storm drain.   Fertilizers or pesticides can make their way into the river through run off, especially if a lawn or garden is overwatered or excesses are not swept from the sidewalk. Even lawn clippings, leaves or sediment should be kept from the storm drains. And as for doggy doo? Well, you get the idea. When we all do our part, we can protect the water quality of the Red and Sheyenne Rivers keeping them beautiful for generations to come.

Jacob Brosius Eagle Scout Project

As summer approaches, River Keepers is getting ready for the Storm Drain Marking Program, a volunteer program that raises awareness about stormwater by linking human actions to pollution problems. This program is sponsored by the City of Fargo, City of Moorhead, and City of West Fargo. Perhaps you’ve seen an informational flyer on your front door knob, or maybe you noticed one of the storm drains that is already marked “No Dumping, Drains to River.” We work with individuals as well as volunteer groups (4th grade students and up). Check out https://www.riverkeepers.org/projects-activities/storm-drain-marking-program/ for more information. If you’d like to volunteer to spread the word on how a few good habits can make a big difference, contact Kim Morris at kimberly@riverkeepers.org or 701-356-8915.

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Happy Volunteer Appreciation Week!

Written by Kim Morris, Project Coordinator

Volunteers come to River Keepers for many reasons. Every year, without fail, we see returning volunteers planting trees, picking up trash, and assisting at countless events. Others are one-time volunteers devoted to helping wherever whether that is for projects that allow our community to learn, sustain, or enjoy the Red River. No matter the activity, our volunteers come to support our mission to advocate for safe and sustainable use of the Red River. Something we undeniably cannot do without them and the numbers prove it.

Last year alone we worked with an incredible amount, over 2,000 people from youth to adults. With volunteer appreciation week approaching along with one of our busiest seasons of the year, we want to share five special reasons why we LOVE volunteers:

  1. They experiment beyond our imagination. River Keepers has been around for 29 years and dozens of our projects have improved and expanded because of creative volunteers. In 2018, two volunteers created a photo booth for us. One designed the poster, and another built a stand for it made out of pvc pipe. It is a fun addition to our fishing clinics, golf scramble, and Race the Red canoe and kayak race. Thank you, Jackie and Scott!
  2. Volunteers go the extra mile offering us unlimited potential. They arrive early to events before the sun is up, fill in spots last minute, and provide skills like data analysis for water quality monitoring and photography experience that captures moments by the Red River we would otherwise miss.
  1. Education is at the heart of what we do, and our volunteers deliver the most meaningful water education. Each year we receive touching feedback from students and teachers who attend the Red River Water Festival and last year was no different. One teacher came up to staff thanking our volunteer presenters for capturing her student’s attention, a difficult task on field trips. We are thankful for all our volunteers who make learning a fun and meaningful experience for youth.
  1. It is no surprise that volunteers extend our budget. With two full time staff, volunteers easily multiply our impact. In 2018, we worked with 2,150 volunteers who contributed over 4,800 hours. All of these incredible volunteers, hours, and their donations were invested to improve the Red River. Four of these volunteers were NDSU students who decided to take their class project to the next level by fundraising for a new kayak for summer rentals and excursions. An addition that allows more people to enjoy the Red!                                   
  2. They interpret the value of River Keepers and the Red River to others. Our volunteers know us best and we are grateful when they take the time to share what River Keepers and the Red River means to them. Last year, youth volunteers decided to share their experience after storm drain marking streets and working on the T-shirt to Tote Project by mailing us cards. Whether volunteers tell us or others, they are the ones who prove our impact!

This is just a small sample of the reasons why we appreciate volunteers. No matter the kind of support given, thank you for making 29 years possible! Interested in volunteering, but don’t know where to start? Visit our online form to get involved: https://www.riverkeepers.org/volunteer/


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Red River Flooding

Written by Amy Bauroth, volunteer

For those who live in the Red River Valley, it is our spring-time ritual. Consider the moisture content of the snow pack; note the moisture level of the soils from the previous fall; determine the frost depth; wish for well-timed days of above-freezing temperatures but freezing night-time temperatures; and, hope the rain holds off until after the snow melt has finished. Are these habits unique? Or is this just the way of life for any river community? Of course, every river basin has its own unique characteristics, but the river basin of the Red River of the North presents a challenging combination of attributes that can lead to major flooding scenarios as it flows north to Lake Winnipeg. This can partially be explained by looking at the history of the Red River Valley.

It is a misnomer to call the Red River Valley a valley since it is actually an ancient lake bed, located at what was once the southern tip of Lake Agassiz, a huge glacial lake, that covered much of today’s central Canada. The ground-up, fine sediment that washed off the Laurentide Glacier as it waxed and waned for thousands of years settled to the bottom of the lake bed, leaving the present-day clay soils of the Red River Valley. Once 300 feet deep, Lake Agassiz eventually broke through the natural dams holding it to the south. The result is our current landscape where the Red River of the North drains what is today the youngest and flattest major land feature in the contiguous United States. At a little over 9,000 years old, the Red is so young, geologically speaking, that it hasn’t had enough time to cut the sort of deep channels carved by older river systems.

The flatness of the landscape makes for meandering flows of water, sluggish drainage, and floods with large aerial expanses. Nowhere is the gradient steep, but the southern portion of the Red River has a slightly steeper gradient. According to North Dakota State University’s Fargo Geology Webpage (https://www.ndsu.edu/fargo_geology/whyflood.htm), a gradient of 5 inches per mile in the Fargo-Halstad area flattens to 1.5 inches per mile in the Drayton-Pembina area. In addition, the effect of deglaciation is still playing out in the region since the crust of the earth rebounds for thousands of years after a glacier retreats. Imagine something like geological memory foam returning to its original shape after a very heavy glacier sat on it. This rebound in the Red River Valley may only amount to a few millimeters per year and doesn’t have an important effect in the near term, but the process is happening at a more rapid pace in the northern portion of the valley, so the already low gradient between the origin of the Red in the south and Lake Winnipeg in the north is slowly becoming more level (see https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/ndnotes/Rebound/ for more information about glacial rebound in the area).

Some of the other troublesome characteristics of our floods are simply because the river flows to the north. The delicate timing of thawing, and water soaking into the ground (slow even when the ground is not frozen because of our clay soils) is further complicated by the fact that spring thaw generally begins earlier in the southern portion of the basin.  Ice jams are a common occurrence, and they create temporary dams causing flooding behind the blockage. Often, melt water from the south of the basin flowing to the north combines with more recently melted water or it is blocked by frozen conditions up north.  Frozen ground can also prolong the length of the flood when water is unable to soak into the soil.

Frequent flooding is inherent to the very nature of the Red River of the North and the ancient lake bed it drains. Each year, the timing and extent of precipitation and freeze patterns interact with the geological characteristics of the Red River Valley to present us with a guessing game of flood possibilities and leaving us to our spring-time rituals.

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Learn How to Create Your Own Pollinator Habitat

Written by Gabrielle Hersch

River Keepers is partnering with Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cass County Soil Conservation District to host a two-day Pollinator Habitat Workshop! Discover the benefits of pollinator habitats and learn how to design your own prairie garden in two classes on March 19th and March 26th from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Probstfield Center for Education in Moorhead, MN.

Pollinators and pollinator habitats offer many benefits: they provide food, improve biodiversity, help with soil stability, improve water quality, and much more. Pollinators like bees, birds, and insects are crucial for flowering plant reproduction and the production of many fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the status of pollinator populations is in decline – but you can help!

The two-day workshop will cover the basics of what constitutes a pollinator habitat and explain the importance of landscaping with native plants. Participants will also learn the process of installing their own pollinator habitat from start to finish. They’ll leave with the start of a design plan and a pollinator-friendly kit – included in the ticket fee – just in time to prepare for spring landscaping.

Course fee: $19 ($14 for Moorhead residents). Course fee includes pollinator kit.

Secure one of the few spots left by registering through Moorhead Community Education.


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Catfish University

Written by Gabrielle Hersch

Does this brutal winter have you itching to get back outside this spring, but unsure of how to get the most out of your time outdoors? Look no further than the river that flows through our city’s backyard. Since the 1980s, anglers from all over the country have been venturing to the Red River, a premiere fishery for channel catfish. This exciting outdoors activity is a great way to get your friends and family out of the house and onto the river!

Don’t know how to catfish, need a refresher, or want to level up your skills? Here’s your chance! River Keepers is teaming up with Brad Durick Outdoors to host Catfish University, a series of two workshops designed to teach you everything you need to get started.

Introduction to Catfishing (March 13th): Whether you already enjoy catfishing or aren’t sure where to start, this class will teach you all of the basics you need to know. We’ll go through everything from gear, baits, and basic catfishing locations that will start you off on the right foot. This class will get you on track to catfishing success!

Advanced Catfishing (March 20th): The next level beyond the basics of catfishing. If you’ve completed the intro course and want to learn more, or if you’re an experienced catfisher looking to up your skills, this is the course for you. Here, we’ll dive deep into river structure, current, and how catfish utilize these. We’ll also cover electronics and efficient catfish angling to make you more successful at catfishing. More success = more fun!

Captain Brad Durick is a nationally recognized catfish guide on the Red River of the North, seminar speaker, and author. River Keepers is a non-profit passionately committed to advocating safe and sustainable use of the Red River through recreational activities, learning seminars, and much, much more.

Course fee: Both classes $39. ($34 for Moorhead residents) or one class for $29 ($24 for Moorhead residents).

Register through Moorhead Community Education.

Can’t attend the workshops but want to learn more?  Buy River Keepers “Relaxed Anglers Guide to Catfishing on the Red River of the North.

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Two Free Winter Hikes Along the Red River

Join us for two free winter hikes along the Red River this weekend:

* 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 26th at the Hjemkomst Center AKA The Frozen Fortress during Frostival.  Meet at the Hjemkomst Landing Canoe & Kayak Rental Shack for an interpretive walk of the downtown Moorhead area.

* 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 27th at Edgewood Golf Course.  This will be a hike along the banks of the Red River within the city limits of north Fargo. Discover the wild, wooded corridor between the urban community and the river. Meet just off the parking lot of Divots at Edgewood.

Dress warm and in layers!