Iowa’s Morse Lake enhanced for anglers, ducks

Healthier shallow lake will improve water quality

Mallards in wetlands near Morse Lake, Iowa

Mallards in wetlands near Morse Lake, Iowa

A popular fishing lake in north central Iowa is ready to burst with new life.

Ducks Unlimited, with support from conservation partner Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, assisted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources by enhancing Morse Lake, a 98-acre shallow lake in Wright County. The lake sits in Iowa's Prairie Pothole territory.

The project also improved 20 acres of wetlands, which will boost water quality in the lake and the upper Iowa River Watershed. The enhancement replaced aging infrastructure, giving the Iowa DNR the tools to manage water flow. The state can now replicate natural water level fluctuations which existed prior to human altering of the landscape.

Cleaner water will also complement the nearby Lower Morse Lake Grasslands Bird Conservation Area, said Mike Shannon, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Iowa.

“It adds diversity to the grass and prairie habitat in that complex,” Shannon said. “The area has several smaller protected pothole wetlands and this project adds the larger shallow lake component to that system.”

Wetlands are nature’s sponges, so the additional wetlands restored by the project reduce the impact of downstream flooding. Clean water encourages recreational opportunities and economic activity in local communities including Clarion and Belmond. A healthier Morse Lake benefits sporting enthusiasts, anglers, boaters, paddlers, bird watchers, shoreline property owners and dog trainers.

The lake is in a draw-down phase through 2020. The state drained much of the lake, which helps get rid of invasive carp and bullhead. During the winter months, the remaining water will freeze completely and kill the damaging fish. The Iowa DNR will stock the waters with native fish once the levels are raised.

Project partners include DU, Purina, Iowa DNR, Wells Fargo, Flint Hills Resources and North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Morse Lake is one of several projects made possible through a Ducks Unlimited and Nestlé Purina PetCare Company partnership to protect and improve 1,600 acres of wetland and grasslands across Iowa. The partnership benefits Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative, promoting healthy soil, healthy crops and healthy wildlife habitat.