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Delta, Iowa - Hayesville Bend Wildlife Area is a mix of upland, floodplain timber, wetland and upland timber, in an oddly shaped 540-acre public area, four miles south of Delta in southwest Keokuk County.
“From a purely wildlife angle, just look at the diversity,” said Jeff Glaw, wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Grassland birds, forest birds, migratory birds, all the butterflies, and reptiles and amphibians. There’s pheasants and quail here. It’s good for deer hunting and, in the right year, for duck hunting – there’s no where else you’d need to go. It’s a well-rounded area.”
The South Skunk River flows along and through the west and south side of Hayesville Bend and has a history of flooding the area.
Since the DNR acquired it in 1997, a lot of time and resources has gone in to repairing dike blowouts. After the 2010 flood, the DNR installed a 500-foot long rock spillway along the west side that allows floodwaters in and out of the large wetland while protecting the dike. A similar project was completed this spring on the south side. Both projects were funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The wetland basin has been manipulated to create different water depths and small islands to attract and support waterfowl, wetland and shoreland birds.
“It’s a pretty nice sized wetland, we just need rain to put water in it now,” Glaw said. “It’s a beautiful place to come walk the dike to bird watch. In the spring, I’ve seen snow geese cyclone in to the wetland from highway 21.”
Between the uplands, timber and wetland, the area supports more than 100 different bird species, either on migration or as residents, including Henslow’s sparrows, sharp shinned hawks, chimney swifts, pileated woodpeckers and bald eagles. It’s also home to nearly 40 species of butterflies, nearly 20 different amphibians and reptiles and at least 25 different species of dragonfly and damselfly species.
“We raise a lot of hooded mergansers here,” Glaw said. “This spring, I saw more merganser broods than wood duck broods.”
The north side of Hayesville Bend is more upland and upland timber, and is where hunters looking for wild turkey would set up. On the east side is a three-acre pond that offers decent fishing for panfish.
Standing on a ridge near the parking lot on the east side of the area, a mix of native big bluestem, goldenrod, Indian grass and rosinweed has come up through an idled hayfield.
“If you’re going to see Henslow’s sparrows, you’re going to see them here,” Glaw said. “It’s the habitat they prefer.”
These ridges also offer the best view of the area.
“This is one of the best vistas in my unit. You can see right down the Skunk River corridor,” he said.
After spending a day at Hayesville Bend, stop by Pigtail Charlie's Diner, in Hedrick, for its famous lunch special or prime rib dinner on Saturday nights.