Restoring Critical Wetland Habitat in Iowa

Arieal image of oxbow restoration along the Boone River
Oxbow Restoration The Boone River has some of the most biologically diverse freshwater habitats in the state and restoring degraded oxbow wetlands has a lasting impact in the watershed. © Nick Walters/TNC

Media Contacts

  • Karen Wilke
    Associate Director of Freshwater
    The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy in Iowa (TNC) was awarded two ecological restoration grants for over $55,000 as part of the Society for Ecological Restoration’s (SER) Standards-based Restoration in Action program in collaboration with Microsoft, to restore two oxbow wetlands. This nature-based solution will reduce flood risk, restore biodiversity, and improve water quality. The restored wetlands are situated along Prairie Creek, an important branch of the Boone River, and located within Kossuth County. 

TNC is actively restoring the Boone River watershed and has completed 47 out of 400 potential oxbow restoration projects in the river system. The Boone River watershed has some of the most biologically diverse and healthy freshwater communities in Iowa, and restoring degraded oxbow wetlands also has measurable and lasting impacts on improving water quality. By restoring critical oxbow wetland habitat, TNC is helping address the biodiversity crisis, improve water quality, and provide important flood control benefits in the Boone River Watershed and the greater region. 

To date, TNC has worked strategically with landowners along Prairie Creek to restore two degraded wetlands that had become filled in with sediment over the last 70 years. Restoration began by digging five and a half feet down and excavating over 3,000 cubic yards of sediment to reach the historic riverbed. The excavated sediment was thinly spread along the top banks of the oxbow to provide a fertile bed for native plants to be seeded. As part of the project, TNC will work with Microsoft volunteers in the fall of 2023 to restore native plantings on over four acres around the wetlands to help stabilize the soil. “One of the best things about this collaboration is that it supports local organizations like The Nature Conservancy in Iowa and community members, as well as Microsoft employees, to go outside and get their hands dirty restoring their backyard. Well-designed, well-implemented ecological restoration is a positive, empowering, solutions-based approach to local and global challenges. Microsoft’s commitment to standards-based restoration shows they take sustainability seriously,” said SER Executive Director Bethanie Walder.      

TNC’s project aims to restore degraded oxbow wetlands in the Boone River Watershed to help capture and filter stormwater runoff and provide critical wetland habitat and native prairie habitat for wildlife. Downstream communities, such as Des Moines, will benefit from reduced flood risk and improved water quality. In addition, this project will improve biodiversity; at least 81 species of birds and 57 species of fish, including the federally endangered Topeka shiner, will benefit from restored oxbow habitat. This specific project will be completed in October 2023. In the years following, we will monitor the restoration site to ensure the wetlands are functioning as planned and to investigate wildlife benefits through fish surveys.   

If you want to learn more about the project or join us for the volunteer event on October 14th, contact Karen Wilke at or 515-244-5044.  

About The Nature Conservancy in Iowa

Since 1963 The Nature Conservancy in Iowa has worked to preserve our state’s natural landscapes by advancing land and water conservation. We value a scientific, systematic approach to conservation that incorporating-term strategic planning. We have project managers across the state who know and work within their communities to protect and conserve private lands in urban and rural areas and work with agricultural producers and companies on best management practices. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Iowa, visit

About the Society for Ecological Restoration

The Society for Ecological Restoration works to ensure that ecological restoration is recognized and utilized as a fundamental component of global conservation, biodiversity and sustainable development programs and that ecological restoration projects are designed and implemented in a way that provides people with the opportunity to not only repair ecological damage but also improve the human condition. Learn more about the work and get involved in the network by visiting the Society for Ecological Restoration website.  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on X.