An oasis brought to life
Nestled within the bustling city of Davenport is a 265-acre environmental haven. For over 400 plant species and numerous animals, birds, fish and insects, Nahant Marsh is home. But it hasn’t always been the protected oasis it is today.
Between 1969 and the late 1990s, a part of Nahant Marsh was owned by the Quad Cities Trap and Skeet Club. Although an escape for recreational shooters, the range proved dangerous for wildlife. Most of the lead shot ended up in the marsh, and as time wore on, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began to observe sick and dying waterfowl.
With the help of many partners, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation was able to acquire the initial Nahant Marsh property and has assisted with several additions.
“It’s the largest intact wetland on the upper Mississippi,” Brian Ritter, executive director of Nahant Marsh said, “and it’s amazing it’s in the city limits of Davenport because most wetlands, even near the edge of town, were destroyed.”
The rare marsh combines a variety of different ecosystems, including sand prairie, mesic prairie and sedge meadow, Ritter said. Differences in elevation and soil types allow for a greater variety of plant and animal life, including the state threatened Blanding’s turtle and Copperbelly water snake.
Visitors can spend a day exploring the wild preserve, biking, hiking or watching for one of the over 150 species of birds that flock to Nahant. The marsh’s interpretive education center makes it a popular destination for school groups and nature lovers of all ages.
Attendance to the marsh and its educational programs has risen in recent years — attracting nearly 15,000 people this year. “There’s a huge importance in getting people connected with nature,” Ritter said, “because if they don’t learn to love it, they won’t love to protect it.”