Remembering Big Springs Park in the 1930s

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Possible remnants of a watering trough from the 1930’s is still visible at Big Springs Nature Park north of Guttenberg. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Big Springs Nature Park, or as locals prefer "Big Springs," is located along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway just north of Guttenberg. 

Joe Ihm, 93, of Guttenberg remembers visiting the natural area that offers a quiet, hidden spot for day-hiking, picnicking, bird watching or peaceful meditation, as a young boy.

Currently, Guttenberg Rotary Club members maintain the area, and take the natural beauty of the park into careful consideration while maintaining its pristine appearance, but Ihm remembers a time when community residents cleaned up the area. 

Ihm has always been in awe of Big Spring's coldwater stream that originates on the property and cascades down a series of limestone bedrock features, creating a natural stairstep effect. The water’s total vertical drop within the 11-acre parcel is over 100 feet. 

As a young boy, he enjoyed the surrounding  woods that now feature two walking trails maintained on each side. An additional, more challenging hiking trail can be found to the right of the picnic shelter as you enter the park.

As a conservationist, Ihm is glad the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has identified the spring and stream as a unique aquatic ecosystem that provides a potential educational opportunity area for fish habitat, water quality and interpretation. 

Big Springs Park in 1930

Ihm shared the following story. "As you traveled north out of Guttenberg on the River Road it didn't go straight as it does now," he explained. "Instead it was diverted into the Big Springs Park where you found a cement trough about 10 ft. long and 3 ft. tall." 

A large pipe with holes at 12 inch intervals that allowed water to escape ran the length of the cement trough. "From somewhere else, I am not sure where, a much larger pipe collected the spring's water and diverted it to the pipe in the trough," he noted. 

Horse and buggy was the main source of transportation in the 1930's. "The Big Spring's watering trough was the perfect spot to stop and water your horse and get a drink for yourself on a warm summer day," he commented. 

When Joe was about ten years old, he accompanied his father, Herman Ihm, and Cletus Saeugling on a trip to Big Springs to clean up the area. "We loaded the tools we would need on to Ihm Bros. Store truck, which was used to deliver goods purchased locally at the general store.

Although I wasn't much help cleaning up the park, I do remember the adventure well," he concluded. 

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