Oxbows and Wetlands


The landscape of the 53,000-acre Walnut Creek Watershed flows from the farm fields east of Dallas Center into the growing residential neighborhoods and business districts of the Des Moines Metro.  The watershed touches nine communities and two counties, eventually draining into the Raccoon River less than one mile upstream of the water intake to the Des Moines Water Works plant, a public water supply serving nearly one-half million users.  Walnut Creek has become a priority watershed for local jurisdictions to take action to reduce flooding impacts and improve water quality.  For more information on the Walnut Creek Watershed, visit www.walnutcreekwatershed.org


An oxbow is a meander of a stream that has been cut off from the present flow of water. Over time oxbows fill in with sediment and lose the benefits they once provided.


Restoring oxbow wetlands provide multiple benefits including improving water quality, providing flood storage capacity, and improving wildlife habitat.  The expected benefits from the two Greenbelt Park oxbows are:

Improve Water Quality – Restored oxbow have the natural ability to remove excess nutrients, such as nitrates, from the water.

Flood Storage Capacity – The oxbows provide nearly two million gallons of flood storage capacity.

Fish Habitat – Research has found thousands of fish, representing 23 species, living in restored oxbows.  These oxbows provide important habitat for young fish to grow before entering the stream as adults.

Bird Habitat – 54 species of birds have been identified at restored oxbows, including 9 species not found before restoration.

Restoration Partnership

This oxbow restoration was made possible by a collaborative effort between the City Clive, The Nature Conservancy, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Polk Soil & Water Conservation District.