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Down by the lazy, flowing Kirkwood River

By Mike Cahalan
On April 5, 2017

Now that spring is here, I suppose students will begin hanging out more and more down by the Kirkwood River. No doubt to take a break from their studies and get away from the media. Most students do not know much about the Kirkwood River, so here is a history lesson. 

Kirkwood Community College is, of course, named after the Kirkwood River. As you all know the river enters campus by the Rec Center, flows by Linn Hall, and past the Hotel. But what you don’t know is that the river used to be a tributary of the Iowa River until it was diverted to the Coralville Reservoir by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1949. 

Shortly after the start of World War I, the US Navy did a survey of the Kirkwood River. The Navy wanted to train frogmen (later to become Navy SEALs) here in Iowa. Unfortunately, the Navy determined the river was too shallow.

In 1938, the Kirkwood rowing team won six of seven meets and had Olympic aspirations. However, the start of war the next year ended those dreams. The rowing team disbanded after an accidental drowning and a fire that destroyed the boat house in 1947. 

During Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev’s historic visit to Iowa in 1959 he stopped at Kirkwood’s campus and was presented with a sample of corn seed from the Ag Department. There is a famous photo of Krushchev on one of the foot bridges going over the Kirkwood River. 

Iowa had a record drought in 1988. The narrow Kirkwood river almost ran completely dry. Students set up aquariums in their apartments to keep frogs they had found that had no water for habitat. 

The loud croaking and plague of escaped frogs caused the Kirkwood apartments to ban frogs as pets. Most students do not even notice the “Frog Ban” portion of their lease that was put there the following year. 

Kirkwood students worked hard sandbagging the Kirkwood River in the summer of 2008 to hold back the flood waters. They were successful and the only damage to Kirkwood was to the antique pipe organ in the basement of Linn Hall. 

Kirkwood was later granted a $250,000 grant from FEMA to repair the pipe organ. 

I hope you learned something from this history lesson and I will be glad to see you down by the Kirkwood River soon. Fishing, sunbathing, reading, losing your Frisbee in the water or just enjoying the great outdoors.

Editor’s note: This article is satire and intended to be humorous, not accurate. 

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