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Raccoon River LSM-520 - History

Raccoon River LSM-520 - History

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Raccoon River

(LSM(R)-520: dp. 1,084 (f.); 1. 206'3"; b. 34'6"; dr. 9'9" s. 12 k., cpl. 140, a. 1 5", 4 40mm., 8 20mm., 4 4.2" m.,10 rkt; cl. LSM(R)-601)

Raccoon River was laid down as LSM(R)-620 on 28 April 1945 by the Brown Shipbuilding Co., inc., llouston, Tex.; launched 2 June 1945; and commissioned 31 July 1945, Lt. W. F. Chapman, USNR, in command.

LSM(R)-620 departed the Texas coast on 10 August arrived at Charleston on the 15th, continued on to Norfolk in early September, and completed shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay in early October. On 10 October she got underway for the Great Lakes to celebrate Navy Day at Erie, Pa., then returned to Norfolk. On 8 January 1946, she again departed Norfolk, this time for Florida and inactivation. Arriving at Jacksonville on the 11th, she commenced overhaul, and then shifted to Green Cove Springs where she was decommissioned on 15 May 1946.

LSM(R)-680 remained berthed with the Florida Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet until ordered activated in August 1950. Recommissioned on 2 February 1952, she returned to the Chesapeake Bay area; based at Little Creek through April; spent May and June at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and on 11 July returned to Little Creek to prepare for amphibious exercises in the Carolinas.

Her duty during the next 18 months included amphibious operations at Onslow Beaeh, N.C., training exercises in Chesapeake Bay, two cruises to Vieques Island, P.R., and cold weather operations off Labrador.

On 26 January 1954 she headed south again, and through February operated in waters off Cuba and southern Florida. In March she returned to Little Creek and spent the remainder of the year operating off the east coast, primarily in the Virginia Capes area.

On 1 February 1955, LSM(R)-620 departed Little Creek for the last time. On the 8th, she arrived at Orange, Tex., and again entered the Reserve Fleet. Named Raccoon River on 1 October 1955, she was struck from the Navy list on 1 February 1960.

Service history [ edit | edit source ]

Following preliminary shakedown off Galveston, Texas, LSM(R)–519, steamed to Charleston, South Carolina, thence to Little Creek, Virginia, for completion of training. On 23 October she departed Little Creek for Troy, New York, where she conducted Navy Day activities.

By 1 November she was back in the tidewater area and on the 5th she sailed south. She arrived at the St. Johns River Florida Reserve Berthing Area on 9 November.

In March 1946 she was decommissioned. Renamed the Powder River on 1 October 1955, after the Powder River in Wyoming and Montana. The LSM(R) remained in the Florida Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet until struck from the Navy List on 1 October 1958.


USS White River in heavy seas near Little Creek, Virginia, showing the pounding the flat-bottomed ship took in high sea states

The unnamed medium landing ship (rocket) LSMR-536 was laid down on 9 June 1945 at Houston, Texas, by the Brown Shipbuilding Company launched on 14 July 1945 and commissioned on 28 November 1945, with Lieutenant John M. Gates, USNR, in command. ⎘]

Departing Houston on 3 December 1945, LSMR-536 made a three-day stop at Galveston before continuing on to Charleston, SC, where she completed outfitting. She stood out of Charleston on 8 January 1946. Following shakedown training out of Little Creek, VA, the ship headed south to Florida on 7 February, arriving at Green Cove Springs on 10 February, where she was placed in reserve. On 31 July, she was decommissioned and berthed at Green Cove Springs in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. ⎘]

Korean War [ edit | edit source ]

After being recommissioned on 16 September 1950 with Lieutenant Henry O. Bergkamp in command, LSMR-536 completed outfitting at Savannah, GA, and, on 20 November, got underway for shakedown training out of Little Creek. She ultimately departed the waters of Chesapeake Bay on 1 March 1951 for duty with the Pacific Fleet. She transited the Panama Canal on 14 March and arrived in San Diego, ten days later. There, she became a unit of LSMR Division 3 and spent the next 14 months practicing her amphibious support role off San Clemente Island. ⎘]

On 12 May 1952, LSMR-536 departed San Diego in company with USS St. Joseph's River and three large landing support ships, and the formation steamed by way of Pearl Harbor and Midway, reaching Yokosuka, Japan, on 19 June. Later, she shifted to Sasebo to prepare for her first deployment in the combat zone off the Korean coast. She embarked upon that cruise in mid-July and arrived off Chodo, an island off the western coast of Korea in the southern portion of the Korea Bay, on the 16th. She patrolled on station at that location until 15 August when she headed back to Japan. ⎘]

After visits to Sasebo and Yokosuka, LSMR-536 conducted landing exercises at Chigasaki late in September 1952. The rocket practice on Japanese territory prompted an official protest from the Japanese Foreign Ministry. ⎙] She returned to Yokosuka and Sasebo, making runs between the ports during October and most of November. On 27 November, the ship cleared Sasebo to return to the vicinity of Chodo. That assignment, consisting mostly of night illumination fire, lasted until mid-December when she headed back to Japan. ⎚] LSMR-536 remained at Sasebo from 19 December 1952 until 18 January 1953. She returned briefly to Chodo on 20 January and then began patrolling Taenchong Do, Paengnyong Do, and Kirin Do. ⎘]

She returned to Yokosuka on 13 February 1953 and remained there until the 24th when she got underway to return home. Steaming by way of Midway and Pearl Harbor, the warship arrived in San Diego on 24 March. Following training operations off San Clemente Island, she was overhauled at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. All told, she remained on the West Coast 11 months, departing from San Diego to return to the western Pacific on 10 February 1954. ⎘]

After pausing en route at Pearl Harbor and Midway, LSMR-536 reached Yokosuka on 11 March 1954. Though the ship returned to the Korean coast periodically during her second tour of duty with the 7th Fleet, combat operations played no part in her activities, because hostilities had been effectively ended by the armistice of 19 July 1953. She concluded her first peacetime deployment to East Asia when she reentered San Diego on 7 November 1954. She spent the year 1955 engaged in operations out of San Diego, primarily amphibious training off San Clemente Island. On 1 October 1955, she was renamed White River. ⎘]

White River departed San Diego on 4 January 1956 and arrived at Yokosuka on 6 February. She participated in a large-scale amphibious maneuvers at Iwo Jima later that month and then returned briefly to Yokosuka before heading home on 3 March, arriving back in San Diego on 31 March to resume local operations. On 7 September 1956, she was decommissioned and berthed with the San Diego Group of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. ⎘]

Vietnam War [ edit | edit source ]

Hostilities in Asia again dictated the ship's return to service, this time in Vietnam. White River was moved from San Diego to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in June 1965 where she underwent extensive modifications before her recommissioning there alongside sister ship USS Carronade on 2 October 1965. ⎛] White River departed Long Beach on 30 October and headed for San Diego whence she conducted shakedown and shore bombardment drills. On 8 February 1966, she departed San Diego to rejoin the 7th Fleet in the Far East. She and her division stopped in the Hawaiian Islands for about two weeks during which they conducted additional shore bombardment drills at Kahoolawe Island before resuming their voyage west on 1 March. She stopped at Midway Island on 5 March and reached Yokosuka ten days later. Training and port visits in Japan occupied her next eight weeks. On 9 May, she departed her homeport of Yokosuka for the coast of Vietnam by way of Subic Bay, Philippines. ⎖]

White River arrived off the I Corps zone of operations on 25 May 1966 and immediately began gunfire support missions for Operation Mobile. Two days later, she concluded her support of Mobile and shifted to support for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 2nd Division operating near Quang Ngai. She continued to support that unit intermittently for the next two months, interrupting this duty only to provide gunfire and rockets for three other operations: Oakland Deckhouse III, an amphibious landing and Franklin. At the conclusion of the latter operation, she headed—via Subic Bay and Hong Kong for Yokosuka where she remained until 16 September. Γ]

After another stop at Subic Bay for emergency repairs after being caught in three storms while en route to the Philippines, White River returned to the Vietnamese coast at the end of September 1966 to continue gunfire support for the troops ashore. During the next two months, she provided call fire in the northern portion of the II Corps Tactical Zone and in the southern portion of the III Corps, totaling 17,700 rockets and 1,700 5-inch shells since 1 May. This fire destroyed over 5,000 structures, killed 207 Viet Cong and destroyed 175 sampans plus food, ammunition and petrol stores. On 30 November, she terminated her second tour of duty in Vietnamese waters and headed, via Okinawa, to Yokosuka where she spent the remainder of the year in upkeep due to persistent maintenance issues. Γ]

White River departed Japan once more on 23 January 1967. Again, she stopped at Subic Bay, first to load ammunition and then to complete some maintenance work in preparation for a year in which she would conduct operations across the entire length of South Vietnam. She returned to the coast of the I Corps tactical zone on 9 February and began delivering gunfire for Marines ashore engaged in Operation Desoto. Also during that period, White River escorted convoys of trucks near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Vietnam. She concluded that assignment on 11 February, refueled at Danang, and got underway to support Operation Deckhouse VI, an amphibious operation which was conducted by the Special Landing Force near the Sa Huynh Base in the southern reaches of the I Corps tactical zone as an extension of the Desoto operation which had been temporarily halted during the Tết holidays. She finished her part in Desoto-Deckhouse VI operations on 23 February and headed for Subic Bay where she rearmed and conducted upkeep from 24 February to 2 March. White River returned to the Vietnamese coast on 13 March and resumed shore bombardment duties in support of Operation Beacon Hill, a combined helicopter, and waterborne, amphibious assault conducted near Dong Ha. On 23 March, released from the Beacon Hill operation, she rearmed at Cam Ranh Bay, then proceeded to the III Corps tactical zone to provide gunfire support for operations near the Rung Sat Special Zone. Δ]

USS White River firing a pair of rockets at a Viet Cong infiltrated village in South Vietnam

Relieved by USS Carronade on 2 April 1967, White River returned to Yokosuka on 17 April after a four-day stop at Keelung, Taiwan, en route. Δ] She made necessary repairs at Yokosuka and then headed back to Vietnam on 29 May. Following ammunition replenishment at Subic Bay, the warship arrived off the I Corps tactical zone on 11 June and conducted shore bombardments there and in the II Corps zone until 21 July when she departed Vietnamese waters to return to Subic Bay for upkeep. White River returned to the Vietnamese coast at the beginning of August and stayed there until 23 August. The ship then returned to Yokosuka at the end of the month, arriving there on 8 September and remaining until 16 October for repairs. She began her last 1967 tour of duty off the Vietnamese coast on 31 October. It lasted until 27 December and consisted almost entirely of gunfire support for forces operating in the II Corps tactical zone, during which White River fired its 50,000th rocket. At its conclusion, she was relieved by USS Clarion River and returned to Subic Bay for upkeep. ⎜]

During 1968, White River continued to operate out of her home port, Yokosuka, and made four deployments to Vietnam waters to render gunfire support for U.S. and ARVN troops. During January, White River relieved Clarion River in providing gunfire support for South Korean troops during search-and-destroy Operation Meng Ho Kuho north of Qui Nhon (16-24 January and 27–29 January). Early the following month, the ship supported the ARVN 2nd Division in the same region (2-3 February), and late the following month, White River again worked with South Korean units, the Capital Division in two instances (22-24 March and 29–31 March) and the 9th Division (28 March). She reprised gunfire support for those Korean units the following month, the Capital Division on 1–2 April, and the 9th Division on 2 April and in three other instances: 16–17 April, 21–23 April, and 27 April) in addition, her armament assisted in Operation Cochise (11-12 April). Subsequently, returning to the gun line, White River, with an assist from an airborne spotter on 15 July pounded a suspected Viet Cong storage area, a series of caves about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Qui Nhon Bay, with over 1,000 spin-stabilized projectiles, igniting more than 47 secondary explosions and nearly a dozen fires. Before she would return to Vietnamese waters, the ship was reclassified to an inshore fire support ship, LFR-536, on 14 August 1968. The ship then operated off the IV Corps zone in December, supporting the ARVN 21st Division on four occasions (1-5 December, 12–14 December, 21–23 December, and 26–28 December) and Operation Bold Dragon IX on 28–29 December. ⎖]

White River spent four days on the front-line in late January 1969, off the I and IV Corps areas, supporting the 1st Battalion, 2nd ARVN Division. Responding to a call for gunfire support after the ARVN troops had suffered 15 killed in an assault on an enemy stronghold on 27 January, White River fired upon a North Vietnamese position on the north side of a small hill, 11 miles (18 km) south of the Batangan Peninsula, Quang Ngai Province. A two-hour bombardment killed two VC, wounded one, leveled or damaged 24 structures and started five secondary fires. The next day (28 January), the inshore fire support ship bombarded an enemy staging area 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the previous day's target, killing 15 VC and destroying 54 structures, 11 of which were of heavy masonry construction and six of which had been used to store petroleum, oil, and lubricant. Additionally, White River ' s fire damaged 21 other structures and destroyed nine bunkers and 35 meters of trail, triggering five secondary explosions and starting 45 secondary fires. "Still not content to rest on her laurels," a Pacific Fleet chronicler wrote later, "White River directed her 5-inch spin-stabilized rockets at enemy positions in the same area on the 29th and silenced an antiaircraft site," killing or wounding 11 VC. ⎘]

USS White River firing rockets

On 11 February 1969, White River participated in a "multiple force operation" in the southern part of the Ca Mau peninsula, which involved the deployment of air, ground, and sea forces, including ten Swift boats (PCFs), in an attempt to cover the numerous rivers in the area. After a trio of PCFs had conducted a psychological warfare operation on the Trum Gong River, four Swifts entered the Nang only to encounter heavy VC automatic weapon and B-40 rocket fire that scored direct hits on two PCFs (one losing an engine and the other being badly damaged), wounding one sailor. Air Force fixed-wing strikes destroyed some 30 bunkers and 200 meters of trench line White River joined in the fray, unleashing a bombardment of the enemy positions "but with unknown results." ⎖]

During 1–5 May 1969, White River supported the ARVN 2nd Division, the South Korean 2nd Marine Brigade and U.S. forces in Operation Daring Rebel, killing an estimated four VC, destroying 12 watercraft and 35 structures, damaging 27 bunkers and other structures, triggering ten secondary explosions and igniting 13 secondary fires. Additionally, the inshore fire support ship set fire to 500 meters of tree line and damaged three rice storage bins and 24 acres of rice crops. White River ' s work prompted a response: the ship observed six-foot surface bursts, 800 to 1,000-yards short of the ship of between 8 and 10 shells of unknown size being fired at her on the evening of 3 May. ⎖]

The following month (June 1969), White River was assigned to the naval gunfire support units for only four days, but she "displayed accurate marksmanship during one day of particularly impressive shooting. " On 16 June 1969, while operating in support of the ARVN 2nd Division 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Quang Ngai, she bombarded a VC assembly area, flushing out a squad of VC who soon began setting up weapons to return fire. White River observed a 20-foot surface burst some 2,000 yards off the bow, and numerous rounds of light weapons fire that all missed their mark. With the coaching of an airborne spotter, the inshore fire support ship directed a ten-minute barrage of .30- and .50-caliber machine gun, 40 millimeter autocannon, and rocket fire onto the VC, who broke and took cover leaving behind 11 of their number dead behind. White River continued to pound the area until inclement weather forced the spotter to head for home. In addition to the 10 enemy corpses counted, the ship had destroyed 13 structures and 10 bunkers and damaged a further 21 structures and 11 bunkers, triggered three secondary explosions and started nine secondary fires. White River reprised her bombardment the next day (17 June) and accounted for another two VC dead. ⎖]

USS White River firing a salvo of four rockets off the coast of North Vietnam at night

White River supported the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province, in the III Corps zone, during the period 22–27 October 1969, unleashing a barrage of 5-inch spin-stabilized rockets on 28 enemy targets. VC base camps, storage areas, bunkers, infiltration routes, and sampans all came under the ship's devastating fire her claimed "pinpoint accuracy" killed 18 VC, wounded 17, destroyed some 97 structures and bunkers and damaged 35 in addition, she destroyed two weapons sites and triggered 13 secondary explosions. After supporting the ARVN 7th Division (2-5 November, 7 November) and the ARVN 9th Division (6 November) in the IV Corps Zone, White River returned to the III Corps Tactical Zone and again worked with the 1st Australian Task Force (8 November). "Along with deleteriously affecting enemy morale," one observer wrote, the inshore fire support ship killed 15 VC troops, wounded 17, and destroyed four caves, 41 bunkers, and 46 structures. In addition, observers counted 18 secondary fires and 12 explosions, and numbered damaged caves, bunkers and structures among the ship's destructive handiwork. ⎘]

USS White River firing rockets in the Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ) in South Vietnam in 1969

White River returned to Vietnamese waters in January 1970. On 30–31 January, the ship operated off the Cà Mau Peninsula, in the IV Corps area, supporting the ARVN 21st Division, then lent her powerful ordnance to the same unit on three occasions the following month (1-4 February, 10–19 February, and 22–25 February). Additionally, she provided gunfire support for Sea Float operations in the same region (21 February). As she neared the end of her active service life on 17 March, accompanied by river patrol craft with an umbrella of air support, she "penetrated deep into the Rung Sat Special Zone, southeast of Saigon in support of Operation Chuong Duong 11-70," steaming up the Long Tau River some 18 miles (29 km) to bombard suspected VC positions. Over a five-hour period on that day, White River expended 2,526 spin-stabilized projectiles in the "deepest penetration inland of an NGFS [naval gunfire support ship] to date." Although the thick foliage canopy did not permit ready damage assessment, observers noted ten secondary fires burning upon the conclusion of the ship's bombardment. "This mission," a Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, historian noted, "also marked the final appearance of the LFR in active service." As the same chronicler noted: "A dramatic rise [for March 1970] in the expenditure of spin-stabilized rockets (16,083 in March) reflected the final efforts of Clarion River . and White River . as these intensely proud little ships concluded their last cruise before being stricken from the Naval Register." ⎘]

After being deemed "unfit for further naval service" on 8 May 1970, White River was decommissioned at Yokosuka on 22 May 1970. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register that same day, and she was sold for scrapping in November 1970. ⎘]


Bicyclists, joggers, walkers, skaters, campers, cross-country skiers, birdwatchers, hunters, fishermen, naturalists and snowmobilers all use the RRVT, or at least those portions of the trail that are opened to specific uses.

In recent years, the Conservation Board directors, citing the reports from electrical counters along the trail, have estimated that more than 350,000 people per year are using the RRVT. With a 9-mile “connector” trail now planned between the RRVT and the popular High Trestle Trail, the number of users on both trails is expected to mushroom in the years ahead.

Editorial: Saving the Raccoon River

American Rivers could have picked almost any Iowa channel for its list of Ten Most Endangered Rivers in the nation. The well-respected conservation advocacy organization named the Raccoon as No. 9 on its list (the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest was No. 1. It could have been the Floyd, the Little or Big Sioux, the Rock or the Des Moines. All have nitrate and phosphorous loads consistently running far over state or federal guidelines. The loads are increasing as livestock numbers grow, especially in northern Iowa.

Of course, it is hardly news around here. The Raccoon River was at the center of the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit that brought national attention to surface water pollution by the agrichemical complex. The American Rivers report is a reminder and call to action.

Fortunately, consensus is building among Iowans around resource protections and how to pay for them. They’re simple and not expensive. We can stop pollution, reduce flooding threats, conserve soil and diversify farm income through sensible federal initiatives within just a few years. There is no better time to start than now, with Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture.

We could clean up the Raccoon in no time with widespread adaptation of winter cover crops, in-field native prairie strips, permanent stream buffers, and more rolling land in pasture. No-till farmers using rye cover crops find they can cut chemical use by up to 75%. Native prairie strips build soil health, sequester carbon and reduce N and P outflow by 90%.

Secretary Vilsack should set on a mission to get half of the Raccoon River watershed, at least, in cover crops. Buena Vista County isn’t close to even 5%. Somehow include winter rye in the farm program and watch the acres convert within a year. Pay farmers to plant corn, they will plant corn. Pay them to plant rye, they will plant rye. Pay them we will, either for flooded-out soybean acres near the river or for grass that will stand pat and protect the soil. We all know which is the better investment for farmer and water drinker. We should be on a flatout campaign for cover crops. It’s cheap by comparison to what we pay to subsidize corn.

Farmers want to be conservation stewards. They say so in poll after poll. Two-thirds of renters want to do more conservation but can’t convince the landlord there is money in winter rye. So let’s put it there. The tax investment will be recouped by preventing flooding in Des Moines and St. Louis, by restoring the fishing industry driven out of the Gulf of Mexico by hypoxia, and by making farmland more resilient to extreme weather.

Iowans voted to amend the constitution to increase sales taxes for clean water. There is no clearer gauge of public support for better natural resource protection.

We know how to do it.We know how to pay for it — the mechanisms are in the existing Farm Bill but are woefully underfunded. Farmers are ready if they are given the means to protect the land, water and air. Let’s get every farm enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays for improved practices on working lands. We know that livestock on pasture is good and necessary, so let’s help producers put hooves back on grass by making the Conservation Reserve Program more flexible and by helping organize regional processors with open markets.

We can handle manure if we can rationalize its distribution — there is way too much in the Raccoon River watershed, and not enough in other places. Consolidation of livestock around corn production since 1980 has driven surface water pollution along with climate change and huge drainage investments. Cheap corn, cheap hogs. When we had a 10% cropland set aside, we had independent pork producers and no nitrate problem in the Raccoon River. Corporations own the hogs now, and we have a river problem. We are endangering the Raccoon and killing the Gulf so we can export half that cheap pork to China. It is all predicated on cheap corn and fixed livestock markets (witness the industrywide price-fixing in poultry, and they have been doing it with cattle since the Fort Worth Stockyards were organized by the Big Three packers in 1910). Our favorite quote comes from former independent livestock producer and state senator Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg: “They’ve been stealing corn so long they got used to it.”

You can only steal for so long until it catches up to you.

We can change the construct just as we did by abandoning conservation and an independent, diverse base of producers as a foundation of food security in 1980. Farmers, rural residents and down stream urban neighbors are telling us in polls and in binding votes that they value diversity, natural resource protection and prosperity through stewardship. They sense that we can restore some sort of balance to agriculture, food stability and community. We need Vilsack to consolidate that shared vision into urgent action. He has pledged to do so, and we should get behind him.

A Brief History

The Raccoon River Valley Trail has a rich history with railroads since it used two different former corridors running northwest of Des Moines, Iowa. The first section, opened to the public in the late 1980s, uses what was once owned by the classic Milwaukee Road between Clive (west of Des Moines) and Jefferson. The second segment is much newer, opened in 2011-2012, and using the former rail bed of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway between Waukee and Perry. Both corridors were built in the late 19th century and saw rapidly declining use by the early 1980s, resulting in sections being abandoned in the succeeding years, a process that continued through the mid-2000s.

Many moons ago, during the height of the railroad industry, Iowa&rsquos capital city of Des Moines was served by virtually every major Midwestern railroad, which included the Chicago Great Western Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Minneapolis & St. Louis Milwaukee Road Rock Island Wabash and Chicago & North Western. There were also two smaller systems that reached the city: the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern Railway and the Des Moines & Central Iowa, both once interurbans. For its part, the Milwaukee Road once had two entries into Des Moines one of these lines now makes up part of the trail.

The route was originally known as the Des Moines, Adel & Western Railroad, a three-foot, narrow-gauge system that opened its first 7 miles between Waukee and Adele on October 15, 1878. By 1879, service had been extended an additional 22 miles to Panora. A year later, the company was reorganized as the Des Moines North-Western Railroad. In 1881, it was acquired by the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway, which was a Jay Gould (famed tycoon) property that eventually became the Wabash Railroad. The Des Moines-North Western was able to push rails to Fonda by 1882, a distance of 99 miles, with plans to reach Spirit Lake farther north. However, lack of funds precluded this endeavor, and the only other notable growth during Wabash&rsquos involvement with the property was its access to Des Moines over the St. Louis, Des Moines & Northern east of Clive. This trackage was later jointly operated by both railroads. Following a series of name changes in 1891, the system became known as the Des Moines Northern & Western Railway, at which time it was converted to standard gauge. In 1899, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) gained control of the railroad and eventually completed its original charter to Spirit Lake.

As one of the classic Midwestern granger railroads (that is, a system that derived significant revenue from agricultural freight), and with a blanket of branch lines throughout Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois, this part of the Milwaukee Road saw the type of traffic one might expect from agriculture and general merchandise to interchange traffic at Des Moines. Passenger service on the line survived until the early 1950s. Following the Milwaukee Road&rsquos bankruptcy in 1977, it greatly reduced its entire system shortly thereafter. In 1982, the Chicago & North Western (C&NW) acquired sections of the Milwaukee&rsquos former Spirit Lake&ndashDes Moines line. The C&NW owned it just briefly before selling the line to a private company, which planned to use the tracks to serve a new coal-fired power plant. Their plans fell through, and the corridor was abandoned later that decade.

The newer section of the Raccoon River Valley Trail was actually constructed first. Its history begins on September 1, 1853, chartered as the Keokuk, Fort Des Moines & Minnesota Rail Road to connect its namesake cities with the Gopher State via Fort Dodge. Construction began a few years later, heading northwest of Keokuk. In 1857, they reached Bentonsport, and by 1861, service was opened to Eddyville via Ottumwa. In 1864, the company&rsquos name was changed to the Des Moines Valley Rail Road two years later, trains rolled into Des Moines because construction was halted during the Civil War. The line north of Des Moines took a few years to construct, much to the chagrin of local Fort Dodge business leaders and citizens. Work began on this segment in the late 1860s and was opened to Fort Dodge by December 1870.

In 1873, the road fell into bankruptcy and was split up the section south of Des Moines was renamed the Keokuk & Des Moines Railway, while the northern section was known as the Des Moines & Fort Dodge Railroad. For nearly 15 years the DM&FtD remained independent and was able to construct an extension during this time between Fort Dodge and Ruthven before the Rock Island leased the property in 1887 as a link with its planned extensions into northwestern Iowa. Enter the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway (M&StL), chartered in 1870 to connect the Twin Cities and Minnesota with the rich agricultural industry to the south. It grew quickly over the next 20 years, and its entry into Des Moines was thanks to a slick business maneuver. M&StL, through the Hawley syndicate, was quick on its feet and leased the DM&FtD on January 1, 1905, the day after the Rock Island&rsquos control ended. Apparently, the railroad&rsquos executives had not been paying attention, and the move gave the M&StL an excellent addition to its system.

The M&StL, also remembered as &ldquoThe Peoria Gateway&rdquo and &ldquoTootin&rsquo Louie,&rdquo was a modest railroad, reaching Peoria, much of central Iowa, parts of Minnesota, and as far west as Leola, South Dakota. At its peak size during the early 20th century, it stretched just over 1,600 miles. It was never able to grow quite as large as originally envisioned and remained an underdog within the region it served. During November 1960, it was taken over by the Chicago & North Western, which slowly abandoned most of the railroad over the next 30 years. In the 1980s, much of the M&StL&rsquos Des Moines to Fort Dodge line was let go north of Perry, while the rest survived through the C&NW&rsquos acquisition by Union Pacific in 1995. Finally, this too was abandoned around 2005 and incorporated into the trail system.

Railroad attractions include the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone, Delmar Depot Museum in Delmar (inside the restored Milwaukee Road depot), Midwest Central Railroad (restored steam locomotives) in Mt. Pleasant, and the official Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs.

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    ( 41°36′44″N 93°47′46″W  /  41.61222°N 93.79611°W  / 41.61222 -93.79611 )
  • Waukee - junction with North Loop (
  • 41°36′55″N 93°53′24″W  /  41.61528°N 93.89000°W  / 41.61528 -93.89000 )
  • Ortonville - junction with North Loop (
  • 41°50′46″N 94°20′59″W  /  41.84611°N 94.34972°W  / 41.84611 -94.34972 ) (
  • 42°00′58″N 94°22′05″W  /  42.01611°N 94.36806°W  / 42.01611 -94.36806 )
  • Herndon - junction with Original Trail (
  • 41°50′46″N 94°20′59″W  /  41.84611°N 94.34972°W  / 41.84611 -94.34972 )
  • Waukee - junction with Original Trail (
  • 41°36′55″N 93°53′24″W  /  41.61528°N 93.89000°W  / 41.61528 -93.89000 )

The RRVT trail between Waukee and Yale runs along the rail line established in 1881 as a narrow-gauge line of the Des Moines Western Railroad, which became part of the Wabash Railroad. About 10 years later, the Milwaukee Road took over the line and converted it to standard gauge. Passenger service ended along the line in 1952. Freight service continued along the line until 1987. In 1982, the Chicago & North Western purchased the line. In 1987, the Central Iowa Energy Cooperative (CIECO), an affiliate of the Central Iowa Power Company, purchased the line and hundreds of acres of land located south of Panora, Iowa. CIECO intended to build a coal-fired power plant on the land it had acquired south of Panora, near the railroad line. However, plans for this power plant were abandoned. Much of the land that was to have been the site of the power plant was placed in the 1,236-acre (5.00 km 2 ) Lennon Mill Wildlife Area south of Panora. In late 1987, CIECO, Iowa Trails, and the Conservation Boards of Dallas and Guthrie Counties agreed to develop the railroad line as a recreational trail. [15] [18]

On October 7, 1989, the first section of the Raccoon River Valley Trail opened. In 1990, 34 miles (55 km) of this paved trail were opened between Waukee, and Yale. North of Yale, the RRVT lies along an old Union Pacific Railroad line which was abandoned in the late 1990s. [19] In 1997, the trail was extended with a paved trail from Yale to Jefferson. In 1999, the trail was extended with a 5 miles (8.0 km) paved trail link from Waukee to the 11.3 miles (18.2 km) Clive Greenbelt Trail in Clive. [15] [19]

The 33.1-mile (53.3 km) North Loop is an additional paved branch from Herndon through Perry to Waukee. This paved branch follows the old Union Pacific Railroad line which was abandoned in late 2005. From Herndon, it travels through Jamaica and then northern Dallas County to Dawson, Perry, Minburn, Dallas Center, and then to Waukee. [15] [20] On May 14, 2011, the six mile (10 km) concrete segment from Dawson to Perry opened for use. [21] [22] A six-mile (10 km) concrete segment from Waukee to Dallas Center opened for use on October 15, 2011 [9] [10] On December 15, 2012, the section from Perry through Minburn to Dallas Center was completed. [11]

The remaining sections of the North Loop were completed during early 2013 and opened for use on June 1, 2013. [10] [12] [23]

In downtown Perry at noon on Saturday, June 1, 2013, the grand opening of the new 33 mile "north loop" occurred with Chuck Offenburger as Master of Ceremonies and a keynote speech by Kevin Cooney. [12] See the "north loop" Grand Opening flyer for more.

5 miles (8.0 km) east of Waukee in Polk County, the RRVT connects to the 11.3 miles (18.2 km) Clive Greenbelt Trail in Clive and forms part of the Central Iowa Trails network. [19] [24]

A connection is planned at Herndon to the 22-mile (35 km) Krushchev in Iowa Trail in northern Guthrie County. [25] [26] [27] This link will give Coon Rapids, Bayard, and Bagley a paved trail connected to the RRVT.

Another future 9-mile (14 km) connector will link the RRVT at Perry to Woodward and the 25-mile (40 km) High Trestle Trail which is in northern Polk and Dallas counties and southern Boone and Story counties. [16] [28] [29] [30] In the middle of April 2016, the Dallas County Supervisors approved the connecting route between the two trails. The connector will depart Perry along Park Avenue. Then, it will be generally alongside 130th Street in Dallas County travelling through Bouton to Woodward utilizing both the existing railroad bed and road shoulders. In 2016 from Perry to US 169 , 130th Street is a 3-mile (4.8 km) crushed limestone rock road in Dallas County. From US 169 to Bouton, the trail will be near the .7-mile (1.1 km) 128th Place in Dallas County which is a crushed limestone road lying just north of Beaver Creek. Between Bouton and Woodard, 130th Street, also known as CR R30, is a 4-mile (6.4 km) paved concrete road. [16] [30] [31] The $5 million connector is expected to be completed by 2022. [32] [33] In March 2020, construction began from the Woodward end of the connector. [34]

Beginning in February, 2009, when at least 4 inches (10 cm) of snow covers the paved trail, the Raccoon Valley Snow Chasers (RVSC) groom the paved trail. The RRVT between Jefferson and Waukee along with the North Loop is part of a larger winter activities trail network of over 200 miles (320 km). During the winter, this groomed trail is ideal for both cross country skiers and snowmobilers. [35] [36] [37] [38]

Raccoon Valley Snow Chasers (RVSC) Edit

Search social media pages for "Raccoon Valley Snow Chasers" to get current information for snowmachines on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. [37] Created July 28, 2010, the RVSC social media page contains a timeline of past events.

Raccoon Valley Snow Chasers (RVSC):

  • Monthly meetings, usually on the 2nd Thursday at the Lake Panorama Conference Center near Panora
  • Summer campouts, often in July at Springbrook State Park near Yale
  • Summer outings, often in August, at the main beach, also known as boulder beach, on the east side of Lake Panorama near Panora
  • Fall grass drags, often on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday in November or the 1st Sunday in December, at the Flack river farm five miles west of Jefferson—just south of Highway 30 and just west of county road P14
  • Winter ice drags, often the 2nd Sunday in February, at the main beach, also known as boulder beach, on the east side of Lake Panorama near Panora
  • Winter rides, sometimes in other nearby states: near Cable, Wisconsin at Lake Namekagon during the 2nd week of February in 2014
  • DNR-certified Iowa snowmobile safety classes for youths ages 11 to 18, often the 2nd Saturday in December, at the Lake Panorama Association (LPA) Conference Center near Panora

For winter weather forecasts, snow depths, and other snowmobiling news visit past 24-hour snowfall totals and forecast graphic on the web or mobile site for smartphones.

Des Moines Local History

Notorious Depression-area criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, along with Clyde’s brother Buck, Buck’s wife Blanche, and their accomplice W.D. Jones, were nearly captured in Dexter, Iowa, about thirty-three miles west of Des Moines, in 1933. In the early 1930s the infamous gang had been on a crime spree, robbing small-town restaurants, banks, and gas stations, killing twelve people in the process.

After a gun battle with lawmen in Platte City, Missouri, they arrived at Dexfield Park, an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, on July 19 or 20, 1933. Buck had a bullet in his skull and Blanche had shards of glass in her eye, so the gang hoped to hide out until the two recovered enough to travel. They camped out in the woods near Dexter, and Clyde went into town a few times to shop for food and clothing, buying chicken, pies, and soda pop. He also bought gauze and tape to treat Buck’s wound since it was obviously impossible to take him to a doctor.

On Sunday, July 23, local farmer Henry Nye discovered their campsite by chance and reported the bloody bandages, burning car mats, and bullet-ridden car he had seen to John Love, Dexter night marshall, who called Dallas County sheriff Clinton Knee in Adel. Knee, along with about fifty other lawmen, including some from the Des Moines Police Department, surrounded the Barrow encampment. They were met with a barrage of gunfire from the gangsters, and after an extended gun battle, Clyde, Bonnie, and W.D. Jones escaped through an unguarded route over the South Raccoon River. Buck, too seriously wounded to go on, stayed behind, and Blanche stayed with him. The escapees made their way to the nearby Vallie Feller farm, where they stole a car and fled. In Polk City they abandoned the Feller car, now bloodstained and with a shattered window, stole another car, and subsequently were reported seen in LuVerne, Sutherland, and Denison, Iowa, and even in Des Moines. None of the sightings panned out.

Buck Barrow died in a Perry hospital five days after the incident. Blanche Barrow was returned to Missouri and sentenced to ten years in prison for her part in the Platte City conflict.

By 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were back in Iowa. They robbed the First State Bank at Rembrandt, the State Savings Bank in Knierim, and were suspected of robbing other banks in Stuart and Lamoni. They were on the run for several months, until May 23, 1934, when they were killed at a roadblock ambush in Gibsland, Louisiana.

On the Trail of Bonnie & Clyde, Then and Now,
edited by Winston G. Ramsey. London, Battle of Britain International, 2003.

Making conservation pay

Seth Smith meets us on the bank just a mile downstream from the put-in. He’s a big, strapping 36-year-old farmer with the rugged good looks one would find on reality TV dating shows.

He and his family own 1,800 acres, where they grow row crops and raise livestock. He’s the fifth generation of the family farming here along the river.

Farmer Seth Smith talks about conservation practices on his land in Sac County Thursday, May 19, 2016.
(Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register)

“Until a few years ago, farmers here didn’t know we had a problem,” he said. “The river was just water, as far as we were concerned.”

His family, including his father, Lynn, decided to plant cover crops eight years ago.

Research shows that growing rye or oats prevents soil erosion and nitrogen from leaching into the river. Cattle can graze on it for feed, or farmers kill it off as the corn crop is planted.

In 2011, the Smiths spent $400,000 on a required lagoon for their feedlots. The government regulations were daunting.

His father had two file drawers to hold his regulation papers when he started. His son said that today the file drawers could reach from where he stood to the river 10 yards away.

The Smiths dug up tile and created a lagoon and a wetland through a conservation program. They soon realized an unexpected benefit: Using the captured nutrient from the lagoon, they could fertilize 85 acres of row crops.

“We’re learning how to scavenge more nitrogen,” he said. “Who doesn’t want to save the river?”

His father would say later that the Water Works lawsuit was like a “knife in the back.”

Seth agrees it’s not the answer. The money spent in courts could go to conservation, he said.

The lawsuit, although delayed until next summer, put enough scare into farmers that now “maybe we can do something about it without creating new rules,” Seth said.


Seth Smith, a farmer in Sac County, gives his thoughts on the Water Works lawsuit. "It opened my eyes to that there was a real problem, but I don't feel like we're going about it the right way," he said.

Raccoon Forks Trading Company

Raccoon Forks Trading Co., a real antique store specializing in antique and vintage furniture, primitives, prints and more, opened in 2011. We take great pride in our carefully curated inventory, which has gained the store a reputation as a must-see for antique aficionados and others looking for one-of-a-kind items.

We've had a few different homes over the years, but have settled in for the long run at our current location in the northeast corner of the East Village. The building we now call home (and share with Railroad Bill's Dining Car) creates a unique experience for visiting history buffs, right down to original wood plank flooring and old-time sodas we sell.

The building (c. 1920) was first occupied by the American Railway Express Company and still displays some of the building’s original and salient features. The building is undergoing a full historic façade rehabilitation project, scheduled for completion in late spring 2018.

As a Raccoon Forks microbusiness, RFTC provides job opportunities to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Employees at RFTC receive one-on-one job coaching and the support they need to build skills and be successful on the job.

Watch the video: Raccoon. Amazing Animals (May 2022).