Everett Casey Nature Center & Reserve

Field Site for the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment


student on beaver dam

A recent gift to the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment, the Everett Casey Nature Center and Reserve offers MFA students a unique opportunity to do hands-on field research on 76 acres that include Bluff Creek which oxbows between two timbered bluffs. The wetlands and woods are home to a remarkable variety of plants and animals.

Just 20 miles from campus, this undeveloped property features a rich ecological dynamic, and its proximity to Iowa State makes it a perfect research site for students and faculty alike. Not only is this a wonderful field laboratory and library for MFA students and faculty, it is an invaluable outdoor classroom and gathering place.


–A water ecology study at the Everett Casey Nature Center and Reserve by MFA Graduate Student, Joe Doolittle.


A student walks the Casey site

42°6’14”N, 94°0’37”W (Excerpt)

By Genevieve Dubois


When you stand in the middle of this bending twisting stream you are still, the shore is still, but the water is not. Soft underwater mud slurps up your boots and glues fast. On the slow surface, time brings bubbles up from the underneath, blinking out in a wobble of ripples. Raindrops in negative. Upstream and downstream figures are knee-deep in water, slogging through in pairs and threes.

When you stand in the middle of this bending twisting stream you are standing in the middle of every stream every creek every river you’ve stood in before—the veins of this farmland, of this country. Two thirds of the world is water. Two thirds of your body is water. Standing in the air trapped by your boots you are standing separate from the water but also part of it, watching the mountain creek you splashed in as a child flowing past you to the sea.


Here there are signs of things you see without seeing them. The deer, for one. You see the soft patches of long grass in the reeds where they have slept in the nights. Neat piles of deer scat. Paths worn through the dense reeds, meandering but welcome. Along the cornfield and the streambed, sharp-edged cloven prints embedded in the dirt. Some smaller than others. The antler from a young buck, milky white, nearby in a bed of dead leaves. But the deer seem to be elsewhere today.


They say there’s a dam. Upriver. Maybe one downriver too.
They say there’s a big male beaver, watchful, swimming in still water.
They say someone got chased by a beaver. Same one? Maybe.
They say the beavers have used corn in their dam, threading the stalks with the wood.

You don’t know about any of that, but: a tree that has been gnawed and broken still lies here, torn through the heart and collapsed near broad low leaves, worn away by the waterline marks of beaver teeth. White fungus grows in its shadows.