MARQUETTE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- This week TV9 is featuring three communities as Our Town -- Marquette and McGregor in northeast Iowa, and Prairie du Chien across the river in Wisconsin.
Robert Vavra operates Maiden Voyage Tours in Marquette, Iowa.
You can't spend time in Our Towns without heading out onto the water.
The Mississippi River is a major factor in the development of all three communities. And TV9 discovered that nearly everyone recommends just one man to really show you the river.
Robert Vavra runs Maiden Voyage Tours. His knowledge of the river is impressive. But his ability to see and hear what's happening on the river is astounding.
"There's a bald eagle chirping at us over here. Where's he at? There's a nest in this tree. It's not a great one. They're fledging right now, so they're jumping out of the nest – off to college! He was low. He's over here. He's low."
And there the eagle was, sitting on a log in the river.
Vavra's been doing this for 13 years. He feels what he's learned about the river has just come naturally, almost instinctively.
The river was high because of all the heavy rains to the north on this particular day, so we were able to get into some back water areas. One of the highlights was spotting one species of bird that comes each year from Central America.
"Four and a half inches. Prothonotary warbler, right there! Cool bird, absolutely. That's one of our really neat summer birds here that's only here for this brief window of time.
"They use the Mississippi River as a leading line or road map, which is the world's leader. The Mississippi River is the world's leader in bird migration. There is not a river system on planet Earth that as many birds use as a road map."
It's obvious Robert Vavra loves the Mississippi, but it's not the river he remembers from years ago.