When it comes to diverse ecosystems, you may be impressed by our own wild Iowa. While we don’t have crazy high mountains or a shoreline that touches the ocean, our middle-of-the-country location means we have a balance. Iowa is home to scenic rivers, sprawling wetlands, and plenty of forested woodlands. Get in touch with the wild side of the Hawkeye State this year!
1. Swiss Valley Preserve and Nature Center
You'll find nearly 500 acres of preserved forest protecting a delicate ecosystem in the Swiss Valley. There are more than ten miles of hiking trails, and in the winter, they offer free snow shoe rentals so you can enjoy wildlife viewing no matter what the weather may be.
Address: 13606 Swiss Valley Rd., Peosta, IA 52068
2. Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge
Union Slought NWR is a small refuge for rare migratory birds. It was established in 1939, but many Iowans have still never taken the auto tour that shows off these gorgeous waterfowl.
Address: 1710 360th St, Titonka, IA 50480
3. Calkins Nature Area
Calkins Nature Area is an underrated spot that's sure to capture your heart. Enjoy exploring 76 acres of prairie, woodland, and wetlands along the Iowa River. The Interpretive center tells the stories of wildlife and Iowa's natives.
Address: 8335 135th St., Iowa Falls, IA 50126
4. Stone State Park and Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center
The Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center is a gorgeous preserve that's part of Stone State Park. Along with the miles of trails and wildlife spotting you'll find in the park, visit the Nature Center's butterfly garden for a real treat.
Address: 4500 Sioux River Rd, Sioux City, IA 51109
5. DeSoto National Wildife Refuge
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful Missouri River Valley preserve that spans the river, and includes parts of both Iowa and Nebraska. This time of year is perfect for watching migratory birds nest or take flight.
Address: 1434 316th Ln., Missouri Valley, IA 51555
6. Bellevue State Park
Bellevue State Park perfectly balances natural and urban environments. From the top of their expansive trails, you can look down onto the river and see the city of Bellevue. Watch the ships move up and down to see impressive logistics in action, or take a pair of binoculars with you and try to spot eagles.
Address: 24668 US-52, Bellevue, IA 52031
7. Pine Lake State Park
Pine Lake State Park offers nearly 700 acres of diverse ecosystems for you to observe and enjoy. You'll find a little bit of everything here, from forests and woodlands, to river streams, rolling farmland, and the lake itself. Camping, hiking, and fishing are some of your adventure options at Pine Lake.
Address: 22620 Co Hwy S56, Eldora, IA 50627
8. Chimney Rocks
Chimney Rock Park and the nearby Campground offer the perfect access to the wild and scenic Upper Iowa River. Whether you love to fish, kayak, or float, you'll enjoy your day spent out on the water among the bluffs of Chimney Rocks.
Address: 3312 Chimney Rock Rd., Cresco, IA 52136
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