Our County Parks provide numerous outdoor recreational opportunities...hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, biking & more!


  Howard County Conservation Board - Recreation

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Howard County Parks are a great way to discover outdoor recreational opportunities. Activities provided are numerous and include hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, boating and canoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, bike riding, firearm shooting, nature study, bird watching, photography, softball, volleyball and archery.

The Howard County Conservation Board encourages the public's participation in all recreational opportunities offered and continues to work at keeping these areas in quality shape. Please respect our areas and leave them as you would like to find them.

Take only pictures...leave only footprints.
For maps of Howard County click here

(Click on a link below to take you right to the information...)

Campgrounds:
Turkey River Campground - Fees: $20/night which includes electricity and water hookups at each site.
Lidtke Campground (Lidtke Park) - Fees: $20/night with electricity and water hook ups.
Lake Hendricks Campground (Lake Hendricks) - Fees: $20/night with electricity and water hook ups.

Facilities and Trails:
Prairie's Edge Nature Center
Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail
Prairie Springs Recreational Trail
Wapsi-Great Western Line Trail

Parks and Recreation:
Cross Country Ski Trails - Click HERE for a link that users can to to for updates on trail grooming. Click HERE for Map of the Cross Country Ski Trails (this is a rather large file and may take awhile to download to your system).
Bigalk Trout Stream
Bonair Shooting Range
Florenceville Park
Lake Hendricks Park
Lidtke Park
Lubbert Park
Lylah's Marsh
Taylor's Pond
Turkey River Campground
Upper Iowa River Access
Vernon Springs Park

Natural Resource Areas:
Cleghorn Wildlife Area
Crane Creek Wildlife Area
Dieken Wildlife Area
Evans-Hughes Forest
Hart Pond Wildlife Area
Joachim Woods Wildlife Area
Kleckner Wildlife Area
Martinek Wildlife Area
Meirick's Pond
Mullen Wildlife Area
Reis Wildlife Area
Souhrada Forest
Souhrada Wildlife Area
Thomson Marsh
Turkey Bend Wildlife Area
Wittenbreer Marsh


Facilities and Trails
(For maps of Howard County, 2004 Aerial Photos and a table showing locations and amenities click here.)
Prairie's Edge Nature Center
Located two miles south of Cresco on Valley Avenue
 
Driving Directions: From HWY 9 in Cresco at the west set of stop lights, go south on 3rd St. W one block, take a right onto 4th Ave SW, and take the next left onto Vernon Road. Stay on Vernon Road. It will change into Valley Avenue. You will see the Prairie's Edge Nature Center on the east side of the road about 2 miles south of Cresco.
Prairie's Edge Nature Center
The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center was opened in 2000 through the support of the community, donations from local citizens and businesses, and grants. The building functions as a learning center for visitors to become more familiar with their natural surroundings. The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center gets its name from the native prairie planted next to the building. In addition to the educational aspects, the Nature Center also holds the Howard County Conservation Offices and Board Room.

The nature center recently added a variety of new displays during the past 2.5 years. When you walk into the nature center you will feel like you are walking into the forest with a canopy of trees high above you. Make sure you look closely for all of the wildlife and bird’s nest tucked in the trees! A full size replica bald eagle’s nest is also high in the tree with the nest’s perimeter painted on the floor so you can see if YOUR family would be able to call the nest “home”. Meanwhile, don’t spend all of your time looking up! Throughout the nature center animal tracks can be found on the floor, can you identify them?

A live honeybee display allows you to get up close and personal with these interesting insects! This is a seasonal display and allows the bees to fly in and out of the building while they go about their daily life. Come and learn why honeybees are so important to humans!

Three main animal displays occupy the building. Each covers a separate wildlife habitat found in Iowa: woodlands, prairie, and wetlands. These exhibits allow visitors to see animals that live in these habitats up close and learn more about them and the habitat itself.

A separate room of the Nature Center holds the library and touch-and-feel section. In the library, both children’s and adult books involving nature are ready to be perused. There are also reference books and field guides available for study. The rest of the library room is our touch section that allows you to touch animal pelts, bones, and other nature related items. Learn more about feeding birds and building nest boxes for the birds to use. There are also displays that will help you understand the prairie better and also test your ability to jump like different types of wildlife!

The rental of the basement of the Nature Center is limited to business meetings and luncheons and organization meetings. A $50 rental fee accompanies the use of the basement along with a $50 refundable deposit. A full kitchen with limited utensils is provided for your usage.
Prairie's Edge Nature Center
The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center is open for public viewing Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM. The Nature Center is also open either one Saturday or Sunday of every month.
A nature trail (0.1 mile) is located across the bridge from the Nature Center. This hike through a heavily forested hillside offers a short excursion into nature that one can take at his/her own pace.

The Vernon Springs Mill Pond, located next to the Nature Center, offers visitors with a chance for some boating, canoeing or fishing. A boat ramp is available along with shelters and a dock.

The park surrounding the Prairie’s Edge Nature Center is full of cross country skiing trails. The complex trail system focuses itself around the beautiful Turkey River. Trail maps are available at the Nature Center.

The Prairie Springs Recreational Trail is located directly adjacent to the Nature Center. This popular, new, asphalt trail travels 2.5 miles through forested bluffs and rolling fields to the edge of Cresco. City trail signs throughout Cresco connect this trail to the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail, a lime-screened trail, which stretches 20 miles through Ridgeway into Calmar. Along the Prairie Springs trail are many shaded benches and picnic tables, giving users the perfect spot for picnics. The trail wraps around the southern edge of the prairie next to the Nature Center and gives the perfect opportunity to see the weekly changing blossoms of the prairie.

The shelter located outside the Nature Center is a popular spot for large picnics, group activities, and family reunions. It is often busy throughout the summer. Therefore we recommend calling the Howard County Conservation Office ahead of time to place a reservation at (563) 547-3634. 
Enveloped by the scenic view of the Turkey River, a newly constructed 46-site modern campground can be discovered in the woods surrounding the Prairie’s Edge Nature Center. Now open to the public, the Turkey River Campground offers campers individual electrical and water hook-ups, camping pads, a bath/shower house, and playground equipment. Prairie's Edge Nature Center playground


Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail
20-mile trail (crushed limestone) from Cresco to Calmar
Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail layout
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)
A small taste of the beauty found in other parts of Northeast Iowa can be found along the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail. On either side of the trail, native prairie areas can be enjoyed from early Spring with the emergence of Prairie Smoke, Puccoon, Alexander, and Phlox.

Midsummer brings about occurrences of Rattlesnake Master, Yellow Coneflower, Wild Quinine, and Blazing Star.  In the Fall sights of asters, goldenrod, and gentians abound. Please appreciate the plants in their natural habitat and do not disturb them so that the next person on the trail can enjoy them also.

Small patches of woodlands, made up of elm, sumac, box elder, and oak can also be found along the trail. These areas are homes to many types of birds and other wildlife. These shady patches are well liked by summer visitors seeking refuge from the summer sun.

Rest areas, shelters, and picnic tables are scattered along the trail for relaxing breaks from the trail exercise.

ACTIVITIES
Bicyclists, joggers, hikers, and cross-country skiers are all invited to use the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail. Snowmobiles are allowed on a restricted basis between Ridgeway to Cresco only.

ACCESSES
Cresco Access to the Prairie Farmer Recreational trail is located in Cresco on the north side of State Highway 9.
County Line A parking area and access is provided approximately two miles from the Cresco terminus on county road 345th Avenue.
Ridgeway The trail is accessible anywhere within the city limits of Ridgeway. This is also the access to the snowmobile portion of the trail between Ridgeway and near Cresco. Non-snowmobile access is available at Ridgeway Trailside Park on the east edge of town. The trail runs through the park, where conveniences of water, pit toilets, shelter, playground, picnicking, and parking are provided.
Calmar The terminus is located at the newly renovated railroad depot at the intersection of U.S. Highway 52 and the old railroad crossing. Parking is available at the depot site.

Accesses are also available at any road crossing along the trail. Please do not block the trail crossings with your vehicles.

MORE INFORMATION
The trail is funded by the Howard County Conservation Board (HCCB), the Winneshiek County Conservation Board (WCCB), and by grants from the Iowa and Federal Departments of Transportation.

For further information, contact the HCCB, 11562 Valley Ave, PO Box 157, Cresco, IA 52136. The phone number is 563-547-3634 or email us at howardccb@yahoo.com.

Additional information is available at the WCCB, 2546 Lake Meyer Road, Fort Atkinson, IA. The phone number is 563-534-7145 or email them at d4os@acegroup.cc

All persons using the trail are at their own risk and should be aware of possible risks innate to remote and natural areas. Trail users are encouraged to wear protective gear on the trail such as bike helmets, etc. Customary trail etiquette like verbal signals while passing are also suggested. Bikers are also suggested to keep to the right while riding.


Prairie Springs Recreational Trail
2.5-mile trail (paved) from Cresco to Vernon Springs

Truly a trail for all seasons, the Prairie Springs Recreational Trail is excellent for many different activities year-round. The trail is 2.5 miles, paved, which runs along the Prairie's Edge Nature Center.

Breathtaking beauty and glorious displays of nature can be witnessed the entire length of the trail. There are many varieties of prairie grasses and flowers that line the route through rolling farmland and shaded woods. Speaking of woods, often a deer, turkey, or any number of native birds and animals can be seen as you ride or walk through. On a hot summer day the woods provide a welcome retreat from the sun. The trail is dotted with benches and picnic areas where you can stop to catch your breath, or enjoy a lunch with nature all around you.

Access the Prairie Springs Recreational Trail either from Cresco (on 7th Ave SW east of Vernon Road) or the Prairie's Edge Nature Center (2 miles south of Cresco on Vernon Road). Either location offers parking for loading and unloading of your recreational equipment.


Bike, Walk, Rollerblade, Cross-Country Ski, Nature Watch and More!


Wapsi-Great Western Line Trail
10.5-mile trail (crushed limestone) from Riceville
Hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and nature watching are a few of the activities offered on this trail. With Riceville as the trailhead, the trail extends to the north and runs along the Wapsipinicon River and the Great Western Line Railroad. Built on an abandoned rail bed, the Wapsi-Great Western Line Trail runs through Lake Hendricks Park where campers and visitors can find a butterfly garden along the trail for their enjoyment. The butterfly garden is home to about 15 species of butterflies and 3,000 plants. Wapsi Butterfly Garden


Parks and Recreation

For MAPS, 2004 Aerial Photos and a RECREATIONAL TABLE showing locations and amenities click here.
Bigalks Trout Stream

Bigalk's Trout Stream
A 3-acre tract located two miles east of County Road V-58 on 30th St

Trout fishing skills are put to the test on this special trout stream. The meandering cold water stream empties into the Upper Iowa River and is stocked weekly from early spring to late fall with rainbow and brown trout.

   
Bonair Shooting Range

Bonair Shooting Range
A 15-acre tract located 2 miles north of State Highway 9 on Saint Ave

Equipped with a 5-acre rifle range with shooting rests and target backstops. The remaining 10 acres are maintained as a wildlife management area. 

   
Florenceville Park Florenceville Park
A 3-acre park located in Florenceville on the east side of County Road V-58

This park provides a shelter house, picnic area, playground equipment, ball diamond, electricity, water, and toilets, making it a nice place for family gatherings.
   
Lake Hendricks - lake Lake Hendricks Park
A 234-acre park located one mile north of State Highway 9 on Highway T-68

One of the oldest parks in the county conservation board system, it is also the largest and most popular park belonging to the Howard County Conservation Board. This scenic park includes a 54-acre man-made lake and serves as a multiple use area offering a wide variety of outdoor opportunities.
Activities include fishing, picnicking, biking, camping, canoeing and boating (electric engines only), a 150-foot beach for swimming (unsupervised), nature trails, and cross country skiing along with an archery range, softball diamond, and playground equipment.  The park opens each day at 6:00 am and closes at 10:30 pm and is open to camping from May to October. A park ranger resides on the premises year-round and may be reached at 641-985-2127.  For MORE INFORMATION on Lake Hendricks Park click here.
   
Lidtke Park Lidtke Park
A 10-acre park located on the west side of County Road V-36 just north of Lime Springs

This scenic park is located along the Upper Iowa River and provides an excellent camping and picnicking location while offering individuals the opportunity to fish and giving canoeists a starting point for their river trips. Camping areas are provided with electricity and water.
Other facilities include a shelter, boat ramp, and playground equipment. Adding to the park’s beauty is the historical Lidtke Mill and dam site.  For MORE INFORMATION on Lidtke Park click here.
   
Lubbert Park Lubbert Park
3-acre park located in Saratoga on the south side of State Highway 9

This scenic park provides an excellent picnicking location offering an open shelter located next to a meandering stream.
   
Lylah's Marsh Lylah's Marsh
A 140-acre wildlife area located two miles west of County Road V-18

This area contains a 60-acre man-made marsh located on the Little Wapsipinicon River. It provides excellent nesting and winter cover for wildlife while attracting an abundance of migratory waterfowl and upland game species. Facilities include a open picnic area, playground equipment, boat ramp, and restroom. Maintained as a game management area.
   
Taylor's Pond Taylor's Pond
A 7-acre park located 0.25 mile east of County Road V-58 on 180th St

Nestled in the southern part of the county, this park makes a cozy fishing and family picnic area. The three acre pond was constructed in 1980. A shelter, playground equipment and toilet facilities are available.
   
Turkey River Campground Turkey River Campground
A 6-acre campground located in Vernon Springs Park 2 miles south of Cresco on Valley Ave

The Howard County Conservation Board is excited to promote their newest campground area and facilities, the Turkey River Campground in Vernon Springs Park. Protected by woods and amid the scenic view of the Turkey River, the campground is located up a winding country road just beyond the Prairie's Edge Nature Center.
The campground is NOW OPEN to the public for the camping season (May through October).
The Turkey River Campground offers campers individual electrical and water hook-ups, camping pads, a bath/shower house, and playground equipment.  For MORE INFORMATION on the Turkey River Campground click here.
   
Upper Iowa River Access Upper Iowa River Access
A 10-acre natural area located on the east side of County Road V-36 just north of Lime Springs

A tract of river bottomland along the Upper Iowa River, this lightly timbered area serves as fishing and canoe access to the Upper Iowa River.
   
Vernon springs Park Vernon Springs Park
A 14-acre park located two miles south of State Highway 9 on Valley Ave

This scenic park lays adjacent to the beautiful Turkey River and a 17-acre pond, offering several year round activities such as fishing, boating and canoeing, picnicking, and features a number of trails for nature hikes, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing.
The park houses the Prairie’s Edge Nature Center along with an open picnic shelter, grills, boat dock, playground equipment, and toilet facilities. A 140-year-old historical dam adds to the park’s picturesque view. There is also a 40-acre wildlife area containing river bottomland, upland timber, and grassland, with the Turkey River winding along its southern border.



Natural Resource Areas

For maps of Howard County and a table showing locations and amenities click here.

2004 Aerial Photos Available! Click on each area's name to see a close up view.
**Please note: the boundaries in red on these aerial photos are only to be used as guides and are not legally binding. Please use signs at the areas to find actual boundaries.

Cleghorn Wildlife Area
A 40-acre natural area located two miles south of State Highway 9 on 345th Ave

The Turkey River passes through the area which is divided into open grassland, river-bottom, and wetland. Maintained as a game management area.

Crane Creek Wildlife Area
A281-acre natural area located on the east side of US Highway 63 two miles south of Lourdes

This wildlife area contains natural and man-made wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and food plots. Crane Creek meanders through this wildlife mecca. The purchase of this of this property was made possible through the assistance of the Iowa Habitat Stamp Fund, Pheasants Forever, and Ducks Unlimited. Excellent upland, deer and turkey hunting can be expected. Access is provided on the North, East, and South sides of this maintained game management area.

Dieken Wildlife Area
A 14-acre wildlife area located on the west side of US Highway 63 between Lime Springs and Chester

This long, narrow wooded area borders the spring fed Beaver Creek. Left in its natural state, it provides excellent wildlife habitat. A walk-in access is provided.

Evans-Hughes Forest
A 36-acre forested area located 3 miles west of County Road V-58 on 25th St

This heavily timbered forest is divided into two sections (east and west). It contains rolling hills with an abundance of oak, hickory, and walnut. Timber stand improvements are practiced on this area.

Hart Pond Wildlife Area
A 249-acre natural area located on the south side of County Highway B-17 near Elma

This wildlife area is primarily upland and wetland habitat. Water resources include the Little Wapsipinicon River and an 8.5-acre pond which can be found near the center of the property. Access is provided on the East side. This is a game management area.

Joachim Woods Wildlife Area
A 20-acre forested area located on the west side of County Road V-18, 1 mile south of Elma

This heavily wooded area contains excellent quality mixed hardwood timber which provides for excellent woodland environment.

Kleckner Wildlife Area
A 53-acre wildlife area located on the east side of County Road V-10, just north of County Road A-23

This area is a mixture of timber, marsh, and prairie, with Staff Creek meandering through the midsection. Purchase of the area in 1987 was made possible from through the Iowa Habitat Stamp Program and with assistance from the Natural Heritage Foundation. Maintained as a game management area.

Martinek Wildlife Area
A 27-acre forested area located one mile east of County Road V-58 on Well Road

This heavily wooded wildlife area contains an excellent quality of mixed hardwood timber dominated by hard maple. Managed primarily for wildlife habitat, it provides a nice woodland environment. Timber stand improvements are practiced on the area.

Meiricks Pond Access
A 13-acre wildlife area located one the north side of County Road B-17, west of Cedar Ave

This abandoned quarry includes a three acre pond and is maintained as a wildlife habitat area. A walk-in access is provided.

Mullen Wildlife Area
A 141-acre wildlife area located on the south side of State Highway 9 and on the east side of Robin Ave

This area is mostly native grasses offering excellent upland hunting opportunities. Water resources include several man-made ponds offering limited waterfowl hunting. Access is provided on the North and West side of the property. This is a game management area.

Reis Wildlife Area
A 120-acre wildlife area located on the south side of State Highway 9, east of Howard Ave
This area encompasses a mixture of wetland, upland and woodland habitat. A native grass planting can be found on the Southwest side of the area offering upland hunting opportunities. Access is provided on the North side of the area. This is a game management area.

Souhrada Forest
A 117-acre corridor located 4 miles north of County Road A-46, with access on 10th St

Overlooking the Upper Iowa River to the South, this beautiful area contains excellent timber and wildlife habitat. Maintained as a game management area.

Souhrada Wildlife Area
A 155-acre wildlife area on the east side of State Highway 63, 1 mile north of Highway 9

This area is mostly native grasses offering excellent upland hunting opportunities. Access is provided on the east side of the property. This is a game management area.

Thomson Marsh
A 40-acre undeveloped natural area located one mile north of County Road A-46, between Unity Ave and Valley Ave

This open wildlife area encompasses a mixture of timber, grassland, and a one acre marsh. Public access is provided from the east road.

Turkey Bend Wildlife Area
A 20-acre forested area located two miles south of State Highway 9, with access on 115th St near Valley Ave

This acre consists of primarily oak and hickory species overlooking the Turkey River. Trails are provided for cross country skiing and hiking. Access is provided through a walk-in access lane located from the east road.

Wittenbreer Marsh
A 40-acre wildlife area located two miles north of State Highway 9, with access on 90th St between Fir Ave and Grove Ave

This upland and wetland wildlife area includes a 3-acre marsh and 24 acres planted with red, white, and scotch pine, which serves as an excellent habitat area. Maintained as a game management area.


Winter Fun

When the summer sun turns into snowy fields there’s still plenty of activities to do in Howard County.

Cross country skiers are offered a complex system of trails, many of which are groomed. A smaller system of trails is located around Crestwood High School. This system features a lighted loop for night skiing. Cross country skis are available free of charge from Prairie's Edge Nature Center.

Snowmobiles also fly around Cresco in the winter snow. More than 250 miles of trails span out from Cresco to many other local towns. The trails wind around forests, across streams, and through rolling fields. Very little of the trails consist of road ditches, creating some of the most beautiful and scenic rides throughout Iowa.


EMAIL us at conservation@co.howard.ia.us


The Howard County Conservation Board in the provisions of services and facilities to the public does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, sex, creed, national origin, age, or handicap. If anyone believes he or she has been subject to such discrimination, he or she may file a complaint alleging discrimination with either the Howard County Conservation Board or the Office of Equal Opportunity, US Dept. of Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.
 
             

Lake Hendrichs beach - Riceville, IA

Beaver swimming the Crane Creek

Restored Prairie - Riceville, IA

Crane Creek