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.
(Click on a link below to take you right to the information...)
Facilities and Trails:
Parks and Recreation:
Natural Resource Areas:
(For maps of Howard
County, 2004 Aerial Photos and a table showing locations and amenities click
|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.
|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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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
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)
|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
Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail
20-mile trail (crushed limestone) from Cresco to Calmar
(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.
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.
||Access to the Prairie Farmer Recreational trail is
located in Cresco on the north side of State Highway 9.
||A parking area and access is provided approximately
two miles from the Cresco terminus on county road 345th Avenue.
||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.
||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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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.
For MAPS, 2004 Aerial Photos and a RECREATIONAL TABLE showing locations and
amenities click here.
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
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.
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
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
|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
For MORE INFORMATION on Lake Hendricks Park click here.
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.
3-acre park located in Saratoga on the south side of State
This scenic park provides an excellent picnicking location offering an open
shelter located next to a meandering stream.
A 140-acre wildlife area located two miles west of County Road
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.
A 7-acre park located 0.25 mile east of County Road V-58 on
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
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
For MORE INFORMATION on the Turkey River Campground click here.
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
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.
For maps of Howard County and a table showing locations and amenities click
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.