The Ultimate Guide to Winter Birdwatching in Iowa


Beat the winter blues by checking out some colorful creatures — it’s time to bird watch! Even though some species have headed south for the winter, there are still many opportunities to glimpse our feathered friends in Iowa. Check out the tips and tricks below to make the most of your experience.

Know what species to look for
Nature Worldwide has compiled a list of all the different bird species in Iowa. Each listing states the bird’s scientific name, common name and “UIA.” The UIA codes include each species abundance in the state and status of permanence. Take the red-bellied woodpecker for example. This bird has a UIA of “CN” which means that they are common birds to sight and they nest in Iowa, but are absent for part of the year. These codes can help bird watchers identify which species are around from season to season.

Where to Go:

State parks/forests
Look for areas with coniferous covering or brushy areas. Many species will feed off of remaining berries, nuts etc. Find an area near you.

Water sources
Any open water source will attract a variety of species, as many rely on aquatic animals or plants as food sources. Look for ducks, geese and other shorebirds. Be aware that many species migrate, so your sightings may vary from month to month. Continue reading

Try something new this winter: Ice fishing

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4_36_59 PM 2When the winter chill sets in, it can be difficult for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy all the open-air opportunities Iowa has to offer. But the winter months don’t have to halt outdoor fun. This winter, try something new: Ice fishing is a great way to extend Iowa’s recreational season year-round and enjoy the state’s beauty with friends and family.

The expansive Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County is the perfect location for this cold-weather activity. You’ll find an abundance of fish species, including yellow bass, walleye and muskie as well as a growing population of perch and bluegills. The lake has an ample amount of fishable areas to claim and plenty of local resources to get first-time ice fishermen — and ladies — fishing safely and successfully. Continue reading

All I Want for Christmas is $180 million


As we head toward the start of the 2016 legislative session, (Monday, Jan. 11) our thoughts turn away from the whirlwind of shopping, wrapping, cooking and family gatherings consuming our attention toward what could be the most important gift we could give ourselves, the funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

This is a gift that would give year after year, protecting our water, preventing the loss of precious topsoil and providing habitat for our diverse wildlife. This gift would support quality of life initiatives like trails and parks, which contribute to making Iowa, its economy and its people, thrive.

This is a gift we owe ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, and we need to do it NOW. Continue reading

Where will you #optoutside in Iowa this Friday?


In recent years, retailers have started opening their doors for Black Friday shopping before the pumpkin pie has even been served. But in a refreshing contrast, REI announced  a few weeks ago that they were closing on Black Friday, urging consumers to ditch the mall and instead #OptOutside.

INHF wants to hear about your post-Thanksgiving adventures. Will you be waking up from a food coma and exploring a local park? Or are you working up another appetite by hiking the trails? Find a new spot to adventure or add your own on our interactive Iowa map — let us know where you’re going to #OptOutside.

Find out how to add your own pin here.


Where do you get outdoors in Iowa?

IMG_2570INHF celebrated the grand opening of REI in West Des Moines by inviting Iowans to share their favorite places to get outdoors. We combined their picks with a few of our own, but now we want to hear from you! Pin a favorite trail, park, lake or other location to our interactive online map here:

To get started, click “Edit.” Next, type the name of your favorite spot into the search bar, and Google will find the location. Select the correct location, and click “Add to Map.” You can also add a pin manually by zooming in and selecting the “Add Marker” button underneath the search bar. Type in the location’s name and you’re good to go!

We can’t wait to see your top picks!


REI & INHF spark partnership


This November, REI — a national outdoor gear store — will open its first store in Iowa. REI stores have a long history of supporting local communities and nonprofits that encourage outdoor exploration and facilitate stewardship of natural resources. INHF is happy to be chosen as one of the organizations partnering with the new West Des Moines REI during their grand opening.

In its partnership with INHF, REI has awarded a $5,000 seeding grant to INHF for the proposed connector trail that will eventually link the Raccoon River Valley Trail and High Trestle Trail, two of Central Iowa’s most popular multi-use trails. REI said they wished to support and facilitate trails work in Iowa through INHF’s work. INHF has helped create over 60 percent of Iowa’s rail trails.

INHF will also have a presence at the official grand opening of the West Des Moines store (details below), showcasing recreational opportunities throughout the state.

Join us at the grand opening to learn more about what INHF and REI are doing together:

REI West Des Moines Grand Opening
Nov. 6-8 (9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri/Sat, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun)
5901 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266

When will the leaves change color in Iowa?

Beaverdale Woodland

Beaverdale Woodland Fall Colors

The winds are getting colder, the leaves are starting to fall, and the birds are flying away. It’s fall in Iowa, and it’s time to get the most out of the autumn season!

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a quick and easy guide for the perfect fall color viewing. The DNR’s Fall Color Map shows the prime times of when the leaves are set to change so you can fully enjoy the fall season.

In the northern part of Iowa, you can expect to see the leaves to start changing the last week of September and into the early weeks of October. In the more southern parts of the state, trees will change the second through fourth weeks in October.

The DNR also assembled the specific characteristics of Iowan trees as they get ready for winter. You can expect to see colors ranging from yellow to purple this fall season depending on the species of tree you’re looking at. The list of trees and their leaf color characteristics can be viewed on the Iowa DNR website.

For fall conditions across the state call 515-233-4110. The DNR also puts out a weekly fall color report on their website so you can stay up to date with peak color times.


Free Family Fun at the Iowa Outdoor Expo

banner_expo2011Bring the family for a day of free, interactive fun! The Iowa Outdoor Expo, hosted by the Iowa DNR, will take place Sept. 26-27 at Waterworks Park in Des Moines.

Learn the basics of bow fishing, check out a raptor release or brush up on your archery skills—with over 50 hands-on activities and demonstrations there’s something for everyone. All events are taught by professional instructors in a controlled environment.

The event is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. There is no admission charge.

See a full list of events here.

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is sponsoring the event.


The Principal takes Ingawanis

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We’d like to thank Principal Financial Group for coming out on Thursday, July 23, to Ingawanis Woodland, one of our current projects. Their eager group of volunteers assisted with many things around the property—they cleared the woodland and the trail from recent storm damage, picked up an old trash pile and assisted in uprooting tile from the floor of one of the buildings. Continue reading

Clean Water Concert

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The sun sets over West Okoboji Lake. (Photo by Don Poggensee)

The Okoboji Protective Association will host its annual Clean Water Concert at Preservation Plaza in Arnolds Park as part of a clean water awareness effort on Saturday, August 8, from 4-7 p.m. There will be information sessions and family-friendly activities throughout the evening.

The public is invited to hear INHF president Joe McGovern speak at the OPA’s annual meeting, which will run from 5-6 p.m. at the event. Big Blue Sky Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Continue reading