Writing new chapters for Central Iowa trails


The world famous High Trestle Trail provides bikers and hikers breathtaking views of the Des Moines River Valley.

Nearly 40 years ago the Central Iowa trail network got its start with the establishment of the Bill Riley Trail. This short trail links Waterworks Park with Greenwood Park and the neighborhoods near the Des Moines Art Center and the former Science Center of Iowa location. It was a modest beginning named after the famous Iowa State Fair talent scout and television personality who loved trails.

Today the network of trails in central Iowa has grown to include local neighborhood trails
as well as long distance regional trails stretching in all directions. The current plan envisions the regional spine extending 70 miles west to Whiterock Conservancy, 45 miles southeast to Lake Red Rock, 80 miles northeast to Pine Lake State Park, 25 miles south to Lake Ahquabi, as well as existing connections to Jefferson, Martensdale and Ames. Continue reading

Gift to Iowa’s Future Day celebrates Iowa landowners


On Thursday, March 24, a group of Iowa landowners were honored at the state capitol building for gifts of conservation land, land value and conservation easements made in 2015. “Gift To Iowa’s Future” day is an annual celebration of private landowners and organizations who protect their land for natural resources and recreation opportunities. 2015 gifts totaled more than $10 million and protected over 4,500 acres in 15 counties.

16 of the 23 landowners honored worked in partnership with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to protect their land.

“Private landowners are instrumental in protecting Iowa’s land, water and wildlife,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “Gift to Iowa’s Future Day is a chance for us to celebrate the generous contributions individual Iowans make to conservation each year. It is truly humbling to see the impact of these gifts across the state.”
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9 great conservation projects happening right now

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From trail connections to wetland restoration to important wildlife habitat, INHF
is working on some great projects. With your help, we can protect, restore and connect these places that are so important to Iowa’s natural beauty.

Burr Wildlife Area Addition — This addition of 411 acres to the Burr Wildlife area has many people encouraged. Besides the beauty of the rolling hills, prairie and oak trees, this addition means 600 acres of public land along this corridor will be protected, allowing for increased habitat and water protection.
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BruceMorrison-Oxbow-OtterCreekOtter Creek Wildlife Area Addition — 67-acre property is adjacent to the 275 protected acres of the Otter Creek Wildlife Area in Sioux County Conservation Board ownership and will expand the size of the habitat available to area wildlife. The land will feature restored prairie and wetland areas, prime for wildlife viewing and hunting. Reestablishing native grasses will provide nesting and winter cover for birds.
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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

History Lesson: Raccoon River Valley Trail

Here’s your history lesson for the day. Throwback to when the Raccoon River Valley Trail wasn’t even a trail! Check out the story of how an old railroad right-of-way became one of Iowa’s most popular recreation destinations.RRVT2 (1)

In the late 1870s and early ’80s, a railroad route was built to connect Des Moines with the northwest corner of the state. The line became popular, and after changing hands a few times, the “Milwaukee Road” railroad company took over and widened the track to standard dimensions.

For over half a century, the route was a success. But in the early 1950s, when cars became the preferred method of travel, the Milwaukee Line was discontinued for passengers.

The line stayed in use for freight trains, and was bought out once again by the Chicago and Northwestern Transportation Company in 1982. After some economic misfortune, however, the company considered abandoning the route.

That’s when the Central Iowa Energy Cooperative (CIECO) stepped in. They purchased the right-of-way in 1987. After collaboration with the county conservation boards, CIECO agreed to develop a multi-use trail on the tracks, so long as the need for a new railroad didn’t arise.

The trail came together piece by piece, and it now stretches 89 miles—with more additions on the way. INHF helped the county conservation boards purchase the right-of-way from CIECO in 2001.

The Raccoon River Valley Trail is a destination for bikers, skiers, birdwatchers or any Iowan looking to enjoy the great outdoors. Though its history may already linger far in the past, there is still plenty to be written.


Let’s Connect

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Connect the trails that is. The “Let’s Connect” project is working to connect Raccoon River Valley Trail to High Trestle Trail, two outstanding Iowa trails.

This nine-mile “connector” between Perry and Woodward is proposed as an off-road recreational trail, which provides more safety and serves more users. Not only will these nine miles open more trail routes and provide new adventures, they will make central Iowa an even bigger trails destination. Continue reading