Make it a weekend to remember by exploring not one, not two, but three parks! With less than 100 miles between parks, there’s plenty of time to hike, swim, fish, camp and stargaze.
More One Weekend, Three Park ideas:
EASTERN IOWA | LOESS HILLS | NORTH CENTRAL IOWA | SOUTH CENTRAL IOWA | SOUTHEAST IOWA | SOUTHWEST IOWA
1. Mines of Spain Recreation Area
E.B. LYONS INTERPRETIVE CENTER
Display and exhibits provide information about the park’s history and natural features. A garden at the center demonstrates how small areas can attract birds and butterflies with proper food plants, shelter zones and a source of water.
There are 13 individual nature walks within the park, including those at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center and the Horseshoe Bluff Site. The America State Park Woodland Walk provides opportunities to explore state trees from all 50 states. Other trails provide scenic vistas, views of limestone bluffs and hikes through forests and prairies.
Designated as a “Watchable Wildlife Area,” the park includes rare species like the bobcat, red-shouldered hawk, flying squirrel and bald eagles. The area is also home to wild turkey, white-tailed deer and numerous small mammals.
2. Bixby State Preserve
Likely the preserve’s most famous feature, the ice cave is located just a few hundred yards from the preserve’s entrance. Its origins date back nearly a century to lead miners who were enlarging a crack in the limestone. The cave’s temperature hovers around 52 degrees even in the heat of the summer.
More than 380 native plant species can be found in the 184-acre preserve, possibly the highest diversity of plants of any Iowa woodland. Visitors find steep slopes covered with mature oaks and sugar maples. Other flora includes leatherwood, wild ginger, bellwort, joe-pye-weed and coralroot orchid.
Bixby is one of several state parks or preserves along the Silurian Escarpment, a prominent line of 400-million-year-old limestone and dolomite in northeast Iowa. This formation forms the basis for the preserve by creating steep bluffs, scenic overlooks, narrow stream valleys, caves, fissures and sinkholes.
3. Osborne Park
A nine-hole course winds through the forest and prairie near Osborne Pond. Players should expect tight fairways bordered by tall grass. The exceptionally scenic course is often shared with kestrels, bald eagles, wild turkey and deer.
The park includes more than six miles of trails ranging from easy to very challenging. On the north side of the Volga River, trails wind through woods and prairie near a small fishing pond and two wooded loops. South side trails meander through hardwood forest and upland conifer. Interpretive brochures are available.
Started in 1975, the event takes visitors back in time to the pioneer era. Held annually the second weekend of October, demonstrations include basketry, candle making, quilting, spinning, story telling and flint napping. Bonus: the event usually coincides with peak fall colors.