North Cedar Natural Area is now open after recent flooding.
Category Archives: Parks
North Cedar Natural Area is currently closed due to flooding.
The Linn County Conservation Board signed an easement agreement with ITC Midwest for nearly 2 miles of the Cedar Valley Trail from Robins Road to County Home Road. ITC began working in December and finished their transmission work on April 30, 2013.
Linn County Conservation staff met with ITC staff to evaluate the condition of the trail and determined the following:
The Cedar Valley Trail (from Robins Road to County Home Road) will remain closed until May 10th. During this time ITC will work on cleaning the trails and safety repairs that are necessary prior to opening.
On Friday, May 10th, the trail will open for evening and weekend use until May 24th. ITC will continue to work Monday-Friday during the day during this time to remove the old poles and finish any minor cleaning. The trail must remain closed while ITC is working for safety precautions.
The trail is expected to open for normal trail hours beginning on May 24th.
Due to the heavy equipment on the trail, some resurfacing work will need to be complete. This work will be scheduled for fall of 2013. Once the Linn County Conservation Department knows more information about the resurfacing, information will be made available. During the resurfacing period, the trail will be closed for a few weeks.
Be a pebble, join the ripple, have some fun!
5k run/walk for the Millhiser Smith Foundation & McDonough Family.
Thank you West Bend for being the platinum sponsor!
Sunday May 19th, 2013
9AM Squaw Creek Park, Red Cedar Lodge (Marion)
Packet Pickup and late registration May 17th at Millhiser Smith Agency from 3-6PM, 3100 Oakland Rd NE Cedar Rapids.
Register online at www.getmeregistered.com/runtheripple
Questions? Email email@example.com or find Run the Ripple on facebook.
It has finally arrived…somewhat! Linn County Conservation is ready to open the campgrounds for camping season. However, due to the ground conditions and cool temperatures, the facilities will not be fully operational this weekend. Please see the updates below for camping availability in each park. We hope to have water turned on in the parks next week and be fully operational by April 9th. Please watch for additional information.
Most campsites will be open on Friday, April 12th (for exceptions, see the list below). However, there will be NO water to individual sites or the dump stations. There will be water available at the shower house.
The following will remain closed due to saturated, soft ground:
Flying Squirrel A Loop lower sites will remain closed until further notice.
Flying Squirrel B Loop will remain closed until further notice.
Plains will remain closed until further notice.
A Loop and B Loop will open on Friday, April 12th. However, there will be NO water to individual sites or the dump stations. There will be water available at the shower house.
Morgan Creek campgrounds will open on Friday, April 12th. However, there will be NO water to individual sites, the dump stations, or the shower house.
Remains closed until further notice.
Will open early next week.
Matsell Bridge Natural Area:
The equestrian campground is open but the gate to the primitive camping area will be closed until road conditions firm up and water levels recede. No water is available yet.
‘PARTNERING’ ANOTHER THEME FOR CP HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 2013
The Center Point Historical Society chose the Civil War as their museum and activity theme for 2013 but at its regular March meeting “partnering” turned out to run a close second.
Melissa Atkinson, city clerk, and Carrie Wilkinson of Center Point Economic Development attended the meeting. The Historical Society, at Melissa’s invitation, will be providing photographs and artifacts from the Museum collection for rotating displays at City Hall.
Carrie invited the Museum to participate in a Cedar Valley Nature Trail special bike ride, Saturday, May 4, celebrating the reopening of the LaPorte City trail bridge which was destroyed in the 2008 flood. The group voted to have the Depot Museum open from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. that day of the Bridge to Bridge ride, which is being sponsored by LaPorte City.
Historical Society members also finalized plans for this year’s County Historic Preservation grant application. The Society plans to partner with the Linn County Conservation Department on fire and security protection for the Depot Museum building. The Conservation Department owns the 1914 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern electric railroad depot in which houses the Historical Society museum.
The March meeting wasn’t all work—the group played with the newly restored 1923 player piano, too. The player piano was restored with the help of last year’s grant from the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission and Linn County Supervisors. The Museum’s grand opening of the year will be Sunday, May 5, from 2 to 4, with a Player Piano Party.
The Historical Society will have special workdays each Saturday in April from 9 to noon for Museum spring cleaning and display set up. (There will undoubtedly be frequent breaks for playing that fun piano, too.)
Historical Society meetings are 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of the month at the Depot Museum.
By: Dana A. Kellogg
Natural Resource Specialist
This spring if you take a trip to one of your favorite county parks or natural areas you are likely to see evidence that a fire has taken place in a grassy area. This is likely not an accident, but a planned controlled prairie burn. Fire is an extremely beneficial tool in the sustainability and management of a prairie. Having evolved under the influence of fire for thousands of years, prairies respond favorably to controlled fires. It has been well documented that Native Americans used fire extensively to improve game habitat, increase nut and berry production, and create easier traveling.
Fire rejuvenates a prairie in many ways. Burning removes the excess leaf litter and duff allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller. It also increases available nutrients through indirect stimulation of microbial activity in the soil and releasing nutrients from the ash. Burning exposes the darkened soil and allows sunlight to warm the soil quicker and extend the growing season for warm season native plants. In contrast the fire suppresses many weeds and non native invasive cool season grass like brome and reeds canary grass. Fire also damages or kills many woody invasive plants such as bush honey suckle and autumn olive, which, if left unchecked can quickly over take a prairie. Controlled burning is one of several management tools used to preserve prairie. Mowing, hand cutting, and chemical treatments are some others. However, burning allows large areas to be managed more efficiently and effectively. Generally, controlled burns are conducted on a 2 to 4 year rotation, with a portion of the prairie remaining unburned to allow for an escape area for wildlife and insects.
Prior to Euro-American settlement, 85% of Iowa, nearly 30 million acres was prairie. In 1837 John Deere invented the steel moldboard plow. This new technology made some of the most fertile ground in the world farmable. It also marked the end of the prairie as 30 million acres of prairie was converted to farm land in less than 80 years. Today, less than 0.1 % of the original Iowa prairie remains. A few gems of prairie still exist in Linn County Conservation areas, and we try our best to preserve them for all to enjoy.
So the next time you see that black patch in the park, try to forget the old add campaign featuring Smokey the Bear. That taught us all so well, fire is bad. Not all fire is bad; in fact some fire is essential. Come back to that black spot in a week or two and see how beautifully green it becomes. Come back through out the growing season and see the wildlife, insects, and prairie bloom.
Improvement Updates for the 100-Yard Range
The Linn County Conservation Board recently applied for a grant to help support the costs related to the improvements of the Matsell Bridge Shooting Range. Unfortunately, the grant was not awarded to Linn County.
The Department continues to move forward with design and engineering plans. The timeline for reopening the 100 yard range is dependent upon design plan completion, estimated costs, construction, and weather – and subject to funding availability. The Department is currently evaluating proposed rules and regulations. All information will be presented to the Conservation Board for approval.
Status of the 50-Yard Pistol Range
The 50-yard pistol range is open daily to the public. It is open only to those people who have been through the orientation class put on by the Linn County Pistol Club and issued an identification badge by the club. Users must have the identification badge with them while shooting.
The Linn County Pistol Club will be offering orientation sessions again starting on April 6th. Orientations sessions are offered the first Saturday of each month April through October starting at 9:00 AM. Orientation takes approximately one hour. There is no registration required.
Buffalo Creek is located just to the west of Coggon off of County Road D-62 and is divided by the Buffalo Creek. This 128 acre county park offers a multitude of things to do. The park was the first park to be developed by the County Conservation Board and was mostly developed by 1962. The park is open year round but closed to vehicles from late October through early April.
The park has one of the earliest concrete “low-head” dams constructed in the state of Iowa. There is a unique walkway over the top of the dam that takes you into the east side of the park. The dam was completed in 1965 and is located next to the railroad tracks off of Mill Street in the city of Coggon. Fishermen enjoy catching bait below the spillway of the dam and may even catch an occasional crappie, bluegill, smallmouth or largemouth bass. The impoundment was originally developed for recreational pursuits but has dramatically silted over the past 50 years. However, it is still used for kayaking and canoeing and it is a favorite refuge spot for waterfowl. Just past the walkway over the dam you will find a walnut tree plantation the Conservation Department planted and still maintains today. The rest of the east area is maintained as wildlife habitat refuge.
Following the dam completion, “Walnut Grove Campground” was developed and completed by the fall of 1966. Originally, there were 30 campsites nestled along the Buffalo Creek. Due to consistent flash flooding in recent years the number of campsites has been reduced to 13. The majority of the sites are now protected when flooding does occur. The campsites have had new electrical and water upgrades in the last decade and now offer 50-amp electrical service and water hook-ups and cost $18.00 per night. Each site contains a fire ring and picnic table. The campground is self-registration and on a first-come first-served basis. There is also a sanitary dumping station located near the entrance of the park and firewood is also available for sale next to the registration kiosk.
There are many things for campers to do while staying at Buffalo Creek Park. The park offers a newly renovated horseshoe court, a playground for kids, prairie and woodland hiking trails and there are several geocaches placed through the park for those who are enjoying the new sport of geocaching (you can find the geocache locations by visiting Geocaching.com).
The park also provides Hickory Hill Shelter, an open area reservable shelter located near the southwest corner of the park. Celebrating its 50th year, the shelter is still popular for family reunions or other events and can accommodate from 50 to 150 people depending upon weather conditions. It has electrical outlets, pedestal cooking grills, 14 picnic tables and chlorinated water. A pit-vault restroom is located near the shelter as well. The shelter is also on a first come-first served basis unless it is reserved for the day. Reservations can be made up to two years in advance and cost $30 per day to rent (weekends) and $20 per day (weekdays). Reservations can be made by visiting our website LinnCountyParks.com. The shelter is reservable from April 15th through October 15th. A native oak/hickory tree mix and savannah are adjacent to the shelter offering plenty of shade and a great place to gather hickory nuts in the fall (hence the name Hickory Hill Shelter!). There are also scattered picnic areas offering tables and cooking grills located near the shelter and plenty of parking is available.
One of the true hidden gems is found on the north side of the park. Next to campground, you will find a walk through gate that leads you on another hiking trail and pet exercise area. Along this trail you will find one of the best areas in the state to view Virginia Bluebells in the spring. The forest floor literally turns a purplish-blue when the native flowers are blooming. Past the beds of bluebells you will find several backwater areas and notice some of the 200+ wood duck nesting boxes the Conservation Department maintains. You can usually hear the distinct cry of the wood duck as you spook them while on a leisurely hike along the trail. Between the male wood ducks and Virginia Bluebells you will find an appreciation for nature at its finest in this quiet little park.
Future plans for the park may involve a trail connecting the City of Coggon to the park, campground expansions and other amenities including a small shower facility and shelter renovation.
In 2012, the Coggon Area Betterment Association, the Coggon Lion’s Club and the Linn County Conservation Department held the first annual “Buffalo Creek Trail Day” at the park. The event included a kayak/canoe race, live music, food vendors, geocaching seminar, naturalist guided hike and many other games and things to do. The purpose was to promote a future trail connection between the city of Coggon and the county park. The event is being planned again for this coming August (watch the Linn Newsletter for more information coming about the event).
If you’re looking for a quiet park with many recreational opportunities then please check out Buffalo Creek Park. You’ll probably leave the area thinking, “that is a little hidden gem”!
Wapsipinicon District Park Ranger
Wakpicada County Park, near Central City in northeast Linn County is closed starting March 11 through approximately April 11th. The park is closed due to weather conditions.
The Linn County Conservation Department is working to groom cross country ski trails. As of Friday, February 1st at 3:30pm, the status of grooming procedures are:
Squaw Creek Park: grooming complete (snow is sparse on the trails, campground loop is best)
Matsell Bridge Natural Area: trails have been rolled, grooming expected to take place on Saturday, February 2nd (due to blowing snow, grass is showing in some areas, but snow is very deep in other areas)
Pinicon Ridge Park: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd
Morgan Creek Park: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd
Wickiup Hill Learning Center: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd
NOTIFICATION OF JOB OPENING IN LINN COUNTY: APPLY ONLINE AT WWW.LINNCOUNTY.ORG OR CALL 892-5120.
The Linn County Conservation Department has temporary (full-time) openings available for the 2013 warm recreation season. Positions are available in a variety of locations throughout the county. Applications should be completed online at www.linncounty.org (job openings). Applications will be accepted February 3 through February 13, 2013.
Rates of pay and a brief overview of duties are as follows:
PARK ATTENDANT – $10.25 – $10.75/hour – 6 positions available
Duties include: Campground management; registering campers; some rule enforcement; interaction with park visitors; cleaning facilities; mowing; trail patrol and fee collection; and other general park maintenance activities. Must pass a County physical examination which includes a drug test after offer of hire. Non-standard work week – weekends and holidays may be required.
WATERCRAFT CONCESSION MANAGER – $10.25 – $10.75/hr. 2 positions available
Duties include: Coordination and management of canoe and paddleboat concession and canoe trip operation; maintenance of equipment, facilities and vehicles; interaction with park visitors as a park information center; special commercial driver’s license required prior to start of season. Assists with park maintenance as needed. Must pass a County physical examination – which includes a drug test after offer of hire, with random testing as determined by the County. Non-standard work week – weekend and holiday work required.
NATURAL RESOURCE AIDE – $9.25 – $9.75/hour – 8 positions available
Duties include: General park maintenance activities such as mowing, facility and area clean-up and painting; interaction with park visitors; maintenance of park facilities and minor equipment maintenance. Must pass a County physical examination which includes a drug test after offer of hire. Non-standard work week – weekends and holidays may be required.
NATURAL RESOURCE AIDE (Part-time Center Point and Wickiup Hill) –
$9.25 – $9.75/hour – 2 positions available
Duties include: Primary responsibility is opening and closing park facilities. Person is responsible for minor maintenance and cleaning duties as well. One hour per day.
Non-standard work week - weekends and holidays may be required.
Applications must be completed online through the Linn County Human Resources Department at www.linncounty.org (Job Openings)
The following Linn County Parks have been groomed from cross country skiing:
- Matsell Bridge Natural Area
- Pinicon Ridge Park (area near campground has little snow coverage)
- Squaw Creek Park (some areas did not have enough snow to be groomed, so those parts are rolled)
- Morgan Creek Park
- Wickiup Hill (watch for low hanging tree limbs covered in snow and ice)
Currently, Morgan Creek Park and Wickiup Hill ski trails are groomed for cross country skiing. At Wickiup Hill, please be careful of low hanging tree limbs still covered in snow and ice.
Our crews will be focused on making sure access to our parks is safe (roads, lodges, etc). Once that is complete, cross-country ski trail grooming or packing will start (depending on the conditions). The type of snow and continued wind strength will determine how and when the trails are prepared.
For up-to-date information about the status of groomed cross-country ski trails in Linn County Parks, call (319) 531-3178 and enter the following for whichever park you are interested in:
301 – Matsell Bridge Natural Area
302 – Pinicon Ridge Park
303 – Wickiup Hill
304 – Squaw Creek Park
305 – Morgan Creek Park
Whether you are cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or ice fishing – please be careful!
Linn County Conservation has determined that the Matsell Bridge Shooting Range will remain closed through winter. After claims had been made that bullets were leaving the range, the facility was closed immediately to make range improvements and modifications. The 50-yard pistol range is open daily (orientation badge required). However, all other ranges are closed through winter. We expect to have more information about when the range will re-open, information about improvements/modifications, and any rule changes in spring 2013.
Media Contact: Tivon Feeley, Forest Health Program Leader, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-281-4915.
Avoid Using Oriental Bittersweet in Holiday Wreathes
The woody vine with its bright red berries is attractive as a holiday decoration, but the berries on Oriental bittersweet vine are viable seeds capable of spreading the unwanted plant.
The aggressive vine, native to Asia, climbs trees, slowing the growth or killing the tree by blocking light from the forest canopy.
Instead, use American bittersweet, which is native to Iowa. To tell the difference, check the fruit location on the vine.
American bittersweet only has fruit at the tip of the stem. Oriental bittersweet has fruit and flowers along the length of the stem.
Currently, it is not illegal to sell or distribute oriental bittersweet in Iowa.
For more information, go to
The Mountain Bike Trail at Squaw Creek Park is currently closed for the seaon. We look forward to seeing trail users again in the spring.