Linn County Conservation Department offers many activities for residents and visitors to stay active outdoors all winter long! Many of the trails and parks in Linn County are groomed for cross-country skiing; Pinicon Ridge Park and Squaw Creek Park feature lighted downhill sledding hills; Morgan Creek Park offers a winter-walking path; ice-fishing throughout the county; and snowmobiling on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail (north of Center Point).
How does grooming work?
The first requirement for cross-country grooming is getting “adequate” snow and proper weather conditions. Next, the snow is “rolled” using a specialized piece of equipment designed to pack the snow into a solid base. After that, grooming equipment (there are a variety of styles) is used to create tracks in the snow for cross-country skiing.
When can trails be groomed for cross-country skiing?
- The first grooming of the season requires a 4-10″ of snow. Sometimes, if there is 3″ of snow on the ground the trail will be rolled in preparation for grooming (deep snow may require additional passes with the roller and slow the schedule to get trails groomed).
- Temperature is a key factor: it must be below freezing. Temperatures around 26 – 28 degrees with bright sunshine creates wet, heavy snow conditions. Wet, heavy snow clogs the groomer and doesn’t provide a good track, therefore, these conditions are considered ungroomable. Temperatures in the low 20’s with sun or mid to upper 20’s with clouds are groomable conditions.
- After a solid base is established, a light snow (1″ -2″) can be groomed without additional rolling.
- Snows received in a blizzard are often not groomable as the snow is blown off the track into drifts.
- Icy snow can be groomed but is typically not ideal conditions. This condition is groomed on a case-by-case basis.
How long does it take for trails to be groomed?
The first priority for Linn County Conservation Department staff is getting snow removed from public areas such as lodges and gun ranges. Once those areas are complete, grooming starts. In the Wapsipinicon District, Pinicon Ridge Park is groomed first (usually takes 1/2 day) and then Matsell Bridge Natural Area is next (can take up to 2 days to groom). After Wapsipinicon District is complete, Squaw Creek Park trails are groomed. In the North Cedar District, Morgan Creek Park is typically groomed on the first eligible day and Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Area is groomed the following day.
Ice fishing is a popular winter sport in Eastern Iowa. Linn County offers several places for ice fishing throughout the county. The newly created fishing jetties at Pinicon Ridge Park have greatly improved the ice fishing on the Wapsi!
Snowshoeing opportunities area available at many of the Linn County Parks. Popular parks include Matsell Bridge Natural Area, Squaw Creek Park, Morgan Creek Park, Wickiup Hill Learning Area and Pinicon Ridge Park. Feel free to explore these parks, but please be careful to not disturb the cross-country ski trails!
The most popular sledding hills in Linn County Parks can be found at Squaw Creek Park and Pinicon Ridge Park. Squaw Creek Park features a lighted downhill sledding area, next to Red Cedar Lodge. Pinicon Ridge has a popular sledding hill located near Woodpecker Lodge.
Snowmobiling is allowed on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, north of Center Point (on unpaved surfaces). The Frozen Few Snowmobile Club has partnered with Linn County Conservation to share important updates and safety information regarding snowmobiling on the trail.