Posts Categorized: Driftless Trails

Tools for Your Driftless Region Summer


Looking to truly rock your Driftless Region summer? Trails-App-2Check out these handy maps, apps, and resources to help make it all happen!

Iowa by Trail

For over 30 years, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has been helping establish recreational trails across the state. In just the past year, they have released a highly useful App that not only locates trails, but shows points of interest along the way, natural resource information, and also tracks distance, weather, events, and more. Check it out for iPhone or Android here.


Trout Run Trail Bike Map:

A handy pocket map of the TRT and Prairie Farmer Trail was produced in 2014 by Winneshiek County Conservation, the Winneshiek County CVB, and Inspire(d) Media (that’s us!). Points of interest, difficulty, and fun tips are all included. They’ve flown off of racks, but can still be found at the Decorah Visitors Center, Decorah Campground, and various locations in downtown Decorah. You can also find on on-line version here.

Trout Fishing Map:

An awesome pocket-sized reference guide to Winneshiek County Trout Fishing Streams is available from the Northeast Iowa RC&D and Winneshiek County CVB. It’s an extremely well done map that features streams and public areas that you may not even know of! Grab a copy at the Winneshiek County CVB office or contact Northeast Iowa RC&D at 563-864-7112.

Water Trail Maps

The Driftless Region is rich with great river and stream trails for paddling and fishing. Here in Northeast Iowa, we’re lucky to have an amazing resource for water trail maps also from the Northeast Iowa RC&D. Maps for the Turkey, Yellow, Wapsipinicon, and Upper Iowa Rivers are all available for a very small cost, or for free download. Plan your summer adventures on the great wild water of the Driftless –

New Historical Decorah Walking Trail Signs “A Walk Into the Past”

A new series of historical signs have been placed around downtown Decorah offering glimpses into the past at specific sites. Decorah High School art teacher Elizabeth Lorentzen, retired Luther professor Ed Epperly, and the Winneshiek County Historical Society have teamed up to create and implement the project, placing almost 20 historical signs throughout Downtown Decorah. A walking map is planned for this summer (2015) – we’ll keep you posted!

Hike, Totally: Take a Walk in the Driftless

Photo by Lauren Kraus

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Soaring bluffs, craggy rocks, open fields, and mossy trails… yes, the Driftless Region is an amazing place for a nice, long hike. Or even a quick walk!

There are tons of wonderful trails – both rugged and groomed – in Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Southwest Wisconsin. Inspire(d) has featured a good number of them through a series by former contributor Lauren Kraus (see below for the list), but we felt it was about time to talk the walk (pun!) again.

Inspired by the (relatively) new Driftless Area Hikers Club, we decided to catch up with club leader, Peg Matter, to get some hiking tips and new trail ideas. Matter, former co-owner of Decorah Hatchery, was off on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore as we were going to press, so good thing for the Internet!

The Driftless Area Hikers Club was founded by the Decorah Hatchery, and hikes are generally led by Matter. Each month, the club does one full day, 8 to 12-mile-hike in the Driftless Region, and also one half-day, 5-mile hike in the Decorah area. There is also a walking group that meets in Decorah in the parking lot across from the Dunning Springs’ entrance every Tuesday at 5:15 pm for an hour-long walk in the woods. Find details at or by inquiring at Decorah Hatchery (

Plus, more good news: Waking is not only good for your body; it’s good for your mind as well. A recent Stanford study found that walking increases your creativity by an average of 60 percent! As Henry David Thoreau says, “The moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

Do you have a favorite trail in the Driftless Region you think we should feature? Let us know! Email aryn [at] with your ideas. Thanks!

Photo courtesy Peg Matter


Interview with Driftless Area Hikers Club leader, Peg Matter

Do you have any favorite trails in the area that we haven’t covered yet?

City, county, and state parks provide beautiful, well-groomed hiking trails in the Driftless Region. We even have a national park in Iowa – Effigy Mounds National Park – with plenty of hiking trails, Mississippi river overlooks, and of course effigy mounds that are thousands of years old. There is a great museum and kids can spend the day earning a junior ranger badge.

At Pikes Peak State Park (Iowa) you can see the Wisconsin River entering into the Mississippi along with the limestone bluffs you expect in the region. There is a mature maple forest providing shade on hot summer days and beautiful fall colors later in the season. There are enough hiking trails that you can do an all day loop or head out for just a couple hours.

Backbone State park was Iowa’s first state park and is at the southwestern limits of the Driftless area. You will find a backbone of bedrock jutting out over the Maquoketa River. The river is dammed, providing a lake with a swimming beach or you can kayak around the lake and then up the river a good distance before returning downstream to the lake. There are 21 miles of trail going by springs, caves, sinkholes and karst topography. The East Lake trail and Backbone are not to be missed.

Backbone BackboneBuilding
Photos courtesy Peg Matter


Pike’s Peak State Park
McGregor, Iowa

Of special note: There are fossil remains including brachiopods, gastropods and cephalopods, and the trail goes past Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful (and cool in the summer) spring. Note there is road construction heading into the park through the end of July, 2015

Backbone State Park,
Between Strawberry Point and Dundee, Iowa

Of special note: There are exclusive trails for snowmobiling and /or cross-country skiing in the winter, and also mountain biking trails: Barred Owl, Bluebird, East Lake, and West Lake. Plus, there are opportunities to rock climb here! The most popular climbing spots are located near Backbone Trail. Climbers must register at the park office.

What do you need to head out on the trail?

Basics for heading into the woods – other than the all important water – are sun protection (hat, lotion, sun glasses), extra layer (rain coat), first aid supplies, illumination (headlamp or flashlight), and insect repellent. You can spray your feet and socks with insect repellent before heading into a tick area.

If you’re heading out for a longer hike it is important to have a map. Many parks have maps of their trails on line that you can print off before leaving home. Otherwise if there is a map posted at the trailhead, take of picture of it with your phone so that you will have something to refer back to. Learn more about other helpful items by researching the Ten Essentials for hiking (see below for details).

Are there any extra tips you’ve gathered over your years of hiking?

Knowing your plants and animals will enhance your hiking experience. Additionally it’s good to be able to recognize poison ivy, to know which wild parsnip causes a reaction, and to study up on deer ticks to reduce the fear factor. Consider yourself lucky if you ever see a rattlesnake!

Remember the Leave No Trace principle: You carry it in, you carry it out – that means apple cores and orange peels too, so bring a little plastic bag.

What do you think is the best part about hiking?

Hiking is a great way to spend time with friends and family, appreciating the beauty of our parks and feeling good after a nice long walk. The solitude of a walk in the woods is restorative also, just be sure to let someone know that you’re headed out – or sign in at the register box by the trailhead if they have one.

Photo by Lauren Kraus


The original Ten Essentials list was assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors. In 2003, the group updated the list to a “systems” approach rather than listing individual items (for example, map and compass now fall into the Navigation “system”.)

Updated Ten Essential “Systems”

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Check other features highlighting the Driftless Region!

Decorah Area Trails: Twin Springs, Upper Ice Cave Hill in Dunning’s Spring Park, and Van Peenen Park

Trails north of Decorah: Pine Bluff and Coon Creek

The Backwoods of Winneshiek County: Bear Creek and Pine Creek Areas

Falcon Springs State Wildlife Area and Lionberger Environmental Preserve

Trails at Lake Meyer (Calmar, Iowa) + Mother’s Day Trail in Decorah

Southeast Minnesota: Root River State Trail and Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail

Effigy Mounds National Monument (NE Iowa)

Kickapoo Valley Reserve (SW Wisconsin)


Myrick Park Center


Myrick Park Center
789 Myrick Park Drive
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601
608- 782-2494

Regular Hours (for center): MondayFriday, 8am to 4pm
Additional Hours open for scheduled Nature Programs
Admission: Free
For more information on WisCorps programming: Contact Steph Hanna at

So quiet is Myrick Park on a recent January afternoon that it would be easy to assume there’s little to do in this gem of a park, the oldest in La Crosse.

That assumption would be wrong.

The park’s sprawling expanse boasts trails for hiking, biking, and running; wetlands for exploring; and a natural play scape for, well, playing. And thanks to the efforts of WisCorps – a nonprofit headquartered in the park that engages youth and young adults in conservation projects on public lands – there are also many exciting educational programs in store for this spring and summer.


Kids ages three to eight will have the opportunity to make bug catchers, play butterfly tag, and (yikes!) catch frogs at the summer day camps offered at Myrick Park from mid-June through mid-August. And they won’t be the only ones having fun in the great outdoors. WisCorps also offers special programs just for adults at Myrick Park on the first Wednesday of each month. “Our evening programs are free and give grown-ups the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of nature, especially that of the Driftless Region,” says Steph Hanna, WisCorps education manager. “They also help remind people of the many benefits of unplugging and spending time in the outdoors.”

Of course parks and celebrations go hand in hand, and Myrick Park will host two big celebratory events this spring. An Earth Fair scheduled for Sunday, April 24, 2016 offers a fun run, a farmers’ market, live music, and a range of kids activities, while the International Migratory Bird Day Celebration on Saturday, May 7, kicks off bright and early with a sunrise bird hike and bird-banding activities.

What not to miss:
Check out all the Myrick Park Center public programs here! Plus add these to your calendar:

Reptile Roundup – Wednesdays, 10 am – 1 pm,
Speak with nature specialists, Matt, as he cleans tanks and feeds critters

Beekeeper Buzz – Thursdays, 10-11:30 am (in the summer only),
Don’t miss checking up on the honeybees in the observation hive during the summer and listen to Ken from the La Crosse Area Beekeeper’s Association talk about the incredible complexity of a beehive.

EnviroWeds – First Wednesday night of every month at 7 pm,
Environmentally themed programs for adults

International Migratory Bird Day, Saturday May 6, 2017

Earth Day marsh cleanupSaturday, April 29, 2017 9 am – 2 pm (lunch provided)

Earth FairSunday, April 30, 2017 from 11 am -5 pm at Myrick Park

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam