Recently I’ve been asked if I could write about some alternatives to state and local parks. So I set out to find some interesting local spots that are a little less civilized, and spent some time in some of Iowa’s beautiful Wildlife Management Areas.
If you’re ready for a little more “wild” in your wilderness, this post will be a step in the right direction.
There are a few things that you need to keep in mind while exploring these areas. You won’t find the same amenities that you would find in a local park or even a state park.
There are much more primitive areas, and that’s what I love about them!
Also, keep in mind that public hunting is allowed in wildlife management areas, so you’ll want to wear bright clothing if you visit during hunting season. I also recommend reading the uses and restrictions on Iowa’s Wildlife Management Area before you head out.
1. Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area is off Scott County Park Road. Setting out from the parking lot, you’ll stroll down a) trail leading to a lake. From there, you’ll be able to decide whether you’ll fork left or fork right.
If you head right, you’ll be alongside soccer fields, and the path is a little clearer to the left. That’s the way we headed.
As you walk, you’ll find a number of smaller paths leading down to the lake. I recommend taking them, especially if you’re an angler, or if you just feel like sitting and relaxing next to a small body of water and relaxing for awhile.
If you keep going on that left trail, you’ll be able to circle the lake, or wander a little farther and run into Crow Creek. I must warn you, if you’re exploring here after rain (which we did), it’s going to be pretty swampy.
Crow Creek is a pretty cool place to explore, but if you’re If you’re wanting to get a little farther from sports fields, check out our next stop….
2. Lost Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area features a few trails, but you may also consider just wandering the grassy uplands without a trail. You’ll also find lots of fishing here!
Despite the chill and rain, we shared the area with numerous anglers during our visit. It may seem like this spot was practically made for fishermen, and that’s because it was! Starting in 1988, the DNR started acquiring the land, and in 2010 a dam was constructed to impede Lost Grove Creek, leading to the lake you’ll find here today.
Lost Grove Lake is easy to find – it’s just 6 miles north of Davenport on Utica Ridge Road – and it does have a few amenities, like boat access, a fishing pier, and a vault toilet.
With so many people fishing, you’re not likely to have the place to yourself, but there is plenty of room to spread out.
I don’t know about you, but Crow Creek and Lost Grove Lake can be a little too civilized for me. Sometimes I just want to disappear into the trees and not see another human for awhile. I dig the solitude. If that’s what you’re looking for, try heading out to….
3. Indian Bluffs Wildlife Management Area is probably my favorite of all the places I’ve explored in the last few months.
Stone outcroppings and bluffs jut out of the ground, a pleasant variation in scenery from the fields that surround us.
Jurden Creek cuts through the area before meeting up with the Maquoketa River, alongside which is a nice, albeit slightly overgrown, trail.
If you wander more freely, you’ll find overlooks from which you can observe the valley below, where we saw deer making their way to the aforementioned creek.
The hilly landscape is physically demanding, but it makes for a great day of exploring. Best of all, since it’s an out-of-the-way spot, and a decent size at 830 acres. You can spend an entire day out here without seeing another soul. If you’re ready for that kind of experience, this is a place you should consider visiting.
Keep in mind that while there are trails here, they may break into game trails, or open up in the timber.
If you’re not comfortable navigating off trail, take special care not to get off track.
Additionally, several trees have fallen across the trails in some spots, so you’ll have to crawl under or climb over. I think that’s fun, but I understand it’s not for everybody.
To get to Indian Bluffs, you’ll need to head over to Jones County, Iowa, near Maquoketa Caves State Park. Indian Bluffs comes up on a Google Maps search and GPS, but the last bit of the journey is on dirt roads. I would advise against making the trip in inclement weather, unless your vehicle is suited for it. Note that if you continue straight after seeing the Indian Bluffs sign, a parking area will be just ahead on your right.
Cell service is incredibly spotty out here, so be safe and let someone know when you’re headed out here and when to expect you back, just in case.
If any of these sound like your sort of place, let me know how your explorations go! I’m always eager to hear about your adventures.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure these wildlife management areas are for you though, we’ve got a lot more posts coming this spring and summer that will help you find some fun outdoor spots that are right for you!
|Meet Wade Ellett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger. Wade is an outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.|