By LMQC Outside blogger Wade Ellett
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and old man winter has already started wrapping his gnarly fingers around the Midwest. But I’m going to stick with gratefulness and not complain!
I’m thankful to live in a beautiful river valley with so many amazing places to explore.
So in the spirit of the season, here are 3 new parks and trails I’d never been to before. They’re not far from home, and have a lot to offer!
I talk to a lot of people and do a lot of research to try to find interesting places to write about, but I just happened to stumble upon Discovery Park.
I’m grateful for that happy accident, because this is a great place! Discovery Park has a small trail system, but it’s quite nice.
You can stroll along one and a half miles of paved trail, perfect for strollers or wheelchair users. Off of this paved trail, you’ll find access to the 2 miles of primitive trails.
Though not too challenging, you’ll find yourself surrounded by trees, and I have no doubt it will be beautiful in the snow. After exploring the paved and primitive trails, warm up in the Environmental Learning Center.
It features a permanent exhibit outlining the changes that have occurred in the Iowa landscape, as well as temporary exhibits, live reptiles and fish, and raptor displays. Nature-loving kids will love a visit here!
Why I’m grateful I visited:
Everyone should be able to benefit from the great outdoors, but unfortunately, not everyone can take advantage of trails with difficult terrain.
Discovery Park is a great place to get your fix and is accessible to everyone. Additionally, I’m grateful that the Environmental Learning Center is helping the next generation of adventurers learn about conservation and our environment.
With 6 miles of trails, much of which follows alongside the beautiful Cedar River, a hiker will have a pretty great time here.
During my visit, I explored the Overlook Trail, following it until I ran into a climber and had a great conversation.
If you’re interested in rock climbing or bouldering, there are a number of routes and problems for you to tackle. That’s not something you’re going to find at most state parks in the Midwest, but Palisades-Kepler is full of surprises!
On my return path on Overlook Trail, in what seemed like a scene from a Dan Brown novel, I noticed a staircase leading to an opening in a wall that I hadn’t seen on my approach.
As I descended, I realized it opened up onto the dam. I made my way onto a sandbar and watched the rapids on the Cedar River.
If you head down this way, exercise a great deal of caution because there are very strong currents, and loose footing.
For a higher vantage point, I made my way up the Cedar Cliff Trail to a small pavilion and an observation point overlooking the river. It’s a beautiful spot up there.
Though I’m certain many have made the relatively short pilgrimage in the summer months, I’m eager to make the trek in the snow (anyone have snowshoes I can borrow?), because I’m certain that the Cedar River looks beautiful when it’s icy.
Why I’m grateful I visited:
Palisades-Kepler State Park is pretty unique in the area. Between the climbing and bouldering opportunities – and incredible trails cutting through hardwood trees, ravines, and bluffs – this park feels like an ideal outdoor recreation area.
Add camping and boating once the wheel of seasons spins back around again, and this will really be the place to be.
Following a suggestion, I recently visited Soaring Eagle Nature Center. Though I had my doubts at first, I’m quite glad that I visited this spot!
While the Nature Center itself is only open for events and by appointment, the rest of the property is yours to explore until nightfall.
Roughly 3 miles of trails wind through and around restored native tall grass prairie, wetlands, and woodlands. The twisting and turning trails make the entire place feel bigger than it is.
You can use the trails to hike from the Nature Center to the Flannery One-Room Schoolhouse, which is the last-built and only remaining one-room schoolhouse in Clinton County.
The trails also connect to Eagle Point Park, where you can, if you’re interested, climb the stairs in the castle-like stone tower. I highly recommend it!
You’ll also find the Prairie Pasture Dog Park at Soaring Eagle. If you’re looking for a place to let your 4-legged friend run free, you’ll both love it. It features more than 8 acres with interesting structures, terrain, and plenty of running. Please note, however, that dogs must be leashed on the Soaring Eagle trails.
Why I’m grateful I visited:
One word; castle! Okay, I know that the stone tower isn’t technically a castle, and technically it’s part of Eagle Point Park.
However, since it’s accessible by Soaring Eagle trails, I’m going to count it.
Additionally, the trails are well-maintained, despite a fallen tree here or there, and the scenery varies so much, that you’ll feel as though you’re experiencing much more than 3 miles of hiking.
Although much of the hiking is simple and easy, you will find a few hills that could prove a little challenging depending on your skill level.
If you live in the Quad Cities, it’s a relatively short drive (which could be said of all the places I visited this month, actually), and if you live in Clinton, it’s just right around the corner! There are tons of great spots in our neck of the woods, and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to explore them!
You probably won’t find me at a store on Black Friday. Instead, I’ll be enjoying the great outdoors with people that I love. That’s the kind of life I’m grateful for!
I hope that you’ll consider spending some time in nature yourself this month. What spots are you grateful for? I’d love to hear about them!
|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.|