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Wade on the Trail with his dog

LMQC Outdoors Blogger, Wade Ellett, has found 4 local gems to check out as flowers reach their peak, summer returns to the Quad Cities and people return to our community parks and wild places.

There are so many great places to explore so close to home you’ll surprise yourself and never see your area parks the same way twice. Our outdoor blogger, Wade Ellett, shares some of his favorite discoveries with readers in today’s column.

Smithโ€™s Island Nature Trail – Pleasant Valley, IA

Smith’s Island is a bit of an oddity. Because it’s situated right next to Locks and Dam #14, this site seldom floods. There is a diverse population of flora and fauna that you won’t find on other islands in the Upper Mississippi River floodplain.

While there, we spotted painted turtles, a variety of frogs, and a plethora of bird species, but they were all too quick for me to snap any photos.

We also saw a few groundhogs, and several pelicans. Fair warning; we also spotted an abundance of poison ivy, so be on alert while you’re on the Nature Trail!

To access the island, you will have to cross the auxiliary lock chamber, so if boats come through while you’re there, you may have to wait on them. This can be fun too though, if you’ve never seen a lock and dam in operation.

Duck Creek Waterfall, Devil’s Glen Park – Bettendorf, IA

Devil’s Glen is Bettendorf’s first park, and Duck Creek flows alongside the bike path that winds through it, exposing beautiful limestone bluffs.

There are greats spots to sit and just listen to the water as it flows downstream through a mature oak forest.

If you follow the path, and Duck Creek, towards State Street, you’ll come to a bridge crossing the creek and overlooking a small waterfall flowing into the creek.

Alongside the small waterfall, behind Grant Street Auto, is a public picnic table. When was the last time you had a picnic beside a waterfall? I highly recommend it!

Lake Macbride Spillway, Lake Macbride State Park – Solon, IA

If you haven’t had enough of waterfalls, it’s time to head to Lake Macbride State Park. Okay, the spillway isn’t a naturally occurring waterfall, but it’s still pretty awesome.

You can reach the dam and spillway by taking the Beach to Dam trail from Lake Macbride Beach, or for a closer start, you can park at the Coralville Reservoir Boat Ramp.

Cross the dam and you’ll come to a large stone embankment. You can climb that for an amazing view of Lake Macbride to the East, and the Iowa River to the West.

After you come down, follow the path a little further and you’ll come to the waterfall created by the spillway. Artificial or not, this is pretty awesome.

Take care as you explore, as the rocks can get slippery. Don’t approach or cross the fence into the lake, and remember moving water can be stronger than it looks.

This is a popular spot, so you’ll likely have company while you’re there. Don’t let that stop you from visiting, however, as there’s lots of fun to be had here.

Lake Macbride has several nice campsites, the beach is fun to visit (even if it does get a little crowded), and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and Stand Up Paddle Boards to explore the lake.

The spillway is worth visiting, and the park is a good place to explore for the weekend.

Even looking for butterflies can give way to a chance to catch a few rays (and a few Zzz’s) on a hot, midwestern afternoon.

Butterfly Garden, Bellevue State Park – Bellevue, IA

Everybody loves butterflies. I’ve never asked someone, “Hey, do you like butterflies?” and gotten a negative response!

Bellevue State Park is also in agreement, as they’ve created a garden sanctuary for butterflies. This beautiful addition to the park aids butterflies, which are incredibly important pollinators, in the process of migration as well as during various stages of their life cycle.

The garden provides nectar plants to attract butterflies, and host plants for caterpillars. The plants and flowers themselves are lovely, and will attract around 60 species of butterflies over the season!

Have you been to all of these spots yet? If not, I hope you have the opportunity to do a little exploring of your own. It may be warm now, but can you remember how cold we were 6 months ago, and how badly we wanted to get outside?

Now is the time to do it, just be sure to wear your sunscreen, stay hydrated, and have fun!

There are so many great places to explore so close to home you’ll surprise yourself and never see your area parks the same way twice. Our outdoor blogger, Wade Ellett, shares some of his favorite discoveries with readers in today’s column.

Smithโ€™s Island Nature Trail – Pleasant Valley, IA

Smith’s Island is a bit of an oddity. Because it’s situated right next to Locks and Dam #14, this site seldom floods. There is a diverse population of flora and fauna that you won’t find on other islands in the Upper Mississippi River floodplain.

While there, we spotted painted turtles, a variety of frogs, and a plethora of bird species, but they were all too quick for me to snap any photos.

We also saw a few groundhogs, and several pelicans. Fair warning; we also spotted an abundance of poison ivy, so be on alert while you’re on the Nature Trail!

To access the island, you will have to cross the auxiliary lock chamber, so if boats come through while you’re there, you may have to wait on them. This can be fun too though, if you’ve never seen a lock and dam in operation.

Duck Creek Waterfall, Devil’s Glen Park – Bettendorf, IA

Devil’s Glen is Bettendorf’s first park, and Duck Creek flows alongside the bike path that winds through it, exposing beautiful limestone bluffs.

There are greats spots to sit and just listen to the water as it flows downstream through a mature oak forest.

If you follow the path, and Duck Creek, towards State Street, you’ll come to a bridge crossing the creek and overlooking a small waterfall flowing into the creek.

Alongside the small waterfall, behind Grant Street Auto, is a public picnic table. When was the last time you had a picnic beside a waterfall? I highly recommend it!

Lake Macbride Spillway, Lake Macbride State Park – Solon, IA

If you haven’t had enough of waterfalls, it’s time to head to Lake Macbride State Park. Okay, the spillway isn’t a naturally occurring waterfall, but it’s still pretty awesome.

You can reach the dam and spillway by taking the Beach to Dam trail from Lake Macbride Beach, or for a closer start, you can park at the Coralville Reservoir Boat Ramp.

Cross the dam and you’ll come to a large stone embankment. You can climb that for an amazing view of Lake Macbride to the East, and the Iowa River to the West.

After you come down, follow the path a little further and you’ll come to the waterfall created by the spillway. Artificial or not, this is pretty awesome.

Take care as you explore, as the rocks can get slippery. Don’t approach or cross the fence into the lake, and remember moving water can be stronger than it looks.

This is a popular spot, so you’ll likely have company while you’re there. Don’t let that stop you from visiting, however, as there’s lots of fun to be had here.

Lake Macbride has several nice campsites, the beach is fun to visit (even if it does get a little crowded), and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and Stand Up Paddle Boards to explore the lake.

The spillway is worth visiting, and the park is a good place to explore for the weekend.

Even looking for butterflies can give way to a chance to catch a few rays (and a few Zzz’s) on a hot, midwestern afternoon.

Butterfly Garden, Bellevue State Park – Bellevue, IA

Everybody loves butterflies. I’ve never asked someone, “Hey, do you like butterflies?” and gotten a negative response!

Bellevue State Park is also in agreement, as they’ve created a garden sanctuary for butterflies. This beautiful addition to the park aids butterflies, which are incredibly important pollinators, in the process of migration as well as during various stages of their life cycle.

The garden provides nectar plants to attract butterflies, and host plants for caterpillars. The plants and flowers themselves are lovely, and will attract around 60 species of butterflies over the season!

Have you been to all of these spots yet? If not, I hope you have the opportunity to do a little exploring of your own. It may be warm now, but can you remember how cold we were 6 months ago, and how badly we wanted to get outside?

Now is the time to do it, just be sure to wear your sunscreen, stay hydrated, and have fun!

Wade Ellett

Wade Ellett

Wanderer and Backpack Blogger

Wade is anย outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.