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Wade on the Trail with his dog

LMQC’s outdoor blogger, Teri Stickler, and her faithful companion, Kaia, take to the trails of the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center near Dixon, Iowa, to discover the joy of snowshoeing and find some great wintertime fun.

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

Kaia and I decided to bring in the New Year in a most appropriate way, enjoying some fresh snow and crisp, clean air. Kaia was already well outfitted for the day with her Samoyed double coat, perfect for the season and I bundled up to join her.

Time for an outdoor adventure!

Kaia isn’t overly impressed with the first wickiup she checked out at the Waspi Center – but her day of outdoor adventure was far from over!

We headed to the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center (click here for directions). What a find! Grab your coat, get your hat and gloves, put on your snow boots, or better yet, some snowshoes, and take the short 30-minute drive from the Quad Cities to Dixon, Iowa. Once you come, you’ll come again and again.

Don’t have snowshoes? Or cross-country skis? Not to worry, the Center will loan you some for free. Just bring your license to hold the equipment, remain on the park property and return to the Center when you are done. They have a variety of sizes, children to adult.

A brief history of snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a very old tradition thought to have been developed in Asia 4,000-6,000 years ago. Pieces of wood or leather were strapped to one’s shoes, “Shoe Skies,” thus allowing for the ability to walk like a snowshoe rabbit on top of the snow.

Over time other designs emerged. Today’s “traditional” webbed snowshoes, using wooden frames and webbing of rawhide lacework, are thought to have originated with indigenous North American people.

Not only functional, these four basic styles, the Michigan or Beaver Tail, the Alaskan or Yukon, the Objibwa and the Bearpaw, were true works of art. Today, however, aluminum, plastic, and like-material snowshoes are popular.

The Wapsi Center is on the site of a former Boy Scout Camp

Some readers may remember when this area was Camp Minneyata Boy Scout Camp. When the camp was closed in 1994, the Scott County Conservation Board took over the property. Come and check it out.

The Wapsi River Center boasts 225 acres of upland and bottomland forests, wetlands and grasslands. Combined that with Sherman Park, across the river, and one can enjoy 432 acres of land. Come, go hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, bird and wildlife watching, do nature study, and photography or enjoy one of the many educational programs and workshops offered.

In fact, should you be so inclined, you can even rent Kestrel Cabin and spend more than just a few hours here.

Teri and Kaia take the River Trail

Teri and Kaia find a much warmer shelter a littel further down the trail.

This day Kaia and I took the well identified River Trail. Had it not been winter, we could have used the stairs to the water’s edge and done some canoeing or kayaking, but instead we paused, watched a deer we interrupted on our walk, and enjoyed the serenity.

While by the river, Kaia patiently waited while I experimented with a handy camera mount site where one could position their phone, set the timer, and “run” to get in the picture. Have you ever tried to run, turn and back up in snowshoes?

As I said, Kaia was patient, but I think she was laughing a bit under her breath with my antics to get next to her for the picture. After that excitement we proceeded further on the trail and came upon an area with several picnic tables and the makings of a wickiup. It is very interesting how these structures are lashed together to make a comfortable shelter.

This wickiup was only the skeletal form, but further on our walk we entered one covered with evergreen boughs. Quite warm inside, out of any wind and very peaceful.

It was a cold but beautiful, sunny day and there were other trails to explore. In winter the River Trail and Woodland Trail are good for snowshoeing whereas the Levee Trail is for cross-country skiing. The trails are open daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. year-round though they advise you call ahead to inquire about conditions.

You can explore local wildlife out of the cold, too

When we finished our hike, I decided to check out the Eagle’s View Eco Center. The Eco Center is open year-round M-F 8a.m.-4:30p.m., Saturdays 12:30-4:30 and other times by appointment. It offers a wide variety of exhibits and displays.

There is also a live animal Reptile and Amphibian Room (including the resident horned owl,) and a meeting area where workshops are offered throughout the year. Today, Cocoa Picasso Day, one of the Center’s Naturalists spoke about winters in Iowa then led participants, step-by-step through making their own seasonal painting. (Many workshops are free whereas others have a small fee to cover supplies.) This workshop was topped off with some yummy hot chocolate.

There’s a lot going on at the Wapsi Center

Be sure to check out upcoming events on the Scott County Conservation Facebook Page and the Friends of the Wapsi Center Facebook Page. Be sure to sign up early, as space is limited!

Worth mentioning, as you drive into the Center, you’ll pass the Menke Observatory site, owned and operated by St. Ambrose University. It houses three telescopes and a classroom. Each year the Observatory hosts public star gazing events and is also available for educational programs. The Observatory is open to the public for special occasions. Contact the Wapsi River Center to learn more.

 

Helpful Links:

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

Kaia and I decided to bring in the New Year in a most appropriate way, enjoying some fresh snow and crisp, clean air. Kaia was already well outfitted for the day with her Samoyed double coat, perfect for the season and I bundled up to join her.

Time for an outdoor adventure!

Kaia isn’t overly impressed with the first wickiup she checked out at the Waspi Center – but her day of outdoor adventure was far from over!

We headed to the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center (click here for directions). What a find! Grab your coat, get your hat and gloves, put on your snow boots, or better yet, some snowshoes, and take the short 30-minute drive from the Quad Cities to Dixon, Iowa. Once you come, you’ll come again and again.

Don’t have snowshoes? Or cross-country skis? Not to worry, the Center will loan you some for free. Just bring your license to hold the equipment, remain on the park property and return to the Center when you are done. They have a variety of sizes, children to adult.

A brief history of snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a very old tradition thought to have been developed in Asia 4,000-6,000 years ago. Pieces of wood or leather were strapped to one’s shoes, “Shoe Skies,” thus allowing for the ability to walk like a snowshoe rabbit on top of the snow.

Over time other designs emerged. Today’s “traditional” webbed snowshoes, using wooden frames and webbing of rawhide lacework, are thought to have originated with indigenous North American people.

Not only functional, these four basic styles, the Michigan or Beaver Tail, the Alaskan or Yukon, the Objibwa and the Bearpaw, were true works of art. Today, however, aluminum, plastic, and like-material snowshoes are popular.

The Wapsi Center is on the site of a former Boy Scout Camp

Some readers may remember when this area was Camp Minneyata Boy Scout Camp. When the camp was closed in 1994, the Scott County Conservation Board took over the property. Come and check it out.

The Wapsi River Center boasts 225 acres of upland and bottomland forests, wetlands and grasslands. Combined that with Sherman Park, across the river, and one can enjoy 432 acres of land. Come, go hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, bird and wildlife watching, do nature study, and photography or enjoy one of the many educational programs and workshops offered.

In fact, should you be so inclined, you can even rent Kestrel Cabin and spend more than just a few hours here.

Teri and Kaia take the River Trail

Teri and Kaia find a much warmer shelter a littel further down the trail.

This day Kaia and I took the well identified River Trail. Had it not been winter, we could have used the stairs to the water’s edge and done some canoeing or kayaking, but instead we paused, watched a deer we interrupted on our walk, and enjoyed the serenity.

While by the river, Kaia patiently waited while I experimented with a handy camera mount site where one could position their phone, set the timer, and “run” to get in the picture. Have you ever tried to run, turn and back up in snowshoes?

As I said, Kaia was patient, but I think she was laughing a bit under her breath with my antics to get next to her for the picture. After that excitement we proceeded further on the trail and came upon an area with several picnic tables and the makings of a wickiup. It is very interesting how these structures are lashed together to make a comfortable shelter.

This wickiup was only the skeletal form, but further on our walk we entered one covered with evergreen boughs. Quite warm inside, out of any wind and very peaceful.

It was a cold but beautiful, sunny day and there were other trails to explore. In winter the River Trail and Woodland Trail are good for snowshoeing whereas the Levee Trail is for cross-country skiing. The trails are open daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. year-round though they advise you call ahead to inquire about conditions.

You can explore local wildlife out of the cold, too

When we finished our hike, I decided to check out the Eagle’s View Eco Center. The Eco Center is open year-round M-F 8a.m.-4:30p.m., Saturdays 12:30-4:30 and other times by appointment. It offers a wide variety of exhibits and displays.

There is also a live animal Reptile and Amphibian Room (including the resident horned owl,) and a meeting area where workshops are offered throughout the year. Today, Cocoa Picasso Day, one of the Center’s Naturalists spoke about winters in Iowa then led participants, step-by-step through making their own seasonal painting. (Many workshops are free whereas others have a small fee to cover supplies.) This workshop was topped off with some yummy hot chocolate.

There’s a lot going on at the Wapsi Center

Be sure to check out upcoming events on the Scott County Conservation Facebook Page and the Friends of the Wapsi Center Facebook Page. Be sure to sign up early, as space is limited!

Worth mentioning, as you drive into the Center, you’ll pass the Menke Observatory site, owned and operated by St. Ambrose University. It houses three telescopes and a classroom. Each year the Observatory hosts public star gazing events and is also available for educational programs. The Observatory is open to the public for special occasions. Contact the Wapsi River Center to learn more.

 

Helpful Links:

Teri Stickler

Teri Stickler

Outdoor Blogger and Co-Adventurer

Meet Teri Stickler. Teri is a retired Quad-City teacher. She thoroughly enjoys the out-of-doors, sharing most of her adventures with her Samoyed companion, Kaia.