Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs has been awarded the Presidents' Engaged Campus Award for the Greenhouse Initiative, a partnership with several partners including Golden Hills.
Golden Hills is excited and grateful to be part of this effort and congratulates Iowa Western and all our partners. Golden Hills is using space in the greenhouse for growing native prairie plants as part of our Prairie Seed project. Earlier this year, we had two educational workshops on campus with more than 40 people who learned about growing native plants. At the classes, we started seeds in the greenhouse and intend to have a native plant sale this spring. Learn more about the project and partners in this video.
The Presidents’ Engaged Campus Awards recognize, celebrate, and tell the story of great individuals, projects, and programs in both Iowa and Minnesota. Through the presidents’ awards categories every campus has the opportunity to recognize students, faculty & staff, and partners leading the way in their campus community. We also have selective award categories to showcase innovation, collaboration, employer partnerships, and civic-minded alumni.
Nominations were submitted by member campuses and partners, and scored by independent reviewers. Twelve projects were selected for 2020 awards. The greenhouse initiative won in the category of Emerging Innovation: A recent project, program or initiative making unique and innnovative contributions that demonstrate strong future potential, including student-led projects.
Learn more about the Presidents' Engaged Campus Awards here and read their official press release about 2020 awards. here.
Below are a few photos of the classes and the plants currently growing in the greenhouse.
Learn more about this project at goldenhillsrcd.org/prairieseed
Hiking and walking are excellent ways to get outdoors and distance yourself from others. The Loess Hills Missouri River Region has many miles of beautiful public hiking and walking trails. Per CDC recommendations, avoid recreating in groups and leave more space than you think you need between yourself and others.
The WanderLoess Backcountry Hikes page includes some of the more rugged and longer hikes in Harrison, Mills, and Pottawattamie counties. Golden Hills RC&D has also developed an online Loess Hills Hiking Guide with a map of places to hike throughout the seven-county Loess Hills region. This list expands on that and includes hiking trails and walking paths for all ages and abilities in the Loess Hills Missouri River region. Is your favorite hiking or walking trail missing? Let us know! Learn about other parks, trails, and much more in the region at WanderLoess.com.
Other hiking resources to check out:
Arrowhead Park - Hiking trails wind through wooded hillsides around a beautiful pond popular for fishing and paddling. Arrowhead Park trails map.
Botna Bend Park - Best known for live elk and bison, Botna Bend includes nature trails through prairies and woods along the West Nishnabotna River in Hancock. Botna Bend map.
Council Bluffs trails - More than 40 miles of mostly-flat, paved trails connect the Missouri riverfront with Big Lake Park, Lake Manawa State Park, and much more. Council Bluffs trail map.
Desoto National Wildlife Refuge - This refuge includes hiking trails through a large wildlife refuge along the Missouri River. It’s a great place to see wildlife, especially waterfowl and other birds. Desoto refuge brochure & map.
Edgington Memorial Park, Avoca - Over a mile of paved, flat trails loop through this city park, along and across the East Branch of the West Nishnabotna River. Trails also connect into nearby neighborhoods. Map of Edgington Park.
Fairmount Park - Fairmount is a hidden gem in the middle of the metro. This city park has a few miles of rugged hiking trails through wooded Loess Hills with scattered prairies and restored oak savanna overlooking Council Bluffs and the Omaha skyline. Map to Fairmount Park.
Folsom Point Preserve - Owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, this nearly-300 acre area features beautiful remnant prairies overlooking the Missouri River valley just minutes from Council Bluffs and Omaha. Hiking paths lead from the parking area to the ridgetop. Map to Folsom Point.
Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve - Located just outside Glenwood, the 900-acre preserve includes paved trails through woods and prairies. Formerly known as Foothills Park, the site is known to have numerous archaeological sites from the prehistoric Glenwood culture. Map to the Glenwood preserve.
Harrison County Welcome Center - In addition to an Iowa Welcome Center and historical village complex, this welcome center just outside Missouri Valley. Welcome Center map.
Hitchcock Nature Center is Pottawattamie County’s premier hiking destination located near Honey Creek. It has 10 miles of trails through Loess Hills prairies, woodlands and savanna. Hitchcock trail map.
Lewis & Clark Monument Park - With five miles of trails over 80 acres, this Council Bluffs city park features commanding views of the Missouri River, Council Bluffs, and downtown Omaha. The trails are also popular for mountain biking. Lewis & Clark park trail map.
Loess Hills State Forest (LHSF) & Preparation Canyon State Park- The state forest and park encompass nearly 12,000 acres over four units in Harrison and Monona counties, with dozens of miles of hiking-only trails.
Mile Hill Lake - This park is located along Highway 34 near Glenwood and includes hiking paths through woods, prairies, and a marsh. The lake is popular for fishing and paddling. Map to Mile Hill Lake.
Milliman Park - Logan city park with a short hiking trail. Milliman Park trail map.
Oakland City Parks - Oakland has three city parks with popular walking trails. Chautauqua Park includes flat, paved trails near the West Nishnabotna River. Map to Chautauqua Park.
Old Town Conservation Area - This area has about 10 miles of hiking trails through prairies and woodlands overlooking the Boyer and Missouri river valleys as well as the community of Missouri Valley. Old Town trail map.
Pleasant View Park - Dunlap city park with short, ADA-accessible walking trail around a smal pond. Pleasant View Park trail map.
Pony Creek Nature Center - Pony Creek features a popular lake, nature center, campgrounds, and rugged Loess Hills hiking trails through woods and prairies. Map to Pony Creek.
Ray Thomas Wildlife Preserve - Mills County Conservation Board’s Ray Thomas Preserve in has a mowed walking path through woodlands and restored prairies in eastern Mills County. Map to Ray Thomas preserve.
Rock Island Old Stone Arch Nature Trail - This paved trail located primarily in Shelby County extends just into Pottawattamie County with a trailhead near the Shelby exit on Interstate 80. The trail runs west through woods, prairies, wetlands, and creeks and crosses Silver Creek on an historic Stone Arch Bridge. Map to trailhead.
Sawmill Hollow Wildlife Area - Known best for a popular fishing hole, Sawmill Hollow has 155 acres of wooded Loess Hills and ridgetop prairie to explore. Sawmill Hollow map.
Schaben Park - Located near Dunlap in northeastern Harrison County, hiking trails surround a small pond through oak woodlands. Schaben Park trail map.
Smith Wildlife Area - This little-known wildlife area includes 175 wooded acres located immediately outside of Council Bluffs and is open to hiking throughout.
Vincent Bluff State Preserve - A 42-acre remnant prairie in the middle of Council Bluffs with panoramic views of the city. A short footpath leads from the parking lot to the ridgetop. Map to Vincent Bluff.
Wabash Trace Nature Trail - This crushed limestone trail follows a former railroad line from Council Bluffs to Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, and beyond. It’s also popular with bicyclists. Trailheads are located in each community. Wabash Trace trail map.
West Oak Forest - Hike up steep Loess Hills bluffs overlooking the Missouri River valley between Glenwood and Council Bluffs. More than three miles of trails through woodlands and remnant prairies. Map to West Oak Forest.
Wheeler Grove Conservation Area - This 247-acre wildlife area in eastern Pottawattamie County has prairies, oak savanna, and woodlands to explore along Jordan Creek. Map to Wheeler Grove.
Willow Lake Recreation Area - 220-acre park near Woodbine, including popular lake and campgrounds. Hiking trails wind through Loess Hills prairies and around the lake. Willow Lake map.
Wilson Island Recreation Area - Adjacent to Desoto refuge, this 544-acre state-managed area has trails winding through floodplain woodlands near the Missouri River. Wilson Island trail map.
In addition to all these great places, take a hike through your yard, farm, or neighborhood. Stop and listen to birds and other wildlife. Look for wildflowers, mosses, and lichens. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to see and do right here in our region!
Outdoor recreation, specifically bicycling, is a great way to stay healthy. Riding solo is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you encounter others on the trail, maintain as much distance as possible; even much more than 6-feet. Note that many public restrooms and drinking fountains are closed to the public, as are campgrounds and many businesses. Come prepared with everything you might need on a ride (bring extra water and snacks!) and hit the restroom before you leave. Take hand sanitizer, avoid touching surfaces, and don't touch your face. If you have symptoms, stay home. Wash your hands, shower as soon, and change clothes as you get home.
With this in mind, realize that our region has great trails and many low-traffic roads and streets. Check out the resources below to find a place to ride!
Always wear a helmet and obey traffic laws. Check out Golden Hills' bicycling resources page for more information on safe bicycling habits and practices.
Stay safe and healthy, and have fun out there!
2019 was an exciting year for Golden Hills RC&D, with several new projects and programs. Check out our annual report below, or click the image to download a pdf version.
As we kick off the new year (& new decade), you may be thinking about a New Year's Resolution or finding new things to do in western Iowa. Golden Hills can help!
Satisfy wanderlust with WanderLoess - The Loess Hills Missouri River Region of Mills, Pottawattamie, and Harrison counties offers countless recreational and cultural activities. We help coordinate this regional initiative. Find them all at WanderLoess.com.
Take a hike - Our Loess Hills Hiking Guide includes information about hiking trails in the beautiful Loess Hills. For a long, rugged hike, check out Brent's Trail, which just opened in 2019.
Take the scenic route - Get off the freeway and see our small towns. Golden Hills coordinates three of Iowa's Byways. Western Skies Scenic Byway parallels Interstate 80, the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway is a great alternative to Interstate 29, and Glacial Trail Scenic Byway is an easy weekend getaway in northwest Iowa.
Cure cabin fever with a cabin stay- Several state parks and county parks offer cabin rentals, including some year-round. The Loess Hills Hideaway Cabins in Monona County are a privately owned business near the Loess Hills State Forest. Golden Hills is working with several partners to add new cabins at Willow Lake, Arrowhead, and Pony Creek in 2020.
Support local farmers - Check out a farmers market, join a CSA, or find local food producers in your neighborhood with our Southwest Iowa Local Food Guide.
Go for a bike ride - Golden Hills is helping our small towns and rural areas become more bikeable. We coordinate the regional Frontier Iowa Trails network, work to expand bike routes, and help educate people about safe bicycling. Each September, we host the annual Loess Hills Parks & Peaks Bicycle Tour. In 2020, we are also planning a bike ride as part of the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.
Visit Fremont County's - Check out the abundant prairies, wetlands, hills, and rivers of southwest Iowa through our Fremont County Outdoor Adventures programs.
Go paddling - The West Nishnabotna Water Trail in eastern Pottawattamie County is the only state-designated water trail in our part of the state. Golden Hills helped establish the water trail and is currently working with DNR to extend the designation into Shelby County. Many other rivers and lakes also have paddling accesses. We also have educational programs and floats through our Explore Your Watershed events.
Grow native plants - Learn how to harvest prairie seed and grow native flowers, shrubs, grasses, and trees through our Growing Natives and Native Oak Project workshops.
Go hunting - As a partner with the Southwest Iowa Communities for Pheasants and Farmers Initiative, we are working to expand wildlife habitat and public access for hunting.
Support local artists - The Southwest Iowa Art Tour is held every September in multiple communities throughout the region. Waubonsie State Park hosts artists in residence during the winter, with public programs by each artist.
Improve water quality - Learn how to build a rain garden. Install a prairie strip. Landowners and farmers in the Nishnabotna watershed may even be eligible for cost-share for conservation practices.
Learn more about the services we offer and how we can help you, your business, organization, or community. Explore the Golden Hills website and check back often to learn about all the projects and programs happening across the region throughout the year!
Celebrate the Loess Hills during Loess Hills & Heritage Week, September 21-29, at a variety of events throughout western Iowa’s Loess Hills counties. During this week, individuals can escape from the hustle and bustle of work life and enjoy western Iowa’s Loess Hills. This week will showcase the unique geological, topographical, archeological, and other distinct aspects of the Loess hills, including their special plants, animals, and history.
Events span to several western counties in Iowa: Woodbury, Monona, Harrison, Pottawattamie, Mills, and Fremont. Some events during the week include the Southwest Iowa Art Tour, prairie seed harvest activities, Woodbine Applefest, Loess Hills Music Festival, and many more. A complete listing of events can be found at http://www.visitloesshills.org/LHHW.
The Loess Hills (pronounced “Luss”), meaning loose or crumbly, is one of Iowa’s important natural resources, ranging 640,000 Acres, across Western Iowa. According to the Nonprofit Scenic America, these hills have unique plant and animal species and native Iowa prairie, making the Loess Hills one of the 10 ten most scenic byways in the United States. Loess Hills & Heritage Week is coordinated by Golden Hills RC&D, with support from Bill Blackburn and many other local partners.
Last night (September 12), Jamie Smidt Fowler led a plant identification walk near Imogene. This program was part of our Fremont County Outdoor Adventures. funded by Fremont County Tourism. The walk focused on edible and medicinal uses of plants, as well as discussion of which plants are native or invasive. Below is a sampling of some of the plants we saw!
(Please note that not all of these plants are edible. Foraging should only be done when you can properly identify species and know how to adequately prepare them for consumption).
The second annual Loess Hills Parks & Peaks Bicycle Tour was held September 4-8 in western Iowa's scenic Loess Hills region. The ride began at Lewis & Clark State Park near Onawa. Riders were treated to a keelboat ride and program about Lewis & Clark's expedition on Wednesday evening and camped at the park.
Thursday morning, riders passed through Onawa on their way to the R.T. Reese Homestead cabin, where Monona County Conservation Board naturalist Andrea Porter led a program about Loess Hills flora & fauna. From there, the route went through Turin, Moorhead, and on to the Loess Hills State Forest Brent S. Olson Memorial Visitor Center in Pisgah. Several riders rode to Preparation Canyon State Park and the surrounding State Forest.
From Pisgah, riders were routed west to Murray Hill, through Little Sioux, River Sioux, and Mondamin, Missouri Valley, and Honey Creek, ending at Hitchcock Nature Center for the evening. Natural Resource Specialist Chad Graeve led a hike and discussed conservation and stewardship in the Loess Hills.
On Saturday, participants took backroads through Crescent and Council Bluffs, where they joined up with the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. The trail took riders through Mineola, Silver City, and Malvern. the final overnight stop.
Sunday, the final day, passed through Tabor and Thurman before ending at Waubonsie State Park.
The riders had great weather and got to experience many of the most scenic parks and roads in the Loess Hills region while learning what the Loess Hills are and why they matter. Golden Hills is expecting to host the ride for the third time in 2020, coinciding with the Iowa State Parks Centennial.
Golden Hills would like to thank all the riders and everyone who made the ride a success! Special shoutout to the following sponsors and supporters:
The Nature Conservancy; Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; Monona County Conservation Board; Loess Hills Bed & Breakfast; Pottawattamie County Conservation Board; Iowa Bicycle Coalition; SRAM; Malvern Liberty Memorial Board; Dave's Old Home; Moreau's Backerei & Pizzeria; and more! This project was made possible in part by a funding award from the National Park Service and Outdoor Foundation.
Golden Hills RC&D, Friends of Waubonsie State Park, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources are excited to announce a call for applications for the latest round of an artist residency program at Waubonsie State Park! This is the second year of the program, the first of its kind in the state.
Located in the Loess Hills of Southwest Iowa, Waubonsie State Park’s 2,000 acres feature prairies, savannas, and woodlands which are home to diverse flora and fauna, not to mention breathtaking vistas.
Artists will receive lodging in a studio cabin and a primitive studio space in the park at no cost for the duration of the residency. In return, artists will deliver at least one public program per month of their residency and donate one piece of art to the park at the conclusion of their stay.
Learn more and apply today: goldenhillsrcd.org/artist-in-residence
A hub for nature, culture, and more in the Loess Hills-Missouri River Region
The Loess Hills Missouri River Region recently relaunched WanderLoess, an online hub for nature, recreation, tourism, arts, and culture in southwest Iowa’s Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties.
WanderLoess was conceptualized in 2015 during a regional planning process for the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. and was envisioned as "Coordination of talented artisans, naturalists, chefs and performers that translates into an exceptional online and off-line resources and events delivering education, recreation, local food experiences, arts, and entertainment.
"WanderLoess is a play on words--"wanderlust" meaning a desire to travel and explore, and "loess" (pronounced 'luss,' rhyming with 'bus') being our local soils. The name started with an Instagram hashtag by a bicyclist in the Loess Hills and has grown to include exploration and enjoyment of southwest Iowa’s myriad amenities and attractions.
The website includes activities categorized into nature and outdoor recreation, local foods and agritourism, arts, and culture; themed “best-of” lists and sample itineraries; places to stay; and a map of sites and activities in the tri-county region.
The new site was created in partnership with Hyperion Creative Agency of Council Bluffs. Visit the new site at www.wanderloess.com.
The Loess Hills Missouri River Region includes a board of directors with representatives from each of the three counties and is coordinated by Golden Hills RC&D of Oakland. Learn more about the initiative and download the full plan at www.goldenhillsrcd.org/lhmrr.