Our mission at Golden Hills RC&D is to collaboratively develop and lead community, conservation, and cultural initiatives to improve our quality of life in rural western Iowa. Our "official" territory from our original organizational bylaws is an eight-county region in the southwestern portion of Iowa (Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby). In 2023, we added four more counties (Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, and Monona). Several projects extend event beyond these 12 counties into more than 20 counties (learn more about where we work).
Our goals are to develop industries in local communities that utilize local resources; ensure healthy natural resources that meet the needs of agriculture, industry, private use, and recreational facilities; promote and enhance art, culture and historic resources in rural communities; collaborate with local governments and organizations on projects that benefit the environment; and work on projects that fill gaps in community services to benefit people of southwest Iowa.
We accomplish these goals by focusing our work in five program areas: outdoor recreation and tourism, land stewardship, water resources, local foods, and arts and culture. Today's focus in the new Mission Monday series is Outdoor Recreation and Tourism.
Golden Hills coordinates three scenic byways in western Iowa. Glacial Trail Scenic Byway is a 36-mile loop drive that takes some surprising turns through O'Brien, Clay, Buena Vista and Cherokee counties and the rural towns of Peterson and Linn Grove. Traveling through the corners of these four counties, the byway boasts more than its share of parks and wildlife areas. Some are rich with cultural history and natural resources. Visitors will find park structures built during the Civilian Conservation Corps era and log cabins from pioneer days.
The Western Skies Scenic Byway, dedicated in 1998, is among the first state-designated scenic byways in Iowa. Western Skies offers travelers several easy opportunities to venture off the beaten path. The Byway is 142 miles long, traveling through Harrison, Shelby, Audubon and Guthrie Counties, including 14 rural towns. It is easily accessible to travelers from both Interstates 80 and 29. The byway allows visitors to explore and take in a scenic journey along Iowa’s landscapes of rolling hills, working farmsteads, and tranquil small town life.
Situated along Iowa's western border, the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway passes through a unique land formation that is up to 15 miles wide and about 200 miles long from north of Sioux City, Iowa to near St. Joseph, Missouri. The Loess Hills National Scenic Byway began in 1989 as a grassroots effort by dedicated citizens in cooperation with Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. (RC&D) and the Western Iowa Tourism Region.
Golden Hills recently received a grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation to purchase and install trail counters on Brent's Trail. The counters will allow Golden Hills, Harrison County Conservation, and the Iowa DNR know approximately how many people are hiking Brent's Trail throughout the year.
Loess Hills Hiking Guide
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the Loess Hills. Golden Hills has created an interactive Google Map with information about public hiking trails in the Loess Hills. Since its creation, the map has received over 100,000 views!
The previously mentioned projects are just a sampling of the work that Golden Hills does in the areas of outdoor recreation and tourism in western Iowa. We are always looking for innovative and collaborative projects to highlight the outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in western Iowa. Read more about our work in this program area here.