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Greene County Recreation Areas
RACCOON RIVER VALLEY TRAIL
The Raccoon River Valley Trail is a 56-mile long multipurpose recreational trail extending from Jefferson to the Des Moines metropolitan area. Surfaced with asphalt or concrete, it is one of the longest hard surfaced trails in Iowa. The trail is built on the former Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railroad right-of-way now owned by the Greene, Guthrie, and Dallas County Conservation Boards. The trail winds its way through the Middle and North Raccoon River corridors. Areas of prairie and bottomland timber remind us what Iowa was like when the railroad was first constructed in the1870's. The Raccoon River Valley Trail provides an opportunity to observe nature and learn more about Iowa's history while biking, hiking, skating, jogging, or just taking an evening stroll
The Raccoon River Valley Trail is managed by the Greene, Guthrie, and Dallas County Conservation Boards. It passes through the communities of Jefferson, Cooper, Herndon,Yale, Panora, Linden, Redfield, Adel, and Waukee. These communities all provide a variety of services for trail uses, as well as valuable assistance in maintaining the trail.
SPRING LAKE PARK
Spring Lake Park provides a variety of attractions to people looking for outdoor recreation. This 240-acre park includes a 50-acre lake that makes it a popular destination for camping, fishing, swimming, picnicking, and hiking. The area not maintained for campgrounds, picnic areas, and shelter houses is heavily timbered, providing habitat for deer, turkeys, furbearers, small mammals, and a wide variety of birds. This wildlife, plus many species of waterfowl that use the lake, make Spring Lake Park a very popular place to view wildlife.
Campers will find 126 electrical sites, many which are located on the lakeshore. A modern shower and restroom facility make Spring Lake popular for extended stays. The asphalt park road system provides an excellent surface for children and adults to bicycle, roller blade, jog or walk. There are several walking trails through the timbered portion of the park.
The lake shoreline is nearly level with the water, making it easily accessible and a popular fishing spot for young children and elderly. Bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish are the most common fish caught.
The swimming beach includes a concession stand with boat rental (canoes, rowboats, paddleboats, and kayaks). A unique park attraction is the indoor skating rink. Built in the 1940's, its original hardwood floor creates a nostalgic feeling of Friday and Saturday night entertainment from past generations. Located on the lakeshore, it is very popular entertainment for both campers and local people.
Two enclosed shelter houses are available for reservations, and one open shelter is available on a first come, first serve basis. A resident park ranger ensures that all rules and regulations are observed. This quiet, safe environment makes the park most popular for families with young children or senior citizens.
PARKS ALONG NORTH RACCOON RIVER
Hyde Park and Squirrel Hollow Park are popular with campers looking for a quiet, out-of-the-way area along the river. Both offer electrical campsites. Enclosed shelter houses are available at Hyde Park and Seven Hills Park, with an open shelter house located at Squirrel Hollow.
Squirrel Hollow Park, developed in 1934, is the second oldest county park in Iowa. Civil Works Administration crews built structures in the park out of fieldstone in the mid 1930's. The focal point of the park is a shelter house built on a bluff overlooking the river. Old millstones are laid in a circle in the center of the concrete floor, with 1853 inscribed in one. Squirrel Hollow Park is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
NORTH RACCOON RIVER ACCESS AREAS
The North Raccoon River meanders through approximately 40 miles of Greene County. One goal of the Greene County Conservation Board is to provide adequate access to this underutilized resource. The North Raccoon has a history of being one of the best flathead catfish rivers in Iowa. Channel catfish, walleye, and smallmouth bass are other species most commonly fished for. Construction of lowhead rock fishing riffles has been successful at concentrating fish at locations easily accessible to the fisherman. These riffles are located at Hyde Park, Brown Bridge Access, McMahon Access, Henderson Park, and Squirrel Hollow.
Canoeing is a popular pastime for those looking for outdoor activity during the summer months. Six concrete boat ramps are located on the Raccoon River throughout Greene County. Distances between ramps range from 6 to 8 miles, providing numerous options for float trips. These boat ramps are located at Hyde Park, Brown Bridge Access, McMahon Access, Henderson Park, Squirrel Hollow, and Adkins Bridge Access. Canoe rental is available from the Jefferson Park and Recreation Department located at the community center in Jefferson.
WILDLIFE HABITAT AREAS
Dunbar Slough is 1500 acres of marsh and prairie wildlife habitat and is listed as one of the "top observable wildlife areas" by the Department of Natural Resources. Dunbar Slough also features unique artesian wells and an eco lab facility available for gatherings. It is located 5 miles south of Ralston.
Goose Lake serves as a popular migratory waterfowl viewing area and is located 5 miles north of Jefferson.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AND PUBLIC HUNTING AREAS
The Greene County Conservation Board also provides wildlife management areas with public hunting available where designated. With Iowa ranking nearly last of the 50 states in amount of land in public ownership, several areas have been acquired to be protected as natural resource areas. These have been acquired with assistance of Habitat Stamp grants or provisions of the farm bill, at little or no cost to the taxpayers of Greene County.
Adkins Bridge Access, Hobart Wildlife Area. Squirrel Hollow Wildlife Area and Wright Access are timbered areas along the North Raccoon River. These are managed for deer, turkeys, and other forest wildlife with public hunting offered.
Bristol Wildlife Area, Willow Township Wildlife Area, and Pound Pits are wetland/prairie areas that are managed for pheasants, other upland wildlife, and waterfowl. These areas are also open to public hunting.
(For more information contact the Greene County Conservation office at 515-386-5674)