Explore Iowa: Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
The Skunk River was straightened many years ago, but the river’s old floodplain remains wet and easily flooded. For decades, various conservation partners have created and expanded the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, setting it aside for a variety of wildlife and recreation purposes. Now, about 9,100 acres of Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt are protected and waiting for visitors, mostly in Polk County with a portion in Jasper County.
Chichaqua is an important resting and staging area for migrating waterfowl and is home to several rare and declining species. It’s also home to many reptiles and amphibians, as well as ground-nesting birds like the bobolink. Other parts of the wildlife area contain native prairies, natural and restored wetlands, and trails. Recreational uses include hunting, dog training, trapping, native seed harvest, future native seeding, educational tours, hiking, camping, birding, cycling and paddling. Facilities are available for canoe and lodge rental.
Chichaqua’s benefits go beyond outdoor enjoyment for humans and animals. The wetland is a boon to water quality; it slowly filters runoff, removing contaminants and producing clear, clean water. The wetlands are also able to hold large amounts of water, like a Skunk River sponge, and help assuage the economic impact of flooding.
Since 1993, INHF has helped the Polk County Conservation Board and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources acquire more than 15 properties as they became available, adding nearly 5,000 acres to the Chichaqua wildlife complex, including 980 in Jasper County. INHF has helped with landowner assistance and negotiations, interim funding and, in some cases, high-quality native plantings.
INHF Project Partners
The Polk County Conservation Board owns most of the greenbelt as it stretches through the county. The Polk CCB’s mission is to provide the citizens of Polk County with quality outdoor recreation, conservation education, and long term protection of Polk County’s natural heritage. The PCCB was created by the voters of Polk County in 1956 to acquire, develop, and maintain areas devoted to conservation and public recreation. To learn more, visit the conservation board's website.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources owns the portion of the greenbelt in Jasper County. The DNR leads Iowans in caring for their natural resources. It works to conserve and enhance Iowa's natural resources in cooperation with individuals and organizations to improve the quality of life for Iowans and ensure a legacy for all generations. It is responsible for maintaining state parks and forests, protecting the environment, and managing energy, fish, wildlife, and land and water resources in Iowa.
The Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt is located about nine miles east of Ankeny, at 8700 NE 126 Ave., Maxwell, IA 50161.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership
Ames Chamber of Commerce