Get Outdoors: Wickiup Hill Natural Area
Just 20 minutes from Iowa’s second-largest city is a protected haven. Wetland, prairie, woodland and savanna ecosystems flourish amidst an urban community. Hundreds of plant, animal and insect species abound. Rare Indian mounds and miles of recreational trail welcome history buffs and thrill seekers alike.
The Wickiup Hill Natural Area outside of Cedar Rapids is a 700-acre piece of the Cedar River Greenbelt in Linn County. When combined with adjoining conservation land, the greenbelt offers over 1,700 acres of protected habitat and creates a crucial buffer to benefit water quality.
Wickiup Hill, and the surrounding greenbelt, was protected piece by piece over the last three decades. INHF worked closely with the Linn County Conservation Board to purchase 14 sites totaling 1,300 acres between 1986 and 1995.
Several neighbors have donated conservation easements that protect their private lands near the public greenbelt lands. This year, INHF has been helping three neighboring families expand this protection. Though not open to the public, easement lands benefit wildlife, water and the visitors’ experience of nature in the vicinity.
Most visitors are attracted to the 10,000-square foot Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center built in 2002. The center features many exhibits, including an interactive prairie, live animals and history on Native American culture. Children and parents can enjoy visions of historic artifact replicas and scents of the maple syrup camp before traveling through a secret passageway from a muskrat hut to the fort. Step outside and experience the bird viewing area, observation deck and wetland boardwalk.
In an effort to develop the connection between young children and the environment, these exhibits focus on drawing children away from technology and toward nature. The center also serves as the nucleus for outdoor education in Cedar Rapids. School-aged children flock to Wickiup Hill for field trips, and programming is offered for all ages.