VITAMIN N: Wabash Trace Nature Trail

By Taylor on November 13, 2014 in Blog

wabash trace nature trail 2Breathe in the fresh, crisp fall air— and get a dose of Vitamin N — this season with a visit to the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. This 63-mile trail in southwest Iowa travels through four counties along an old railroad corridor, offering a picturesque journey through the scenic Iowa countryside. Outside Magazine once named the Wabash Trace Trail one of the prettiest rails-to-trails in the United States.

The northern sections of the trail — from Council Bluffs to Shenandoah — feature arched trees that provide a canopy, shielding trail users from wind and sun. The trail travels through the Loess Hills, a unique geological formation type found extensively to such depth and length only in Iowa and China.

Traveling south of Shenandoah, the vistas open, and visitors can spot reconstructed prairie, wildlife and native plants. The trail offers paved sections in Silver City, Malvern and Shenadoah with compacted limestone along the rest of the trail which is suitable for many non-motorized activities such as hiking, running, bicycling, bird watching, cross country skiing and more.

The deregulation of the railroad industry in the 1980s led to many discontinued and abandoned rail line corridors across the country. INHF keeps these acquired land for trail purposes under the National Trail System Act. Which allows the connected corridors from being lost forever. While these policies negatively  impacted rail service it has provided the opportunity to preserve the corridor for trail use.

Conversion from the Iowa Southern Railroad (and previously the Wabash Railroad) to the trail began in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and local volunteers and residents who formed a non-profit organization known as SWINT (Southwest Iowa Nature Trails, Inc).

SWINT, a second-generation organization, ensures the protection and maintenance of the trail and its 74 bridges with help from Mills County, private donors and numerous volunteers. SWINT also hosts the annual marathon and other events that keep the trail and the communities along it vibrant and engaged. This fall, plan a trip to explore by tree-canopied trail the budding artists community in Malvern or the revitalized Main Street in Shenandoah.

Fast facts:

  • Cities: Council Bluffs, Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, Imogene, Shenandoah, Coin, Blanchard
  • Surface: Asphalt in Silver City, Malvern and Shenandoah. Compacted limestone everywhere else
  • Partners: Southwest Iowa Nature Trails volunteers, Mills County Conservation Board