Iowa's Hidden Gems

By Samantha Jones, Communications Intern on May 18, 2018 in Blog

trout lilies

With spring coming into full season and the promise of warm weather ahead, Iowans are eagerly looking for new outdoor adventure spots across the state. Locations offering scenic views, hiking trails and other outdoor attractions become an instant hit as fair weather becomes more frequent, but many Iowans are unaware of the lesser-known pockets of public land in their areas.

For a more secluded and wild experience than state or county parks, look to the state’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). The Iowa DNR manages 472 such areas that encompass over 375,000 acres of public land. WMAs are great spots for hunters, and outside of the regular hunting seasons, open areas ripe for exploration.

Coldwater Creek Wildlife Management Area near Decorah is one such place that has managed to capture the heart of many an outdoor enthusiast. Known for its trout stream, Coldwater Creek provides excellent fishing opportunities, supporting brown, rainbow and 

brook trout. Additionally, it offers hiking trails, bird watching and a chance to glimpse spring wildflowers, creating the perfect place to soak up the sun and enjoy nature.

Last year, when a property next to the wildlife management area went up for sale, INHF stepped up to ensure protection of the land and its continued public use. The property, which expanded the size of the public recreation area by nearly 30 percent, gave INHF the opportunity to preserve water quality benefits for Coldwater Creek.

INHF Land Projects Director Ross Baxter says that the scenic value of Coldwater Creek and the recreational activities are what makes it so critical for conservation.

“In the spring when the ephemeral flowers are blooming, and there’s a cold water spring that feeds the creek, it’s a beautiful walk up there,” Baxter said. “We wanted to protect the water quality of the stream and preserve the land and wildlife in an area that gets a significant amount of use by local residents and others from around the state.”

To find a WMA near you, visit