Get Outdoors: Wickiup Hill Natural Area
PHOTO BY GARY HAMER
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, has benefited from protection efforts since the 1980s. INHF worked closely with the Linn County Conservation Board to complete 14 projects between 1986 and 1995, adding over 1,300 acres.
Other segments of the greenbelt have been added piece by piece over the last two decades. In 2016, INHF added 75-acres of conservation easements to the Wickiup Hill area. Though not open to the public, these easements benefit water quality and create a stronger corridor for pollinators.
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.