INHF volunteer Nancy Perry helps a child discover nature at an event celebrating the protection of the Angler's Bay bulrushes in 2006.
Tucked into the far reaches of northwest Iowa along the Minnesota/Iowa border, the Iowa Great Lakes have long been a vacation destination for families and outdoor recreationists. Featuring a chain of glacial lakes, including Iowa's largest natural lake, Big Spirit Lake, and an impressive network of parks, trails and wildlife areas, the Lakes region is diverse.
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation began working at the Lakes in the mid-eighties. Since then,
- More than 75 public lands have been established in Dickinson County through INHF
- More than a dozen privately-owned lands have been permanently protected by conservation easements held by INHF
- INHF has helped secure a significant share of the corridors for the Dickinson County Trail System, including the original spine trail and the newest 37-mile corridor that will link the Lakes with Superior and Allensdorf.
INHF’s presence at the Lakes is evolving as it puts down more lasting roots on the land. INHF now owns and is committed to stewarding three special places at the Lakes: Green Pastures, Wallace & Bowers Nature Area and Wheeler Woods.
Green Pastures, near West Lake Okoboji, was protected with a conservation easement by Ann & Sig Anderson, then entrusted to INHF in 2016. These 163 acres hold several remnant prairie knobs, plus restored wetlands and grasslands with an impressive assortment of perennial native plants. While this is not intended to be public land, INHF will periodically host volunteer days here, giving people an opportunity to experience and care for the land.
Learn more about Green Pastures
Wallace & Bowers Nature Area
An aerial view of Wallace & Bowers Nature Area pre-restoration (summer 2018).
Located on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake, Wallace & Bowers Nature Area was purchased in July 2018 so that INHF could restore and manage it for water quality benefits. The generosity of two families made this possible: Jeff & Elizabeth Wallace, and the children of Clifford and Sheila Bowers [Barbara Mendenhall, Abby Adams and Bert Bowers]. More than half the field acres were converted in 2019 to uses that improve water quality, including an alfalfa border, a diverse prairie restoration near the lake and a wetland restoration. Adding cover crops will benefit both soil and water. Iowa Lakeside Laboratory is leading water monitoring and analysis, so we can all learn how changes on the land impact the water, soil and wildlife.
Learn more about Wallace & Bowers Nature Area
North Shore Project
Located along the north shore of Big Spirit Lake in the McClelland Beach neighborhood, the North Shore Project encompasses 48 acres. Once restoration is complete, the North Shore Project will provide lasting benefits for water quality, wildlife, outdoor recreation and the community. The extended family members involved in the Bartels Bartels & Fox LP chose to sell this land to INHF for conservation. The family has owned land in the neighborhood known as McClelland Beach since 1866. INHF owns the Wallace & Bowers Nature Area just east of this project site. The North Shore Project will help create a larger complex of protected land in the Iowa Great Lakes region.
Learn more about the North Shore Project
Wheeler Woods in Milford, near West Lake Okoboji, was entrusted to INHF by Lois Morgan. The site which includes 15 acres of woodland and 266 feet of undeveloped shoreline on Brown's Bay in the southeastern part of West Lake Okoboji, is named in honor of Morgan's parents, Mark and Sybil Wheeler, and grandparents, George and Ella Wheeler, who purchased the property in 1900. Morgan's wish was that the beloved family property remain a haven for wildlife. At her request, it is not open to the public to allow wildlife uninterrupted free-range.
For the love of the Lakes
There are several opportunities to get involved with INHF's work at the Lakes.