For Father’s Day, we took advantage of the cooler temperatures and returned to one of our favorites, Kuehn Conservation Area out in Earlham, Iowa! A short drive from the metro, this park feels like it is on the edge of civilization and we love it. Even on a weekend, we practically had the whole place to ourselves. Last Fall we went East and down into the more wooded area, where we saw a creek (pictures on the main Kuehn page) so today we went west, checking out the primitive camping areas, the river beach, and the prairie.
You can find more details like the address and link to the official website in the main Kuehn Conservation Area page here.
This is roughly the path we took, and my distance app said it was a little over 2 miles, from the parking lot. The hike down to the river is very easy and smooth – past the river and looping back west got a little more overgrown and then the last stretch from the prairie up to the bird blind was very, very steep and had deep grooves that left us huffing and puffing!
The upper camping area is primitive, and not very far from the road (so there isn’t a place to park nearby permanently, but would be easily to park temporarily and transfer stuff to walk less than a quarter of a mile to the camp site. There was a little grass trail off the NW side of the camping area that looked cute but doesn’t appear to be on the map above.
The trail starts out on easy gravel, slowly progressing to dirt and/or grass.
The trail opens up to open grass and prairie, with lots of wildflowers and butterflies.
Slowly it got less maintained, and we bumped into the lower camping area (forgot to take a picture) which is right by the river.
We mucked through the undergrowth to get down to the river! This is Raccoon River and it wasn’t appealing to actually walk in to (deep, pretty muddy, moving relatively fast) but the kids had an absolute blast looking at rocks and throwing them. The view was gorgeous, too!
Something new to find that we hadn’t spotted in other places were what appeared to be mussels (maybe?? can’t find an exact match here). Also a very strange looking rock, almost like an empty geode, and dozens of butterflies – this was just the only one I caught on camera.
We hoofed it along the river in the sun, busting our butts up a very steep hill until we reached the bird blind! It was an easy walk back up to close the loop and back to our car after that.
Definitely not stroller friendly once you hit the prairie going the same direction we did but a jogging stroller could handle the first half, shady except for the prairie area, and relatively tough going up that hill. If rough terrain is an issue, I’d suggest walking down to the river and then turning around and going back the same way you came – it looks like you can also head east along the river and then back up through the forest but I’m not sure what that trail looks like (yet).