Iowa State Parks By Air

Iowa Outdoors | Episode
Apr 1, 2020 | 27 min

A special Iowa Outdoors episode celebrating 100 years of Iowa State Parks history with a look at select parks from the sky!

Transcript

Kellie Krammer and Scott Siepker are walking toward the camera on a concrete path in front of a body of water.]

´╗┐Hi, I'm Kellie Kramer.

And I'm Scott Siepker.

Siepker: Welcome to an Iowa State Parks Special.

Kramer: On this edition of Iowa Outdoors.

[music]

[Iowa Outdoors opening sequence. Kellie and Scott talking in front of a covered bridge. A scuba diver under water. A para-sailor skying a water way. A child catching a fish. A man biking a trail. A scuba diver submerging into icy water. A team of kayakers kayaking a river rapid.]

Kramer: Coming up on a special edition of Iowa Outdoors -- We celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Iowa State Parks.

Siepker: Iowa Outdoors will take you on an aerial journey through state parks from river to river, showcasing the topography, unique destinations and color of these enduring locations.

Kramer: We'll have all that and more.

Siepker: So sit tight, Iowa Outdoors is about to begin.

[music]

Funding for this program was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation, as well as generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa PBS.

[music]

Funding for this program was provided by the Claude P. Small, Kathryn Small Cousins and William Carl Cousins Fund at the Quad Cities Community Foundation to support nature programming on Iowa PBS.

And by the Alliant Energy Foundation.

Many of Iowa's natural wonders you'll find on Iowa PBS can be found in Iowa Outdoors magazine, the Iowa DNR's premier resource for conservation, education and recreation activities.

Subscription information can be found online at iowadnr.gov. Subscribe by phone: 1.800.361.8072

[music]

Kramer: Iowa's State Parks now have a legacy dating back 100 years.

Siepker: As we celebrate this centennial anniversary, the Iowa Outdoors crew has fanned out across the state with aerial drones. These tools give you a unique perspective of the familiar and unfamiliar locations here in Iowa.

Kramer: So sit back and enjoy Iowa's State Parks from above.

[music]

[Backbone State park. Music changes. Aerial view of green trees surrounding a river in Backbone State park. ]

Siepker: In Eastern Iowa's Clayton County, Backbone State Park is an island of trees and water amongst an ocean of farm fields.

[music]

[1933 Civilian Conservation Core stone boathouse overlooking the lake. Ariel tour of Backbone state park, showcasing the tops of the green trees.]

Siepker: The park was named for a narrow ridge of bedrock known as the Devil's Backbone, carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River and left untouched by glaciers 13,000 years ago.

[music]

[aerial view of a bend in the Maquoketa River surrounded by green trees on both sides of the river.]

Siepker: Dedicated in 1920, Backbone is Iowa's first state park, nestled into a unique geographic location.

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Siepker: As part of Iowa's Driftless Region, untouched by glacial activity during the last Ice Age, Backbone is known for its ancient dolomite formations. The rocky outcroppings stand in stark contrast to the black soil of surrounding farmland.

[music]

 

[aerial view of dark farm fields turned over for planting.]

Siepker: Backbone's long history is intertwined with the CCC, a federal Great Depression work relief program. Young Iowa boys in the Civilian Conservation Corp built dams, hiking paths and the park's signature boathouse in the 1930's and '40s.

[music]

[Close up aerial view of the 1930s CCC stone boathouse. The drone is flying from the center of the lake toward the boathouse.]

Siepker: Today, Backbone shares a 21 mile trail system and many of the same cabins dating back more than a half century.

[music]

[aerial view of the CCC stone boathouse on the lake in the foreground with open farm fields in the background. A winding gravel road can be seen with the educational center off on the right side of the picture.]

Siepker: Iowans still enjoy this location one century after its dedication as our first state park.

[music]

[Red Haw State Park]

[Music change]

[cluster of trees with pink and purple blossoms.]

Siepker: In South Central Iowa near Chariton, one state park explodes in color every spring.

[the camera moves along the pond shore showing clusters of trees in bloom. Pink and purple flowers brighten the view.]

Siepker: Thousands of redbud trees surround the lakes and ponds at Red Haw State Park. They often reach peak bloom in April, while park goers and fishermen are drawn out from their winter slumber.

[music]/p>

[Close-up aerial view over the tops of the redbud trees along the edge of the pond.]

The redbud trees bloom a brilliant pink hue each year in this South Central Iowa park.

[music]

Siepker: Images inspired what one longtime visitor dubbed as the greatest location for lazing away beautiful days. The trees are native to Eastern North America and struggle to grow in more arid landscapes like Western Kansas or Eastern Colorado.

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Siepker: Known as the state tree of Oklahoma, these redbud trees are a signature draw for a state park that dates back to its original opening in 1939.

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Siepker: Across 650 acres, Iowans have traipsed around this state park for a colorful and seasonal rite of passage.

[music]

[Yellow River State Forest]

[music change]

[Aerial view of the tops of deciduous trees as they start to turn yellow in the fall. The camera is following the river as well as a walking trail beside the river.]

Kramer: In Northeast Iowa's Allamakee County, one of our state's most iconic forests bursts with fall color.

[music]

[Aerial view of all of the deciduous trees on the rolling hills in the forest as they begin to change color in the fall. Bright yellow, red and orange leaves can be seen intermixed with green leaves.]

Kramer: The 8,500 acre Yellow River Forest sits on Iowa's Paleozoic Plateau untouched by glacial activity thousands of years ago.

[music]

Kramer: It hosts the only fire tower in Iowa, in a state with few forests and ample farmland.

[music]

Kramer: Yellow River Forest is one of Iowa's top fall hiking destinations and the views speak for themselves.

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[Aerial view of all of the deciduous trees on the rolling hills and cliff sides in the forest as they begin to change color in the fall. Bright yellow, red and orange leaves can be seen intermixed with green leaves.]

[music change]

Preparation Canyon State Park

[music] [Looking out from the top of a ridge, with farm fields bright with the color of ripe soybeans and the rolling river beyond.]

Kramer: In mid-fall, one of the most photographed stretches of the Loess Hills is here at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa.

[music]

[Aerial view of the Loess Hills in the fall. The leaves on the surrounding trees are turning the bright yellow and brown of fall.]

Kramer: Named for a former Mormon settlement community dubbed Preparation by its followers who deemed their existence here as merely preparation for the world to come.

[music]

[the hillside is a splash of fall color with a farmer in the background harvesting soybeans as the harvest dust causes the sun light to sparkle in the setting sun.]

Kramer: The rolling hills and sunset views of the Missouri River Valley have been a state park since the 1930s.

[music change]

[Maquoketa Caves State Park]

[music]

Kramer: In Eastern Iowa's Jackson County, limestone formations and rugged bluffs reveal a partially hidden, but still public experience of subterranean origin.

[music]

[a set of wooden steps that go down into the earth in a spiral pattern through the mouth of the cave.]

[A family with a dog walks the steps into the cave.]

Kramer: Containing more caves than any other state park in Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is a web of trails, overlooks and staircases descending toward underground paths.

[music]

[The camera moves under a stone archway.]

[The camera moves slowly back from the cave opening.]

Kramer: Resting within the Driftless Region of Iowa, Maquoketa Caves avoided glaciers during the last Ice Age thousands of years ago, leaving behind rock formations in an oasis of trees and limestone surrounded by thousands of acres of farm fields.

[music]

[A family walks the trails of the state park surrounded by trees.]

Kramer: Once a popular place for parties and dances as early as the 1860s, Maquoketa Caves was set aside for conservation in 1921, and remains one of Iowa's most unique and picturesque public parks in the entire state.

[music change]

[Waubonsie State Park]

Siepker: In the extreme Southwest corner of Iowa, the Missouri River winds its way past the Hawkeye state and towards Missouri. Only a few miles from the river's banks juts the unique topography of the Loess Hills. 20,000 years ago, river sediment dried in the valley and westerly winds deposited the silt into these signature hills, now covered with trees.

[music]

[Aerial view of the Loess Hills. With brown grass scattered here and there with patches of orange, yellow and green from different trees growing on the hill side.]

Siepker: Here at the southern tip of the Loess Hills rests Waubonsie State Park, named for Chief Waubonsie of the Pottawattamie tribe.

[music]

Aerial view of trees in fall with patches of orange, red, yellow and green scene through out the hills and valleys.]

Siepker: Nearly 2,000 acres stretch out along ridgelines, terraces and a sprawling view of fall color.

[music]

Siepker: Established in 1926, the state park reaches elevations of 1,099 feet before plunging back to the lowlands of the Missouri River Valley.

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[music change

[Wildcat Den State Park

[Aerial view of trees looking down on the 1848 Pine Creek Grist Mill.]

Kramer: Along the Mississippi River in Muscatine County, Wildcat Den State Park showcases miles of hiking trails, rock formations and several historic structures. The signature building at Wildcat Den is the 1848 Pine Creek Grist Mill and Pine Mill Bridge. Built in the mid-1800s, the Pine Creek Grist Mill stands as a living museum to the milling processes of more than a century ago. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979, the mill and its nearby bridge are fully accessible visitors looking to see a piece of history in an Iowa state park.

[music]

Kramer: The Pine Creek flows past the grist mill under the bridge and beyond the borders of Wildcat Den State Park, merging with the Mississippi River only a few miles downstream.

[music]

[Aerial view of the pine creek river going past the grist mill.]

Kramer: All making Wildcat Den a signature destination to explore Iowa by Air.

[music]

[Close-up view of the grist mill, the dam and the mill's nearby bridge.]

[music]

[music change]

[Palisades-Kepler State Park]

Kramer: Near Mount Vernon along the Cedar River, a nearly century old state park provides dramatic views.

[music]

[Arial view of the Cedar River showing trees along both banks beginning to show the change of the seasons. Bright oranges, yellows and reds can be seen along the river bank. ]

Kramer: 840 acres of hardwood trees, deep ravines and river bluffs surround Palisades-Kepler State Park.

[music]

[Rapids in the middle of the river. A car traveling under a canopy of trees as sunlight shines through.]

Kramer: Established in 1922, the park has affectionately been known as the Palisades for Iowans in search of reprieve from daily life along the picturesque Cedar River.

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[music change]

[Ledges State Park]

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Siepker: In Central Iowa, along the Des Moines River, sits a valley of abundant color every fall.

[music]

[Aerial view of the rolling hills and valleys of Ledges State Park. Vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and greens can be seen as the drone flies over the park.\

Siepker: Ledges State Park is dominated by a sandstone gorge with cliffs carved during the last Ice Age.

[music]

Siepker: The gorge descends 100 feet in various locations and its valley is known to fill with river water during Iowa flood events. The nearby hiking trails crisscross the valley and up wooded slopes making for a longtime autumn destination for Iowans.

[music]

One of the favorite scenic trails at Ledges brings visitors to Lost Lake and a signature overlook of the nearby Des Moines River.

[music]

[A Look at the Des Moines River from the overlook.]

Siepker: Established as a state park in 1924, Iowans continue to find Ledges a year-round hiking and recreation destination.

[music]

[music change]

[Mines of Spain State Recreation Area]

Siepker: Along a rugged stretch of Mississippi River bluffs rests the Mines of Spain Recreation Area near Dubuque. Recreational trails flood through this state land but this region's ties to history are woven throughout its signature overlook. This one-time Spanish owned land was mined until the early 1900s. The state recreation area is best known for the Julien Dubuque Monument high atop a panoramic view of the river valley. A 25-foot tower comprised of locally quarried limestone rests at this bluff outcropping. The founder of Dubuque, Julien was a French-Canadian who traded with the local native tribes in the late 1700s. His final resting place is here on the same bluff, forever overlooking an Iowa city with his namesake.

[music]

[music change]

[Stone State Park]

Siepker: Near the northern edge of the Loess Hills is Stone State Park, nestled in Woodbury and Plymouth Counties near Northwest Iowa's Sioux City. Stone Park overlooks Iowa's border with South Dakota.

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Siepker: The soil here begins a transition from clay bluffs to prairie sediment.

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Siepker: The steep slopes at Stone State Park stretch out over 1,000 acres of wooded forest and miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Siepker: This park on the northern edge of the Loess Hills was dedicated in 1935 and visitors still venture north to Stone State Park more than 80 years later.

[music]

[music change]/p>

[Gitchie Manitou State Preserve]

[music]

Siepker: In the far Northwest corner of Iowa,bordering South Dakota to the west and Minnesota directly north, is Gitchie Manitou State Preserve.

[music]

[green prairie grass surrounds Sioux quartzite rock outcroppings.]

Siepker: The small patch of natural prairie is home to Sioux Quartzite outcroppings, the oldest surface bedrock in Iowa.

[music]

Siepker: The quartzite, visible from above, is roughly 1.6 billion years old.

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[quartzite edges a pond at the preserve.

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[music change]

[Pikes Peak State Park

Siepker: Along the Upper Mississippi River near McGregor, Iowa rests the towering vistas of Pikes Peak State Park. Atop of 500 foot bluff, visitors can gaze at the Mississippi River's confluence with the Wisconsin River.

[music]

[Aerial view of the Wisconsin River and the green plants living in it's water ways.

Siepker: This park Iowa's version of Pikes Peak, and similar to the mountain version in Colorado, the state park is named after famed brigadier general and explorer Zebulon Pike, who explored this location in 1805. It was dedicated as a state park more than a century later in 1935.

[music]

Siepker: Pikes Peak State Park still provides Iowans an unparalleled view of the Mighty Mississippi in all its glory.

[music]

[music change]

[Wapsipinicon State Park]

[The drone captures a few deer running across a hay field into the woods that surround Wapsipinicon State Park.]

Siepker: In Jones County, Iowa, the town of Anamosa and its surrounding hillsides provided artistic inspiration for local legend Grant Wood.

[music]

Siepker: Wapsipinicon State Park was one of Iowa's first state parks when it was dedicated in 1923.

[music]

Siepker: It lies just south of Anamosa along the Wapsipinicon River.

[music]

Siepker: Or what locals affectionately call the Wapsie.

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Siepker: Nearby sandstone and limestone bluffs in the 394 acre park are often covered with moss.

[music]

Siepker: Along the edge of the park, spanning the river is the historic Hale Bridge. The bowstring bridge was originally built in 1878 for the downstream town of Hale. In 2006, massive chinook helicopters lifted the structure into the air and the bowstring bridge arrived at its current resting place, on the edge of Wapsipinicon State Park.

[music]

[music change]

[Honey Creek State Park and Resort]

Kramer: In Appanoose County sits Honey Creek State Park. Since construction of the Rathbun Dam was completed in 1969, Rathbun Lake has been a sprawling recreation destination for water enthusiasts, whether it be boating, fishing or relaxing.

[music]

[Honey Creek Resort complex and surrounding water ways.]

Kramer: On the northern edge of Rathbun Lake rests Honey Creek Resort State Park where a 100-room hotel is the centerpiece for commanding views of the manmade recreational destination.

[music]

Kramer: State park designers constructed a signature golf course on the southern plains of Iowa called the Preserve, giving Iowans an additional reason to venture to South Central Iowa for recreation.

[music]

Kramer: Honey Creek State Park and Resort are manmade modifications to the Iowa landscape, creating signature destinations to explore Iowa by Air.

Kramer: That wraps up this special Iowa State Parks edition of Iowa Outdoors. We encourage you to get outside and enjoy Iowa's state parks and recreational opportunities. If you're planning any outdoors travel, check out our extensive archive of adventures at iowapbs.org/iowaoutdoors.

Siepker: As our episodes continue to bring you outdoor adventures over the Iowa airwaves, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for extended features and extra content. And feel free to tag Iowa Outdoors in your online posts.

Kramer: We'll leave you now with more images of Iowa state parks from above.

[music]

Funding for this program was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation, as well as generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa PBS.

[music]

Funding for this program was provided by the Claude P. Small, Kathryn Small Cousins and William Carl Cousins Fund at the Quad Cities Community

Foundation to support nature programming on Iowa PBS.

And by the Alliant Energy Foundation.

Many of Iowa's natural wonders you'll find on Iowa PBS can be found in Iowa Outdoors magazine, the Iowa DNR's premier resource for conservation, education and recreation activities.

Subscription information can be found online at iowadnr.gov. Subscribe by phone: 1.800.361.8072