By Kody Wohlers, Natural Resources Technician & Kate Simmons, Community Relations Coordinator
Bobcat at Wheeler Grove Conservation Area
Looking for a new adventure? Check out Pottawattamie Conservation’s habitat areas! Pottawattamie Conservation habitat areas are public use areas where the natural environment dominates the landscape. Unlike our parks, these areas are minimally developed, oftentimes with little more than a parking lot, to encourage a more natural setting where the area’s wildlife and landscape take center stage.
Habitat areas are free to access & are great spaces for visitors to enjoy wildlife viewing, hunting (as seasons allows), and to just get away from it all. Here are three great habitat areas perfect for exploration this spring.
Crescent Wildlife Area – 24668 Liberty Lane, Crescent, IA
Crescent Wildlife Area is a unique property nestled on the Missouri River floodplain just west of Crescent, Iowa & only minutes from Hitchcock Nature Center. The property was acquired following the catastrophic 2011 flood. The property is made up of a 5-acre pond filled with a wide variety of river fish species, reconstructed native prairie vegetation, & native wetland vegetation. Crescent Wildlife Area is home to many different waterfowl species, shoreland bird species, wetland insects, amphibians, reptiles, & wetland mammal species. Other wildlife that can be seen on the property include small mammals, deer, grassland songbirds, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, & more.
This area is only a short 10-minute drive outside the metro area, & is open for public hunting, fishing, & recreation. So if you are looking to get out of the house & go for a hike, bird watch, fish, or hunt, Crescent Wildlife Area is a great outlet to explore!
Directions: Take Mormon Bridge Rd. west from Crescent (2 miles). Turn onto 152nd St (1.5 miles). Turn south onto Liberty Lane, there is a parking lot at the end of the road.
Farm Creek Public Wildlife Area – 45638 Chestnut Road, Griswold, IA
Riepe Pond at Farm Creek Public Wildlife Area
Young Pond at Farm Creek Public Wildlife Area
Farm Creek Public Wildlife Area is a 320-acre property open to public recreation in the southeastern portion of Pottawattamie County, just 5 miles east of Carson, Iowa. The gently rolling property was acquired in 2001, & the majority of the land has been restored to native prairie fields filled with a diverse mix of native grasses & flowers. The property is named for the stream that bisects the area. Farm Creek is a unique stream in Iowa because it has never been channelized or straightened by humans leaving a beautiful, meandering waterway with miniature oxbow ponds along its course.
Two ponds are located at Farm Creek for public fishing & recreation. The Young Pond (west pond) is 16-acres with a boat ramp, dock, fishing jetty, & constructed spawning beds. The Riepe Pond (east pond) is 5-acres & accommodates bank fishermen, as well as smaller canoes. Largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, & channel catfish are stocked in both ponds.
When you visit Farm Creek you may notice a portion of the property being harvested for native hay each year in late summer. Pottawattamie Conservation utilizes the native vegetation as feed for their bison & elk herds at Botna Bend Park in Hancock, Iowa. These plant species are better suited for their digestive systems, & it is financially beneficial to raise our own feed. An additional benefit to haying a portion of the property each year is improvement of the habitat helping us accommodate as many different types of grassland nesting birds as possible. It is not uncommon to see 8-10 different bird species in a short walk on the property!
Directions: Take Highway 92 east from Carson (5 miles). Turn south on 460th Street (1-mile). Young Pond is west ¼ mile on Chestnut Road. Riepe Pond is ¾-mile east on Chestnut Road.
Wheeler Grove Conservation Area – 43774 Boxelder Avenue, Carson, IA
Wheeler Grove Conservation Area
Wheeler Grove Conservation Area is a beautiful property open to public recreation in the southeastern portion of Pottawattamie County, just 3 miles east of Carson, Iowa. Wheeler Grove is Pottawattamie Conservation’s newest large land acquisition & offers a wide variety of ecosystems to explore. It is uncommon to have land within Pottawattamie County with so many natural areas intact & relatively undisturbed by agriculture. This 247-acre habitat area includes two blocks of dense woodland, an open canopy savanna composed of mixed tree species, highly diverse prairie reconstructions, & a wetland riparian bordering Jordan Creek. The property also has a 2-acre pond tucked deep inside the property for hike-in fishing.
A wide variety of wildlife & plant species call Wheeler Grove their home; deer, turkeys, songbirds, coyotes, small mammals, and waterfowl are all common sights on this property. A family of beavers is currently utilizing the pond as a playground if you desire to see some real engineers at work.
Directions: Take Highway 92 east from Carson (3 miles). Turn south on 430th St. (1-mile). Turn east on Chestnut Road (1/4 mile). Turn south on 432nd Street (1 mile). Turn east on Boxelder Avenue (1/2 mile). There is a parking lot on the north side of the road.
Grassland habitat at Wheeler Grove Conservation Area