Palo Alto County Conservation Areas:
Click here for map
Basswood Rec Trail Map
Brushy Trail map
Huston Prairie Trail map
LIHP trail map
Mulroney Trail map
Watson Area trail map
West Fork Wetlands Trail map
Whitetail Flats Trail map
Basswood Recreation Area, 4479 360th Street, Emmetsburg
Bluestem Meadow Wildlife Area, 3724 430th Avenue, Emmetsburg
Brushy Bayou Wildlife Area, 4715 Brushy Bayou Rd, Emmetsburg
Burns Prairie, 3701 410th Avenue, Emmetsburg
Duhigg Park, 34001 N Huron Rd, Emmetsburg
Gappa’s Point, 1 mi N of Emmetsburg on Huron Rd
Glacial Ridge Wildlife Area, 3928 390th Avenue Ayrshire
Hauschen Wildlife Area, 3612 400th Avenue, Emmetsburg
H.O. Helgen Slough, W of 320th St & 370th Ave Ruthven
Huston Prairie, 3541 330th Street, Ruthven
Kettlehole Prairie, 1 mi SW Emmetsburg near Watson Heritage Area
Lammer’s Landing, 4284 280th St Graettinger
Larson Prairie, 3596 430th Street, Ayrshire
Little-Bit-of-Prairie, W of 380th St & 360th Ave Ruthven
Lost Island-Huston Park, 3246 350th Avenue, Ruthven
*Northern Plains Regional Wildlife Area, 3017 River Road Graettinger
Pheasant Run Wildlife Area, NE of 440th St & 520th Ave Rodman
Phelan Woods, 33460 River Road Emmetsburg
Plantation Wildlife Area, 3855 580th Ave, Cylinder
Prairie Gold Wildlife Area, 3373 450th Avenue, Emmetsburg
River Runner Access, 5404 490th Street, West Bend
Riverview Wildlife Area, 2990 River Rd, Graettinger
Roads End Prairie, 4383 340th Street, Emmetsburg
Robert Mulroney Recreation Area, 4375 512th Avenue, Rodman
Rogers Wildlife Area, 4824 440th Street, Emmetsburg
Rossiter Wildlife Area, 3375 350th Avenue, Ruthven
Salton Park, 3492 420th Street, Ayrshire
Sportsman Recreation Area, 5256 360th Street, Cylinder
Telford Prairie, 4022 400th Avenue, Ayrshire
Watson Heritage Area, 3918 440th Avenue, Emmetsburg
West Bend Wildlife Area, NE 510th St dead end to River West Bend (WILDLIFE REFUGE – NO HUNTING)
West Fork Wetlands, 5374 475th Street, West Bend
Whitetail Flats Wildlife Area, 4068 460th Avenue, Emmetsburg
Basswood Recreation Area
The 69-acre tract, located just north and east of Hwy 18 river bridge west of Emmetsburg, partially borders the West Des Moines River. Most of Basswood is floodplain timber, with silver maple, cottonwood, willow, and basswood trees dominating. Replanted prairie, a food plot, and two one-acre wetlands provide diversity for wildlife. Deer, wood ducks, squirrel, pheasant, raccoon, fox, beaver, mink, and a variety of songbirds including cardinals are all common at Basswood. Facilities include picnic shelters, flush restrooms, and pit restrooms. Picnic tables and fire rings are set up at the south end. Trails at Basswood make a figure 8 pattern with two loops. The south loop is mostly mixed prairie surrounded by trees with the river running along the west side. The distance of the south loop is .6 mile. The north loop is mostly woodland with the river running along the west side. The distance of the north loop is .7 mile. Trails are excellent for hiking or cross-country skiing. Enjoy fishing and hunting (wetland & upland) at Basswood. The boat ramp gives access to the West Fork of the Des Moines River.
Bluestem Meadow Wildlife Area
This 80-acre wildlife area is found just west of Emmetsburg. This area has had multiple wetland constructions and prairie restorations which makes this area unique. The area is open for hunting.
This 112-acre river timber is located four miles southeast of Emmetsburg. This area provides
habitat for wood ducks, furbearers, deer, wild turkey, winter cover for pheasants and a home
for many species of songbirds. Brushy Bayou is one of the largest public timber tracts in Palo
Alto County. Silver maple, green ash, cottonwood, and boxelder are dominant trees. You will find the Great Blue Heron nesting high in trees. This area has an excellent trail for hikers and cross-country skiers. This area provides an excellent opportunity
for people to view many woodland species which are located in Palo Alto County! The area is open for hunting.
With the help from Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and a Habitat Stamp Grant, the Conservation Board acquired Burns Prairie, 160-acre tract. This site includes seventy-two acres of natural and enhanced wetlands. The US Fish and Wildlife Service restored eight wetland basins, three with water control structures. Thirteen acres are farmed and about half is left for a food plot. The remainder of the property is prairie. Canada geese, mallard, wood ducks, shovelers, redheads, and blue winged teal are attracted to the marshes for nesting. Waterfowl migrating through include green-winged teal, gadwall, blue bills and wigeon. Besides ducks and geese, species such as red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, bobolinks, yellow throats and furbearers, pheasants and deer are common. Hunting and trapping are allowed.
Located on the northeast side of Five Island is Duhigg Park, this park has two shelter houses and a pit toilet. Enjoy a picnic with the family and don’t’ forget the fishing poles, there is a fishing dock close to the shelter houses and catfish are often caught near this area.
Located on the east side of Five Island Lake near the dam is Gappa’s Point. This is a popular area to stop and take a break along the lake. There is a large sand bar off the point where wader fisherman often have success fishing for walleyes.
Glacial Ridge Wildlife Area
If you are looking to tour a parcel of land that accurately depicts the landform region known as the Des Moines Lobe, you would be happy to discover Glacial Ridge Wildlife Area. The area has a vast array of native flora in a diverse setting of high ridges and low marsh land. The area is open for hunting.
Hauschen Wildlife Area
The combined efforts of Ducks Unlimited, Palo Alto County Conservation Board, the USDA
Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Wildlife Habitat Stamp Fund resulted in the
purchase and restoration of this 134-acre of prairie and wetland. There are nine wetland
basins and fifteen acres of native prairie. This area is located on U.S. Highway 18, 4.5 miles west
of Emmetsburg. This area is managed to provide habitat for waterfowl and other grassland
species. It is open to public hunting and trapping.
H.O. Helgen Slough
This 56-acre tract adjacent to Lost Island-Huston Park was awarded to the Conservation Board with a REAP grant. This site is located south and east of Lost Island-Huston Park and is managed separately from the park. This is a great wildlife habitat area. Hunting and trapping are allowed. This area is clearly marked to separate it from the adjacent Lost Island-Huston Park that is managed as a wildlife refuge and is closed to hunting.
Kettle hole Prairie
Located southwest of Emmetsburg a mile and half is this very unique area. When you drive by the Kettlehole you will notice a deep bowl like formation. The large bowl was formed by a glacial that stayed stationary for a prolonged time melting water eroding soil around the glacial. The kettle hole was seeded with a pollination mix which consists of mostly forbs (flowers), and this area is very flowerful throughout the summer. The area is open for hunting.
Located just east of Graettinger on highway B14 is our Lammers Landing. This eight-acre area borders the Des Moines and has a concrete boat ramp which gives the public access to the river. This section of the Des Moines River is very popular for walleye and catfish. This area is a REFUGE.
Located just 2.5 miles southeast of Ayrshire, enjoy 34 acres of wetlands and uplands for hunting.
This 3.5 acre prairie is located one mile east on Highway 18 from Ruthven, two miles south on gravel road. This is a small but diverse little prairie. Look for the pasque flower in early spring. You
will need to visit this area often as it hosts several seasonal native flowers.
Lost Island-Huston Park
This is a great camping spot to bring the family. Lost Island-Huston Park provides hiking trails, a wildlife observation blind, campground, picnic shelters, boat ramp, docks, and a swimming beach. Lost Island Nature Center is also located at this park.
*Northern Plains Regional Wildlife Area
This 74-acre area is owned by the City of Spencer, but the Palo Alto County Conservation Board has the management rights meaning it is open to the public. Pheasants, turkey, and white-tail deer are the most common species in this area. The area is open for hunting.
Located just a couple of miles west of Rodman on highway B55 is our Pheasant Run Wildlife Area. This 77 acre prairie borders the Des Moines River, there is a small amount of timber along the river which Whitetail deer often travel. The area is open for hunting.
Phelan Woods is located 2.5 miles northwest of Emmetsburg. This 55 acre timber borders the Des Moines River and is used by whitetail deer and turkeys year round. A oak planting was done in the fall of 2022 to diversify this area. The area is open for hunting.
Plantation Wildlife Area
This 10-acre area with mostly timber. Hunting is allowed.
Prairie Gold Wildlife Area
Prairie Gold Wildlife Area was funded by the local Pheasants Forever Chapter and funds received from the Habitat Stamp Program. This 231 acre tract includes prairie, wetland, and a small gravel pit. The wetlands and prairie provide habitat for waterfowl, pheasants, turkey, deer, furbearers, and non-game species. The area is open for hunting.
River Runner Access
Just 4 miles southwest of West Bend, this area is mostly timber and has a boat ramp on the Des Moines River for excellent river fishing or canoeing.
Riverview Wildlife Area
This 17-acre area is mostly timber. Great access to the Des Moines River for fishing. A kayak access is planned for the fall of 2023. The area is open for hunting.
Roads End Prairie
Eight acres of restored prairie located two miles northwest of Emmetsburg. Good hunting for
Robert Mulroney Recreation Area
Located 2.5 miles southwest of Rodman, this is a wonderful place to have a picnic and do fishing. Try river canoeing as there is a boat ramp on the river. Also, a gravel pit stocked with catfish. Northern, bass, bluegill fishing. Forested river bottom with
prairie for upland bird hunting.
Rogers Wildlife Area
Five miles west of Rodman is the 56-acre prairie we call Rogers Wildlife Area. This area can be excellent hunting for pheasants and has plenty of winter cover. The area is open for hunting.
Rossiter Wildlife Area
This 13-acre marsh is located on the south side of Lost Island Lake. This wetland aids in filtering runoff water before it reaches Lost Island Lake. Enjoy the wildlife and birding.
Take the family on a picnic to Salton Park. Four shelter houses, flush toilets, fish cleaning station and lake access to Silver Lake. Silver Lake is excellent for bullheads, perch, and even the occasional walleye.
Sportsman Recreation Area
Excellent spot for fishing at the 30-acre gravel pit stocked with bluegill, crappies, and bass. There is a boat launch to the pit. A picnic area with pit toilets & flush toilets is available. Take advantage of the shooting range at Sportsman Recreation Area. Just 2.25 miles north of Cylinder. If you are interested in becoming a member of the shooting range, please contact Don Bruch at 712-298-3240. You may also stop out at the Gun Range and use the Drop Box and envelopes. $25 for a single and $30 for a family membership.
Telford’s Prairie was donated to the State of Iowa by Mary Telford. The Palo Alto County Conservation Board has custody and management of the area. Primary emphasis will be preservation and protection of the animals and plants that live on the prairie. There is no hunting or trapping allowed. Hiking and bird watching are permitted. Parts of the prairie are remnant and have never been plowed to support a wide variety of plant and animal life. Prairie plants include butterfly milkweed, pasque flower, lady slipper, great blue lobelia, lead plants, purple coneflower, purple prairie clover, rattlesnake master, gentian, blazing star, phlox, mountain mint, compass plant, a variety of native asters, sunflowers and goldenrods, big bluestem, little bluestem, indian grass, switch grass, side oats gramma and prairie cordgrass. The endangered Amorpha nana, related to the lead plant and the rare smooth green snake are also found at Telford’s prairie.
Watson Heritage Area
This area is located just south of Emmetsburg adjacent to Burns Bridge. The Iowa Natural
Heritage Foundation negotiated the purchase. Funds from Iowa hunters and trappers, in
what is known as the Wildlife Habitat Stamp Fund, were matched with funds from
conservation organizations and foundations. Funds were provided by the Frederick O. Watson
Foundation (for which the new area is named), Ducks Unlimited, Palo Alto County Chapter of
Pheasants Forever, Pheasants Forever Trust Fund, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Edwin
T. Meredith Foundation and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.
There are seven wetlands that have been restored on the site, forested view bottom with over two hundred acres of restored prairie. There is a trail along the timber. The area is open to hunting, trapping, river fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
West Bend Wildlife Area
WILDLIFE REFUGE – NO HUNTING
66 acres with a mix of forested river bottom and prairie.
West Fork Wetlands
West Fork Wetlands is located along the west fork of the Des Moines River on B63, three miles west of West Bend. This 152-acre site was acquired with the help of Wildlife Habitat Stamp funds and support from the Palo Alto County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and Wetlands for Iowa. The area provides an excellent habitat for ducks and geese, wild turkeys, many fur bearing animals as well as non-game species. You can find timber along the river, and sixty-nine acres of wetlands with eighty-four additional acres of grassland important for nesting. The area is open to public hunting.
Whitetail Flats Wildlife Area
229-acre tract just off Hwy 4 south of Emmetsburg, this site has six acres of timber, and
much of the remainder was seeded to native prairie grasses. There is a small food plot and small restored wetland basins. This area holds an abundant number of pheasants and is open to hunting.