Plenty to do in Clayton County

Effigy Mounds National Monument is one of several places in Clayton County that offers outdoor recreation during the winter months.


By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The recent weather has many Northeast Iowans experiencing cabin fever. Record-breaking low temperatures have driven folks indoors for the past several days, stressing over whether pipes will freeze or cars will start.

If current weather conditions have left you feeling a bit claustrophobic, here’s some good news: The weekend forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 20s and low 30s. That means we can head outdoors again to enjoy winter activities.

There’s plenty to do throughout the county. Many of the places we enjoy during the warm weather months are also open this time of year. For instance, Effigy Mounds National Monument welcomes people year-round. The visitors’ center is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, and extreme weather days. The center does have slightly shorter hours—8:30 to 4:30.

According to Lead Ranger Merle Frommelt, Effigy Mounds is a great place to go winter hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Though the trails aren’t groomed, they’re easily navigated.

If eagle watching is your thing, Effigy Mounds is your place. Frommelt said the majestic birds are often seen soaring above the mounds. The mounds themselves—there are over 200, many shaped like animals and birds—are also visible during the winter months.

“Think of it this way,” said Frommelt, “if you throw a five-gallon pail into your yard before it snows, you’ll still be able to find it. Same with the mounds; you can see ‘em all year-round.”

Information on Effigy Mounds is available by calling 563-873-3491l.

The Elkader-owned city park is closed to campers during the winter months. But there’s at least one other place in the county to pitch a tent: Big Spring Trout Hatchery. In addition to year-round camping, the hatchery area allows year-round fishing and, during winter months, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted. Snowmobiling is not allowed, however.

“Each season brings a different flavor,” said Hatchery Biologist Gary Siegwarth. “On cold winter days, the steam from the raceways forms crystals in the trees. . .it’s just so beautiful.”

Siegwarth added that fishing is great in the winter, too, when the water at the hatchery is warmer than the Turkey River. And though fishing is less popular during cold weather months, anglers 16 years of age and older still need a fishing license and trout privilege or stamp.

More information on winter activities at Big Spring Trout Hatchery is available by calling 563-245-2446.

Backbone State Park, Iowa’s first state park, and Pikes Peak State Park are also open to winter hikers.

Finally, there’s plenty to do at Osborne Conservation Center this time of the year. The trails, which aren’t groomed, are available to outdoor enthusiasts, and the Welcome and Nature Center, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the center at 563-245-1516.

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