Neste Valley Recreation Area and Dry Run Trail
Neste Valley Recreation Area was officially purchased by Winneshiek County Conservation from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in December of 2016. At this time, the park is not yet open to the public as the unimproved driveway poses a safety risk if in public use. Winneshiek County Conservation is actively working to improve the driveway and prepare the park for public use.
Neste Valley Recreation Area is the newest county park in more than 20 years. Located between Calmar and Decorah on Highway 52, the park will serve as one of the trailheads for the Dry Run Trail, a future 8-mile trail that will connect the Trout Run Trail to the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail. Natural features and possible future offerings at Neste Valley include:
- A 170-acre park featuring prairies, mature native woodlands and oak savannahs, wetlands, and a mile of Dry Run Creek.
- Family-friendly activities including picnicking, camping, hiking trails, access to the Dry Run Trail, a conservation education center and programming, and public hunting.
- A new destination for bikers and an opportunity for bike camping.
- An historic farmstead that was one of the first Norwegian settlements in Winneshiek County, still featuring many original outbuildings and the remnants of the historic log home. The original log home was transported to a museum in Norway in 2005 to serve as an example of a typical Norwegian settlement home in Iowa.
Neste Valley Recreational Area is named in honor of former property owners, Ingrid Neste, Mary Neste and Michele Stefanick, who collaborated with Winneshiek County Conservation and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation by donating a portion of the value of the farm. They were honored for their partnership at the 2013 Gift to Iowa's Future Day at the state capital, a day designated to celebrate and honor those individuals, corporations and organizations that have helped permanently protect land for parks, trails and natural areas in Iowa. Neste Valley Recreation Area was initially purchased by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and then transferred to Winneshiek County Conservation.
The proposed route for Dry Run Trail will leave Decorah near the Highway 9 bridge and cross under Highway 52 following the historic path of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad corridor south to where the railbed ends, and then take the backslope of 200th Street and Highway 52 until it connects with the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail at County Road B16. The linked trails will create a 43-mile trail system, connecting Cresco, Ridgeway, Calmar, and Decorah.
The trail will lead riders on a unique rural adventure along a riparian corridor, past limestone outcroppings and through rolling pastures and oak savannas. Dry Run Trail will connect the level grade, native prairies and farm views of the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail with the hills, streams and overlooks of the Trout Run Trail. Neste Valley Recreation Area will sit just 2.5 trail miles from Decorah, providing an easily accessible picnic, camping and educational destination for trail users.
Help Support These Projects
In addition to the nearly $2 million in grant funds the Conservation Board and Northeast Iowa RC&D have already secured for Neste Valley Recreation Area and the Dry Run Trail project, Winneshiek County Conservation has also initiated a private fund drive.
Conservation and trail grants are incredibly competitive and many require significant matching funds from other sources. The greater the community support we can show for these projects, the better our chances at getting outside funds to help make them a reality.
Tax-deductible donations in support of these projects can be directed to the Winneshiek Conservation Foundation.