Dry Run Trail and Neste Valley Recreation Area
The proposed Dry Run Trail will be a 9-mile trail that will connect the 11-mile Trout Run Trail with the 20-mile Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail. The linked trails will create a trail system over 40-miles in length, connecting Cresco, Ridgeway, Calmar, and Decorah.
Funding for all of the trail property has been secured, with some sections already in public ownership while other sections are under negotiations with the landowners. The box culvert under US Highway 52 has been completed, which connects Trout Run Trail and will start the Dry Run Trail.
We are currently fundraising to match federal trail grants designated for constructing a new walking/biking trail bridge over Dry Run Creek. Once built, the bridge will provide access from Decorah and the Trout Run Trail to over 200 acres of new public land the WCCB has already purchased in the Dry Run Greenbelt.
The Dry Run Trail will offer a unique rural adventure along a riparian corridor, past limestone outcroppings, and through rolling pastures and oak savannas. The linear corridor opens up into public lands along the way. The Dry Run Greenbelt, only 1.5-miles from Decorah and Neste Valley Recreation Area, will sit just 2.5 trail miles from Decorah and will offer trail users areas for birding, nature study, and picnicking, as well as lots of quiet space to relax.
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.
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.
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.