Palo Alto County Conservation Board
& Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center


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Wildlife Areas

The Palo Alto County Conservation manages 23 areas consisting of public forests, parks, marshes and prairies, a total of over 2,200 acres.  Submit a request to receive our conservation brochure at the bottom of this page.

Palo Alto County  Conservation Areas:


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.  Re-planted prairie, a food plot, and two one acre wetlands provide diversity for wildlife.  Deer, woodducks, squirrel, pheasant, raccoon, fox, beaver, mink, and a variety of songbirds including cardinals are all common at Basswood.  Facilities include picnic shelters, pit restrooms, and a sledding hill at the north end.  Picnic tables and fire rings have also been added to 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 skiing.  Enjoy fishing and hunting (wetland & upland) at Basswood.  Boat ramp gives access to West Fork of the Des Moines River.

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Bluestem Meadow Wildlife Area:

This 80 acre wildlife area is found just south of 370th Street west of Emmetsburg.  80 acres includes two restored wetlands as well as restored prairie. 

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Brushy Bayou:

This 75 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 dogwood are dominant trees and shrubs.  You will find the Great Blue Heron nesting high us 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 of wildlife in Palo Alto County!!

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Burns Prairie:

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 72 acres of natural and enhanced wetlands.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service restored eight wetland basins, three with water control structures.  29 acres of cropland is farmed, providing quality nesting cover and a food plot.  The remainder of the property is prairie.  Canada geese, mallard, woodducks, 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 is allowed.

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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 acres of prairie and wetland.  There are nine wetland basins and 15 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.

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Huston Prairie:

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.

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Larson Prairie:

Located just 2.5 miles southeast of Ruthven, enjoy 34 acres of wetlands and uplands for hunting

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This 3.5 acre 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 often as it has many of the seasonal native flowers.

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 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.

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Plantation Wildlife Area:

This 10 acre area with mostly timber.  Hunting is allowed 

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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 80 acre tract includes cropland, prairie wetland and a small gravel pit.  The wetlands and prairie provide habitat for waterfowl, pheasants, turkey, deer, furbearers and non game species.

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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. 

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Riverview Wildlife Area:

This 17 acre area is mostly timber.  Great access to the Des Moines river for fishing.  Native prairie for hunting upland game. 

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Roads End Prairie:

8 acres of restored prairie located 3 miles northwest of Emmetsburg.  Good hunting for upland birds.

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Robert Mulroney Recreation Area:

Located 2.5 miles south west of Rodman, this is a great place to have a picnic and do some fishing.  Try some river canoeing as there is a boat ramp on the river.  Also gravel pit stocked with catfish.  Northern, bass, bluegill, perch fishing are excellent.  Forested river bottom with prairie for upland bird hunting.

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Rossiter Wildlife Area:

13 acres of marsh.  Enjoy the wildlife and birding.

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Salton Park:

Take the family on a picnic to Salton Park.  4 shelter houses, pit toilets, fish cleaning station and lake access to Silver Lake.  Silver Lake is excellent for bullheads, perch, northern and crappies.

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Sportsman Recreation Area:

Excellent spot for fishing at the gravel pit that is stocked with catfish.  You will have good luck with perch, bluegill, crappies and bass also.  There is a boat launch to the pit.  Excellent upland bird hunting.  A picnic area with pit toilets are available.  Take advantage of the shooting range at Sportsmans.  Just 2.25 miles north of Cylinder.   

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Telford Prairie:

Telford's Prairie was willed 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 is permitted.  The prairie has never been plowed, and support a wide variety of plant and animal life.  Prairie plants include butterfly milkweed, 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, sideoats 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. 

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 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. Merideth Foundation and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. 

And now for the sport of it.......There are seven wetlands that have been restored on the site, forested view bottom with over 200 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. 

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West Bend Wildlife Area:

66 acres with a mix of forested river bottom and prairie.  Good upland hunting and river fishing.  

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West Fork Wetlands:

West Fork Wetlands is located along the west fork of the Des Moines River on B63, 3 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 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 69 acres of wetlands with 84 additional acres of grassland important for nesting.  The area is open to public hunting.  Fishing, hiking, cross country skiing are also a favorite.

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Whitetail Flats Wildlife Area:

229 acre tract just off of Hwy 4 south of Emmetsburg, this site has six acres of timber, and much of the remainder has been seeded down to native prairie grasses.  There is a small food plot and small restored wetland basins.

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