Bur Oak Land Trust preserves are protected lands in eastern Iowa full of plants and wildlife,
and many are open to the public year-round.
Discover your love for nature by using the key to find your next outdoor activity!
Belgum Grove spans 40 acres of former pasture crossed by Dirty Face Creek, with an apple orchard and a small wetland. The land was donated by David and Kathie Belgum in 1998, to be used for education, research and recreation. The pond is stocked with largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. You must have a fishing license to fish. The property has beautiful rolling landscapes, wildlife, and forbs to photograph and explore.
The small wetland offers a variety of kid-friendly activities. Make sure to bring your rain boots, nets and buckets for a close look at frogs, toads, turtles, snails and snakes. Check out the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
Mowed trails are wide enough for dog owners and trail runners.
Big Grove Preserve
Directions: Take 245th St. NE west from Sugar Bottom Road, about 2 miles from Newport Road. Public parking is available on county land at the end of 245th Street. Parking is not allowed along Starry Night Lane nor in the turn-around.
Big Grove Preserve, with the addition of the newly acquired Big Grove Addition, is an 80-acre woodland adjacent to the Coralville Reservoir off of Sugar Bottom Road. This area makes up part of the original “Big Grove” noted by the first settlers to describe Johnson County’s landscape.
The original Big Grove was acquired in 2004, from Dick Schwab and Will Weibel, developers of the adjacent Natural Woodlands neighborhood. The Addition was acquired in conjunction with our Protect. Conserve. Grow. capital campaign from 2016-17. The Trust also holds a conservation easement on 8.5 acres of each 10-acre lot in the Natural Woodlands development. Although these easements are not open to the public, they increase the area of protected land and will contribute to the preservation of the area’s ecosystem.
The property has a network of hiking trails. Keep in mind that trails are narrow and hilly if you are planning on a trail run or walking your dog. Kids have the opportunity to look for fossils, forage for mushrooms, play in the creek, look for animal tracks, or use activities on the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets.
Corriell Nature Preserve
This property is currently open to the public by private tour only. Email us for details.
Hora Woods is a 20-acre remnant woodland that is being managed to restore a mix of oak savanna and open woodland. The property was donated by Mabel Hora in 1986, with the wish that it be “preserved in its natural state.” Land management also helps to increase biodiversity, control invasive plant species, improve wildlife habitat, and provide educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
The preserve contains more than 150 vascular plants — 90 of them native — striking spring ephemerals, and old oaks and hickories. Visitors can enjoy walking the preserve, watching wildlife, photography and plant identification. Trails are narrow but mostly flat, and short distances. There is no trail map yet for Hora Woods.
Note: The Google Maps view for 4065 Vincent Avenue is the correct location for 5397 Vincent Avenue.
Address: Poweshiek County
Our first property outside of Johnson County is 25.97 acres of seven separate prairies. It was donated by James and Kathryn Kessler in 2017, to protect and preserve the reconstruction efforts started by the Kessler family.
Much of the land was used for agriculture and grazing before 1930s. The land shifted from agricultural land to brome grass and clover between the 1930s and 1990s. The transformation of the property to reconstructed native habitat started after 1990. Kessler prairie contains a creek — which is part of the North Skunk watershed — wetlands, bur oak savanna, closed savannas, meadows, upland & lowland prairie, and diverse native sourced prairie.
Visitors can enjoy spotting wildlife, photography, walking, and plant identification. There are currently no trail map for this property.
Muddy Creek Preserve
Muddy Creek Preserve is made of 40.63 acres of former pastureland donated by Barbara Beaumont and Kurt Hamann. This property features steep, rolling terrain with large, sweeping mature oak trees. You can find a huge boulder slowly working its way down the watershed toward the creek. If you sneak in quietly, you are likely to flush a rafter of turkeys or a herd of white-tailed deer. The creek also serves as a boundary for the public, so please do not cross the creek to the north or east.
The fence on the south of the property defines the boundary between Bur Oak Land Trust property and Coralville residents. The boundary on the west is currently defined by dilapidated fencing. When in doubt, move to the east away from private property until stewardship staff can mark the boundaries more clearly.
Visitors can enjoy walking the trails, foraging during the summer and fall months, striking spring ephemerals, native orchids and diverse wildlife.
Kids can enjoy looking for wildlife tracks, spotting woodpeckers, foraging for mushrooms, and playing in the creek. Check out the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
Address: Johnson County
O’Mara-Newport Woods is a small, 30-acre wooded area just north of Iowa City adjacent to Rapid Creek. The property consists of rolling hills that include about 5 acres of mature white oak forest cover, about 24 acres of developing young hardwood forest cover (red oak, black walnut, white ash, and black cherry), and a 1-acre pasture.
In the early 1970s, only five acres were in forest cover, but now some of the valuable upland hardwood forest that had been significantly reduced in Johnson County is returning on this property.
Restricted access. Please contact Carter Johnson at email@example.com for information on workdays or specified tour dates to view this property.
Pappy Dickens Preserve
Pappy Dickens Preserve is a 16.5-acre preserve that borders Iowa City’s Hickory Hill Park on its northwest side. The Friends of Hickory Hill Park group was instrumental in the acquisition of the preserve. The site provides a nice buffer for Hickory Hill Park and expands the large urban park to include more habitat for wildlife.
The preserve consists of a young, developing mixed-hardwood woodland, but was much more open in the past. Invasive species including a large amount of honeysuckle are currently an issue at Pappy Dickens. Plans are in progress to remove invasive species and open up the canopy to let the site develop into an open woodland.
Visitors can enjoy walking the trails, foraging for mushrooms, spotting wildlife, photography. Pet owners can opt for a longer hike through Hickory Hill Park.
Address: Grissell Place, Iowa City, IA 52245
Shimek Ravine is 13 acres of oak-hickory forest in a hilly area just west of Shimek Elementary School. Nearby residents purchased the property to protect it from development and donated it in 1992, to the Trust.
Although Shimek Ravine is heavily crowded with invasive plants, it still remains a diverse woodland with over 160 species of vascular plants, 80 percent of which are native. It is often home to white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern wild turkey, opossum, two species of fox, the occasional bobcat, and numerous migratory bird species.
The Trust hopes to manage and contain the spread of several invasive plants such as: Oriental bittersweet, Japanese barberry, burning bush, honeysuckle and garlic mustard. By removing species that pose a threat to this woodland and mimicking natural disturbances, the quality of habitat will be preserved and expanded for native plant and wildlife communities.
Visitors can enjoy watching wildlife, nature photography, bird watching, foraging and walking. Shimek offers a good opportunity to talk with kids about Iowa’s native and invasive plants, and their effects on ecosystems. Check out our Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
Address: 1554 Polk Avenue NE, Solon, IA 52333
Strub Prairie, a small but diverse native prairie remnant, harbors over 100 native species. The 1.08-acre preserve also has a one third-acre conservation easement adjoining it. This land is along an abandoned railroad right-of-way at the northeast corner of Highway 382 and Polk Avenue.
The land once housed a propane storage business owned by Bud Strub. It was affectionately known as “propane prairie.” Bud made the purchase of this remnant possible in 2006.
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is 107 acres of woods and former pasture land that includes more than 15 acres of reconstructed prairie. The land was donated in 1981, by Webster and Gloria Gelman, John Greenleaf and Barbara Greenleaf Buckley, Gerald and Sarah Howe, and Mauricio and Emilia Lasansky.
Visitors can enjoy spotting wildlife, walking, foraging, bird watching, photography, plant identification, and educational opportunities on prairie ecosystems. Turkey Creek offers one of the best places to observe diverse groups of pollinators in action, including the threatened and endangered rusty patched bumble bee. Kids can play in the creek and look for fossils, clams, crawfish, frogs, toads and insects. Bring a net and bucket to get a better look at these water critters! Turkey Creek is also home to an incredible variety of spring ephemerals.
Trails are fairly even and flat, mowed, and spacious for trail running and walking pets.
Geocaches are hidden at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve! Check out the listings at geocaching.com. (Account required).
To further protect land in eastern Iowa for the vulnerable plants, animals and insects that
make Iowa home, consider donating today.