By Todd Von Ehwegen, Cerro Gordo County Conservation Education Manager
As we continue to struggle through the throes of the pandemic, many of us are dreading winter. That sense of dread is fueled by thoughts of freezing temperatures and wind chill, short gloomy days, treacherous winter travel, and that “cabin fever” feeling of being cooped up all winter. Add to that the fact that many social activities we enjoy are now extremely limited, and it is no wonder that the onset of winter seems a bit depressing.
However, if we embrace all of the unique things winter has to offer, our mental and physical health will greatly benefit during the winter season. Thankfully, there are a multitude of cold weather outdoor recreational opportunities for people of all ages and skillsets here in North Iowa.
A hike on a snow-covered trail offers a special bonus – tracks! Solving the mystery of what animals traversed the landscape before you, and what their motives ere, is like completing an intriguing nature puzzle. Spotting wildlife is also enhanced in an open, white landscape.
For those of you craving exercise; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat-tire biking are superb cardiovascular activities. Sure, you can run on a boring treadmill in a stuffy room; or enjoy beautiful vistas and the sting of frosty air on your cheeks as you traverse across the frozen white landscape. I know I would choose the latter every time! Cerro Gordo County Conservation staff maintains groomed trails for skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking. Trail users are asked to utilize the trail designated for their specific activity and avoid damaging groomed ski trails.
If you are looking for downhill thrills and spills, visit Linn Grove Park for some great sledding action. Located on the southwest edge of Rockwell, this park has a designated sledding hill with a tire structure for an easier climb back up the hill.
If motorized activity is more your speed, there is a groomed snowmobile trail that runs along the Shellrock River Greenbelt from Wilkinson Park in Rock Falls all the way to the end of the greenbelt just west of Nora Springs. This trail provides great snowmobiling through fantastic scenery!
To me, one of the magical activities of winter is ice fishing. “Hard water” fishing is a totally different ballgame than fishing from a dock or boat in warmer weather.
To get started with ice fishing, I recommend joining an experienced friend to learn the “ins and outs” of the sport. Getting started with minimal equipment is relatively inexpensive; but most will eventually want to invest in a shelter, heater, and sonar. Time flies on the ice when you are warm and cozy in a shelter, especially if the fish are biting! And a meal of fresh fish in the wintertime always seems to hit the spot! Cerro Gordo County Conservation has several excellent ice fishing areas, including Bluebill Lake, Fin & Feather and Clark Lakes, and Kuhn Wildlife Area.
Bird feeding in the winter is a great way to enjoy birds and learn more about them. You can event contribute to bird science by participating in Project Feederwatch, a project sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Reporting the species and numbers of birds you see at your feeders each week helps biologists monitor bird numbers and behaviors.
Winter is here. Let’s celebrate by taking advantage of all the opportunities winter has to offer! Cerro Gordo County conservation has many ways to help you enjoy winter. Start by exploring our website.