Listed below are the public use areas in Johnson County that are maintained by the Conservation Board. Click on an area to see more information.
- All parks and public use areas
- Cangleska Wakan
Cangleska Wakan is a 132-acre park that features high quality oak forest and unique architecture, including several round barns, a stone arch, a stone amphitheater, and a brick labyrinth. Cangleksa Wakan is a Lakota Sioux phrase that translates to ‘Sacred Hoop’ or ‘Sacred Circle,’ referring to the interconnectedness of all things. This property is adjacent to the 80-acre Big Grove Preserve, owned and managed by Bur Oak Land Trust.
- Cedar River Crossing
This 560-acre tract, located six miles northeast of Solon, is located in sections 14 and 15 of Cedar Township on 160th Street one-half mile north of its junction with 180th Street. Approximately 200 acres are in the Cedar River flood plain and the river bounds the entire property on the east. This land is a federally-designated Wetland Reserve Program Project (WRP). It contains about three-fourths mile of shoreline and is maintained as a wildlife area with public hunting, fishing and hiking.
This is an outstanding wildlife habitat area. Shelter belts and native grasses, which are very valuable to upland species, have been planted at key locations. Shallow water wetlands make this a very attractive area to waterfowl. It is home to a vast array of game and non-game species. Additional wetland development and enhancement is planned for this site.
The Cedar River Crossing also contains an historic site where Native Americans forded the Cedar River. The site is commemorated with a monument on adjoining private land.
- Ciha Fen
This 80-acre tract is located in the northeast corner of Johnson County.
- Clear Creek
This 87-acre tract is located on the southwest side of Tiffin and features a trail.
- Frytown Conservation Area
This 94-acre tract is located 10 miles southwest of Iowa City just off Highway 1. An unnamed tributary of Dirty Face Creek runs through the western-most part of the property. It was acquired in 1973. At the time of acquisition, this rolling pastureland included a badly eroded ditch which had been used for a "dump" for old farm machinery and fencing material for many years. The area includes some mature oak/hickory timber and new tree and shrub plantations. Approximately 30 acres of former pastureland has been planted to a variety of hardwood trees and shrubs. These plantings were completed in 1995-96 as part of the Conservation Board's Timber Stand Improvement Program(TSI).
The tree and shrub plantings have helped to make the Frytown Area a wildlife area extraordinaire. Conservation staff constructed a bridge over a deep ravine that provides access so that maintenance equipment can be utilized in parts of the area that were inaccessible.
There is an old farm pond in the southwest part of the area. Part of the pond berm has washed out. Plans call for the conversion of the old pond to a shallow water wetland. Frytown is a very popular area for birders as well as turkey, deer and squirrel hunters. It is one of the few remaining forested areas in this quadrant of the county.
- F.W. Kent Park
- Hills Access
This popular 40-acre river access park is located adjacent to the Iowa River, one-half mile east of the town of Hills, on 520th Street. It was acquired by the county in 1973. Substantial river shoreline provides good fishing access to the Iowa River.
Boating, fishing, camping and picnicking are popular activities here. Facilities include a boat ramp, picnic tables, latrines, and electric camping sites. Considerable effort has been expended to improve the quality of this area and increase the level of service for Hills access users.
The fees for camping at this great little park is $15.00 per night for electric sites (14 sites) or $10 per non-electric site (7 sites). 7 of the sites can accommodate pull through campers.
- Hoover Trail
The Hoover Trail is a 5.8-mile length segment between the communities of Ely and Solon and a 3.7-mile segment between the communities of Oasis and West Branch. Much of the trail corridor is built along the old Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The trail segment from Solon to Ely connects to Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls through a 70 mile length, trail network. The Hoover Trail is also a part of both the Great American Rail-Trail and The American Discovery Trail, coast-to-coast trail networks that link non-motorized trails across the country.
- Iowa River Trail
The Iowa River Trail is a 16-mile paved multi-use trail network that runs primarily along the Iowa River, connecting the communities of Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty. The southern terminus of the trail is Iowa City’s Terry Trueblood Park, and the northern terminus is currently the east end of the Mehaffey Bridge over Coralville Lake. Johnson County Conservation manages six miles of the trail, including the 3.3 mile North Dubuque Street segment and the 2.3-mile Mehaffey Bridge segment.
- Iowa River Water Trail
The full expanse of the Iowa River Water Trail is a 72 mile stretch of river that starts in Iowa City and ends in Louisa County, where the Iowa River drains into the Mississippi River. The Iowa River Water Trail travels for 24 miles through Johnson County and passes three Johnson County Conservation (JCC) properties, Hills Access and Campground, Pechman Creek Delta,and River Junction Access and Campground. Both Hills Access and River Junction Access provide entry or take out points for the Iowa River Water Trail.
- Malinda Reif Reilly Fen and Prairie
The Malinda Reif Reilly Fen and Prairie is a 100 acre property north of Solon, Iowa. The property, which is located on a Paha Ridge, features 53 acres of relic prairie, wetland, and fen habitats, and the remaining 47 acres are currently in organic hay production. Johnson County Conservation (JCC) will restore this portion of the property to native ecosystems in coming years, and will develop a parking area and hiking trails. The property will be managed as a nature preserve, open for hiking and other nature appreciation activities.
- Pechman Creek Delta
A 380-acre property in southern Johnson County along the floodplain of the Iowa River. Water is abundant throughout the property. The Iowa River borders the property for 2.4 miles, and three tributaries, Pechman Creek, Otter Creek, and a small unnamed creek meander through the property before joining and draining into the Iowa River. Old oxbows found in the vast riparian forest on-site serve as ephemeral wetlands.
- Phebe Timber
Phebe Timber is a 26-acre property that was donated to Johnson County Conservation in 2021. The property is located in south central Johnson County and consists of forested land, with Old Man’s Creek running through the parcel.
Phebe Timber was donated to JCC by the William’s family in 2021. The land had been in the William’s family since January 1, 1850, when the property was transfered from the U.S. government by President Zachary Taylor, 12th president of the United States, to Phebe (Williams) Davis. This donation is unique as it is the first donation to JCC representing land from a family that received the property directly from the U.S. government as part of the nation’s westward expansion and colonization by Euro-Americans.
A total of 24 acres of forest land is found on the property, with high quality bottomland forest ecosystem made up of silver maple, walnut, hackberry, cottonwood, and river birch. A few native hawthorns and oaks remain as reminders of the original oak savanna that once blanketed the county’s river valleys.
Old Man’s Creek runs through the property, and the stream channel makes up the remaining 2 acres of the site.
The property features a diverse array of spring ephemeral wildflowers, including trout lily, prairie trillium, rue anemone, spring beauty, bluebells, violets, and wild ginger, among others.
This property is adjacent to private land that remains in natural habitat. These lands together create connected habitat and wildlife migration corridors. Stream and river corridors represent most of Iowa’s connected wildlife habitat today, and thus, these properties are especially important to protect and preserve.
A parking area and trails may be developed in the future to make this site more accessible to the people of Johnson County.
Bow hunting is the only hunting allowed on this property.
- River Junction Access
This 12-acre area located 3 miles west of Lone Tree and one-half mile south of Highway 22 was acquired in 1971. The Iowa River bounds the area on the west. The English River flows into the Iowa just a few hundred feet south of the boat ramp.
The well shaded river banks and a new boat ramp completed in 2005 make this a consistently popular fishing area. Facilities on the site include the boat ramp, picnic tables, ten primitive campsites and latrine. New fire slabs have been installed.
The camping fee is $10 per unit per night for each of the 11 campsites with fire rings.
- Scott Church Park
This 5-acre roadside park is located 6 miles southeast of Iowa City at the junction of American Legion Road and Highway 6. Scott Church has the distinction of being the "first" county park. It was acquired and developed by the fledgling Johnson County Conservation Board in 1965 under a sponsoring agreement from the Iowa Highway Commission for the development of a highway safety rest area. Facilities include a picnic area, picnic shelter, picnic tables, a swing set, a mowed play area, potable water supply and a pit toilet.
A triangular-shaped area, approximately one half-acre in size, just to the north of the picnic shelter, was seeded to native grasses and forbs in the fall of 2001. This gives the area a much more natural appearance, reduces maintenance costs and provides much needed wildlife habitat. A multiple-row shelterbelt composed of Red Cedar, Norway Spruce, High Bush Cranberry and Ninebark was planted along the property line. The prairie and shelterbelt provide badly needed nesting and winter cover for wildlife in a locale of intense row-crop agriculture that provides virtually none. The three-year-old prairie planting is becoming well established and will offer a visual delight to park visitors from late spring through hard frost.
- Solon Prairie
Click to see a map and information
The Solon Prairie, located within the city limits of Solon, is a 3-acre tract of Wet-mesic prairie. The area is reputed to be a virgin prairie that has apparently never been plowed. In 1966 the Solon Gun Club acquired the property from the Kessler family who had owned it since 1876. For the next seventeen years the land was used for a trapshooting range and a small clubhouse was located there.
In 1983, the Solon Gun Club conveyed ownership to the Johnson County Conservation Board. The area is preserved as a natural prairie and is available for public use as a botanical study area. A prairie management plan was developed for it in 1984.
A quadrennial burn management program has been used to control invaders and enhance native species since then. One hundred and five Prairie species have been identified on the site. Considerable effort has been expended in an attempt to eradicate the alien invader - reed canary grassSolon Prairie - from the wetter portions of the area. Failure to control canary grass will result in total colonization of the site by this alien, which will out-compete many of the native species. The Solon Prairie is a living natural history museum and gives the visitor a microcosmic view of the predominant vegetation of 80% of the state of Iowa at the time of settlement. It is a valuable outdoor classroom. Much native grass and wildflower seed has been gathered from this area for establishment in other JCCB areas.
To the south of Solon Prairie is a prairie slough that will soon be surrounded by a housing development known as Fox Ridge Meadows. Ownership of this 13.5-acre federally-determined wetland will be conveyed to the City of Solon by developer Clair Mekota. It will be connected to the Solon Prairie by a hard-surfaced trail. A floristic inventory will be completed to determine the full extent of species diversity. Plans call for the JCCB to manage the prairie through a 28E Agreement with the city.
- Sutliff Access
This river access, slightly less than 1/2-acre in size, is located in the tiny settlement of Sutliff in Cedar Township. It is owned by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The JCCB has operated the area since 1986 under a twenty five-year management agreement.
Facilities on the site include a boat ramp and picnic area. The concrete boat ramp was constructed with funds from the Motor Boat Fuel Tax Fund. None of the entrance to the boat ramp or the parking lot lies in the floodplain. Consequently, it is accessible even when the river is at flood stage.
This access provides fishermen and boaters hours and hours of recreation. This excellent facility was developed at no cost to the taxpayers of Johnson County.
- Walker Park
This little park is located 6 miles west of Lone Tree and one half mile south of Highway 22 in the ghost town of River Junction. The park actually predates the existence of the Conservation Board in Johnson County by more than fifty years. It is named in honor of Henry Walker, an early settler of the county. Walker donated the land for the site of the former River Junction Methodist Chapel and the adjoining 3 acres for a park. The church building was removed many years ago
Walker donated what was described in an old account as "the beautiful grove for the use of the Old Settlers of Johnson County. Where, under the shade of the great oaks, maples and hickories, the first settlers of Johnson County, with their wives and descendants, could fittingly celebrate the anniversaries of their yesterdays and meet together in neighborly feasting and conversation." A concrete block building, known as the Henry Walker Memorial Building, was erected there in 1912. It was paid for by public conscription. The building originally housed artifacts and antiques of the pioneer era.
In 1916 a replica log cabin was built south of the memorial building as "a rustic monument to pioneer days." The Old Settlers Picnics were an annual event for many years and the Old Settler Organization maintained the park. As the older generation passed on and families moved away, interest in the organization waned. Walker Park was deeded to the JCCB in 1971 by the South Iowa Conference of the Methodist Church. Over the next decade and one half, the Conservation Board maintained the area as a park but usage declined.
In 1988 the JCCB voted to reclassify Walker Park as a Conservation Area and reduce the level of maintenance. The residents of the vicinity received this action with a less than enthusiastic response. Within the next five years, interest in the Old Settlers organization was rekindled and the Old Settlers Picnic, once again, became an annual event. The Board reversed their position and returned to maintaining the area as a park. Old Settlers' events have now been held the second weekend in September for the last several years. There is, now, a significant community spirit in the River Junction vicinity. Conservation staff erected a small picnic shelter on the site in the fall of 2000. New latrines were recently installed and a flagpole was added in September of 2001.
The park and memorial building was nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2001.
The Old Settlers Association host spring and fall festivals which are an integral part to the success of this little park.
- Williams Prairie Preserve
The 21-acre Williams Prairie Preserve is an absolute botanical gem. The site, better classified as a sedge meadow, is known to contain nearly 315 species of vascular plants and eight bryophytes (mosses and liverworts). The wet conditions of the site likely saved it from more intensive agricultural activity, but the site has been hayed and possibly grazed by earlier owners. John Williams, namesake of the Williams Prairie State Preserve, purchased the property in the early 1900’s for use as a hayfield.
In the 1960’s, this site was discovered by botanists from the University of Iowa and by 1973 the land was deeded to the Conservancy for protection. The site was dedicated as a biological state preserve in 1976 and continues to serve as a site for research and educational activities.
In addition to the numerous unique and rare plant species, the Williams Prairie Preserve is also the home for several threatened and endangered animal species, including the Ornate Box Turtle.
Williams Prairie is located north of Oxford, Iowa. From the State Highway 109 and Highway 6 intersection go north on Old Highway (F28) for about .7 mile. Bear right onto Cemetery Road NW for about .8 mile. Turn left (west) onto Grabin Road NW. Proceed another 1.1 miles to Black Hawk Avenue NW and turn right (north). The entrance to the Williams Prairie will be on your right hand side (east).