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Top 10 winter activities in our county parks

We live in Iowa because we like seasons. If we didn’t like seeing leaves bud in the spring and fall in autumn, if we didn’t like to see snowflakes dust the ground, if we didn’t like to a warm fire outside on a cool evening, we would all live in the tropics.

This winter has also helped ease us into the next season, with unusually warm temperatures coming and going. But the real winter season will be upon us soon, and we all need a little help coming up with ideas of how to spend blustery days and evenings.

Here is a list of 10 things to do in our Dickinson County Conservation Board parks and places:

1. Geocaching

Photo of children looking at a GPS unit

Eight Ranger Rick geocaches are set up throughout Kenue Park and Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area, and all you need is a smartphone with the C:Geo app to find them. If you want to track your progress, stop inside the Dickinson County Nature Center and pick up a passport first, and then mark off each geocache you find.

2. Hiking

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Each of our Dickinson County Conservation Board parks offers beautiful walking and hiking, but the newest area, Little Sioux Savanna, has some especially spectacular views. Located just off County Road A34 on 195th Avenue, the park has a wooded area, open plains and a gorgeous overlook of the Little Sioux River. Bring your pooch for an even more enjoyable time.

3. Snowshoeing

Photo of a group snowshoeing

When we do have at least 6 inches of snow, and we most likely will at some point again, stop inside the nature center and borrow a pair of snowshoes for free to use at Kenue Park. Snowshoeing offers a novel way of traversing snowy landscape and is especially fun when the snow is too deep to trudge through with just boots on.

4. Tubing

Photo of a tow rope pulling up a snowy hill

We have hoped for several years to have enough snow to open the tubing hill at Horseshoe Bend, and the dream came true for one day. Now we’re dreaming of more white days so people can come out and have fun flying down the tubing hill and using the tow rope to come back up. When there is at least six inches of snow pack, the tubing hill will be open. Check hours here.

5. Disc golf

Photo of disc golfers in the snow

It doesn’t matter if it’s snowy, windy, muddy or sunny, the Okoboji Gold Disc Golf Course in Kenue Park is still open. No matter the weather, there is usually some hardcore player out enjoying the professional-grade disc golf course in Okoboji. If you need discs, just stop in the Nature Store at the nature center and purchase some for $10 each.

6. Bird watching

Photo of a white-breasted nuthatch on a nut feeder

We offer bird lovers a number of choices for places to get a good glimpse of their feathered friends. Enjoy watching woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches and juncos feeding in the avian courtyard from the warmth of the nature center, or head out to a park like Judd Wildlife Area to take in migrating and overwintering birds in their natural habitat.

7. Photography

Photo of snowy plain

The due date for the next nature center photography contest is April 1, so head out to Westport Park or Superior Marsh this winter to get some gorgeous nature shots to submit to the contest. Days with blue skies and snowy ground make for some gorgeous photos.

8. Swan watching

Photo of a swan on the wetland

Some of the most majestic birds are trumpeter swans, and you can see two rehabilitated trumpeters year-round on the wetland in Kenue Park. Use the binoculars in the nature center to see them or climb the outdoor observation tower and check out the goings on.

9. Snowman building (Or get muddy)

Photo of a boy kneeling in the snow

When we have enough snow, you can always take a moment to have fun and build a snowman. Hide it in the middle of the woods or make one in Kenue Park so everyone can see it when they walk by on the paved trail.

Or if we don’t have snow, wear some old clothes and go tromping through the mud. What child doesn’t enjoy getting dirty every once in a while?

10. Playground at Orleans

Photo of playground equipment near frozen lake

Even when Big Spirit Lake is frozen over, Ainsworth-Orleans Beach is still a fun place to visit. Bundle up the kiddos and let them play on the playground. If they fall into a pile of snow beneath the playground equipment, it’s even more fun!

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