It has been 47 years since the Dickinson County Conservation Board began, and the organization quickly got to work.
By 1971, conservation board leaders had entered an agreement to purchase a piece of property along 240th Street just south of the city of Milford. The area, dubbed Horseshoe Bend, was purchased from Richard and Rhoda Kaiser and Vern and Alvina Hankins.
It quickly became one of the most popular recreation spots in the county, and the conservation board proposed acquiring additional acres within two years.
“The State Conservation Commission has previously approved the acquisition of 100 acres of land in this area that has already been partially developed with picnicking facilities and a winter sports area that is heavily used,” an interdepartmental communication in the State Conservation Commission read. “On one Sunday count during the early part of 1973, a total of over 300 cars were counted using the winter sports area. This heavy use has necessitated the expansion of the area at a faster pace than was originally planned.”
A warming house for the winter sports area was constructed. Picnic shelters were built. A maintenance facility was added. Trails and bridges were mapped out. Rustic campsites appeared.
Today, the Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area is the Dickinson County Conservation Board’s second-largest and most well-used park.
The 180-acre wildlife preserve offers a 2.5-mile trail that winds through the Little Sioux River valley as well as upland forests, meadows, marshes and oxbow ponds. These diverse habitats play host to a number of creatures including deer, beavers, fox, turtles, salamanders and many avian species.
Facilities at Horseshoe Bend include a warming shelter with indoor fire pit and a spectacular river valley outlook, a playground, modern bathroom facilities, rustic campsites and a picnic area and shelter house available to rent.
The park has limited deer hunting with a lottery held each fall and is also open to fishermen as well as canoers and kayakers, with an easy access point on the Little Sioux River. Four Ranger Rick geocaches are housed throughout the park, and anyone with a GPS-enabled smartphone can search for the hidden treasures.
In the winter, the Horseshoe Bend Winter Sports Area offers a snow tubing hill. Regular hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, when snow conditions are favorable. Special parties can also be booked at the tubing hill for a minimum of 25 people.
With eight parks and even more public areas, the Dickinson County Conservation Board has a variety of gems for the public to explore to help foster an appreciation of the natural world. Learn about each of these parks at www.dickinsoncountynaturecenter.com and see a new series of Youtube videos on each park, coming out periodically in 2016. Check out the Horseshoe Bend video on the DCCBnaturecenter Youtube channel.