I grew up along the Mississippi River, and many memories surround that water for me. Feeding ducks and geese, taking walks along the shore, attempting to waterski, watching it rise and fall with spring rains and dry summer days.

The hardest part of college was not being near water, and I spent studying time and quiet moments at a nearby pond, just soaking in the part of nature that beat within me.

Moving to the Iowa Great Lakes area was a natural fit after college then. I need the water. I need the quiet rustle of waves. I need the cool breeze coming across the shore.

Ainsworth-Orleans Beach is one of the best places to soak in the beauty of the water, because it offers so much. Picnics. Playtime. Swimming. Enjoying.

Photo of the Orleans Beach sign

Come by in the evening and take a seat along the shore. The sun is gently setting just to the west, making the water light up with brilliant colors as it reflects the sky above. The trees lining the shore all around the majestic body of water turn black and melt together, contrasting with the dimming skyline.

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Geese honk as they fly in a V overhead, moving south to warmer temperatures. A few ducks flap their wings frantically as they do the same. Nearby, a fox squirrel eyes its surroundings warily, its bushy tail disappearing amidst fall foliage. A variety of other birds twitter their goodnight songs in the trees.

The waves beat south, landing on the sandy shore. In the summer, those cool waters relax warm toes buried in the coarse sand, and the breeze calms parents as they watch their children climb playground equipment or dig in the sand. In the fall, the waves are still relaxing, instead of sticking my toes in the sand, I breathe in deeply and let the frigid air course its way into my lungs. In the winter, the frozen waters seem almost more expansive in their white stillness.

Photo of playground equipment near frozen lake

No matter the season, there's something to do at the small county park along Big Spirit Lake, but Ainsworth-Orleans Beach is almost more than that. I didn't really have to do anything. I just sat down. I breathed. I listened. I enjoyed.

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(Westport Park is another water-based gem.)

How fish survive in frozen lakes

The frozen Iowa Great Lakes are dotted with blue and black as ice fishermen set up their shacks, drill holes and search for life below the ice. And there is still plenty of life to be found, but how exactly do fish survive in those frigid temperatures? You can learn how ice is created on…

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What fish is it?

[wp_quiz id=”6531″]

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Take a stroll through Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area

Crunch, slide, pant. Crunch, slide, pant. Crunch, crunch, pant. Those were about the only sounds interrupting the peaceful stillness at Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area just south of Milford Tuesday. The snow crunched beneath my feet as I walked, and about every other step partially slid down the first hill I was traversing. The uphill portion…

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A stroll through Westport Park

I hate to admit this publicly, but I had not been to Dickinson County Conservation’s Westport Park until yesterday. We are always a little surprised when people come into the nature center and have lived in the area for years without ever visiting before. However, it’s the same way with county parks. Some of our…

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A stroll through Judd Wildlife Area

At the end of summer, Snapchat had a feed where users from Iowa could post videos to share with the rest of the world. My husband and I took our dog on a walk through the Dickinson County Conservation Board’s Judd Wildlife Area south of Milford, and we took a short video of us walking…

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A stroll through the Little Sioux Savanna

The Dickinson County Conservation Board has two new parcels of land on 195th Avenue, south of County Road A-34 in Milford. We worked hard this summer at the Little Foote Forest parcel, attempting to eradicate some of the invasive garlic mustard on the plot, but I had yet to walk through the Little Sioux Savanna parcel…

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A stroll through Kenue Park

The scent of fall is in the air. To me the scent of fall means dry leaves, wood smoke and a hint of chill to the air. Take a breath and it awakens the spirit. My eyes open wider and search for the beautiful change of colors. My lungs take in the sweet aroma. On…

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2 Comments

  1. John F Smeltzer on February 10, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Very nice beach …. great sand, great playground equipment and a small shelter to have a picnic under. New bathrooms as well and close to a small ice cream stand just across the parking lot.



  2. Greg on November 12, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Nice! This was a favorite beach for my family going back over 60 years!