So many people crest the hill on Highway 71, coming north into the south side of Milford, and get a beautiful overlook of the Milford Creek, a tributary of the Little Sioux River.

But did you know that you can take a right and actually walk through part of that beautiful area?

Photo of Highway 71

Pioneer Park Nature Preserve is a 35-acre park, funded partially with the help of a Resource Enhancement and Protection grant, that opened in 2017. Located at 2317 225th Ave., Milford, the luscious park is only a minute drive off of the highway thoroughfare.

Next time you’re nearby, take a few minutes to pull off the beaten drag and go for a jaunt with your family.

The short, mowed trail through the property begins with information about what you’ll find — 75 native plant species like butterfly milkweed and pale purple coneflower, wildlife, pollinators and even gorgeous avian creatures such as bald eagles, osprey and blue herons.

Photo of pale purple coneflower

Pale purple coneflower

Follow along the trail, and you’ll get to see activity in the lush grass. When I visited at the end of summer, northern leopard frogs jumped out of the path when they heard me coming, and bees buzzed by as they foraged for pollen. Milford Creek bubbled just a ways away, but a water-logged summer meant that the ground was too wet for the trail to reach it. However, when you can access the water, you can fish for a variety of game fish, such as walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, catfish and muskellunge.

Photo of Milford Creek

The trail takes a curve when you get near the trees and begins to lead back to the road. If you listen though, you can hear history calling.

At the end of the trail is another sign that denotes the spot where the town of Milford began. It was on this site that in 1869 a gristmill was built that inspired the growth of the city into what it is today. Customers from all around the region would come to get their grain ground, and they would set up camp while waiting in line for their turn.

Photo of history sign in green grass

Take a look around you and see a grand apple tree — do you think there was one people could eat from while they waited for their time at the mill? Do you think that people camped near the water so they could hear the peaceful rush of the water? Do you think where the road is that there was a rutted trail from where horses and wagons continually passed by?

Photo of apple on tree

Pioneer Park Nature Preserve isn’t a huge park. But it has so many opportunities — bird watching, walking, learning about history, fishing, kayaking, exploring. You could even bring a blanket and a picnic lunch to enjoy some time in the sunshine, not too far from home.

When you drive past on Highway 71, take some time to slow down and enjoy the outdoors at Pioneer Park before heading on your way.

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