Bur Oak Land Trust owns and maintains 9 properties in the Johnson County area with the exception of Kessler Prairie, located in Grinnell, Iowa. All of the properties are regularly maintained and accessible year round for enjoyment of the public. Reservations for group activities are not necessary. Please maintain a safe distance from others on the trails.
Only bow hunting is permitted on certain properties with approval from Bur Oak Land Trust. Click here to apply. Fires are not allowed on properties unless there is a designated fire pit on site or previous approval from land steward. Camping is suitable on some sites and does not require reservations. Fishing requires a fishing license.
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40 acres of former pasture crossed by Dirty Face Creek, with an apple orchard and a small wetland. It was donated by David and Kathie Belgum in 1998 to be used for education, research, and recreation. The pond is stocked with large-mouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. You must have a fishing license to fish. The property has beautiful rolling landscapes, wildlife, and forbs to photograph and explore.
The small wetland offers a variety of kid friendly activities. Make sure to bring your rain boots, nets, and buckets for a close up exploration of frogs, toads, turtles, snails, and snakes. Check out the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
Mowed trails are spacious and wide enough for dog owners and trail runners. Trail map here.
Big Grove Preserve
Directions: take 245th St. NE west from Sugar Bottom Road, about 2 mi. from Newport Rd. Public parking is available on county land at the end of 245th street. Parking is not allowed along Starry Night Lane nor in the turn-around.
Big Grove Preserve, with the addition of the newly acquired Big Grove Addition, is an eighty-acre woodland adjacent to the Coralville Reservoir off Sugar Bottom Road, which makes up part of the original “Big Grove” noted by the first settlers to describe Johnson County’s landscape.
The Big Grove was acquired in 2004 from Dick Schwab and Will Weibel, developers of the adjacent Natural Woodlands residential area. The Big Grove Addition was acquired in conjunction with our Protect. Conserve. Grow. the Campaign to Save the Grove capital campaign held 2016-17. In addition to its ownership of the Big Grove and Big Grove Addition, Bur Oak Land Trust holds a conservation easement on eight and a half acres of each ten-acre lot in the Natural Woodlands development. While these easements are not open to public access, they have the effect of increasing the area of protected land and will contribute to the preservation of the area’s ecosystem.
The property has a network of hiking trails. Keep in mind that trails are narrow and hilly if you are planning on a trail run or walking your dog. Kids have the opportunity to look for fossils, forage for mushrooms, play in the creek, look for animal tracks, or use activities on the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets.
Note: The Google Map view for 4065 Vincent Avenue is the correct location for 5397 Vincent Avenue.
Hora Woods is a 20-acre remnant woodland that is being managed to restore it to a mix of oak savannah and open woodland. The property was donated by Mabel Hora in 1986 with the wish that it be ‘preserved in its natural state’. The property is being managed to maintain and increase biodiversity, control invasives, improve wildlife habitat, and provide educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
The property contains over 150 vascular plants (90 of them being native), striking spring ephemerals, and old oaks and hickories. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, photography, plant ID, and walking. There is currently no trail maps for the property. Visitors should be aware that trails are narrow but mostly flat and short distances.
Address: 4224 20th St. Grinnell, IA 50112
Our first property outside of Johnson County is 25.97 acres of 7 separate prairies. It was donated by James and Kathryn Kessler in 2017, to protect and preserve the reconstruction efforts started by the Kessler family.
Much of the land was used for agriculture and grazing before 1930’s. The land shifted from agricultural land to brome grass and clover in between 1930’s and 1990’s. The transformation of the property to reconstructed native habitat started after 1990. Kessler prairie contains a creek which is part of the North Skunk watershed, wetlands, bur oak savanna, closed savannas, meadows, upland & lowland prairie, and diverse native sourced prairie.
Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, photography, walking, and plant ID. There is currently no trail map for this property.
Muddy Creek Preserve
40.63 acres of former pastureland donated by Barbara Beaumont and Kurt Hamann. This property features steep rolling terrain, with large sweeping mature oak trees. You can find a huge boulder slowly working its way down the watershed towards Muddy Creek. If you sneak in quietly you are likely to flush a rafter of turkeys, or a herd of white tail deer. Do not cross the creek to the north or east.
The fence on the south of the property defines the boundary between Bur Oak Land Trust property and Coralville residents. The boundary on the west is currently defined by dilapidated fencing. When in doubt move to the east away from private property until stewardship staff can mark the boundaries more clearly.
Visitors can enjoy foraging during the summer and fall months, striking spring ephemerals, native orchids, and diverse wildlife. Note that the trails are narrow and steep.
Kids can enjoy looking for wildlife tracks, spotting woodpeckers, foraging for mushrooms, and playing in the creek. Check out the Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
O'mara Newport Woods
Address: 320th St NE. Newport, IA 52240
O’Mara-Newport Woods is a small wooded area (30 acres) just north of Iowa City adjacent to Rapid Creek. The property consists of rolling hills that includes about 5 acres of mature white oak forest cover, about 24 acres of developing young hardwood forest cover (red oak, black walnut, white ash, and black cherry), and a 1-acre pasture.
In the early 1970’s only 5 acres was in forest cover, and now some of the valuable upland hardwood forest cover that has been significantly reduced in Johnson County in recent years is being allowed to return on this property.
Restricted access. Please contact Carter Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on workdays or specified tour dates to view this property.
Pappy Dickens Preserve
Pappy Dickens Preserve is a 16.5-acre preserve that borders Iowa City’s Hickory Hill Park on its northwest side at 1356 Dodge Street Ct., Iowa City, IA 52245. The Friends of Hickory Hill Park was instrumental in the acquisition of the property and will be responsible for managing the Preserve for the Trust. The site provides a nice buffer for Hickory Hill Park and extends the large urban/wild park habitat for wildlife.
The Preserve consists of a young, developing mixed-hardwood woodland, but was much more open in the past. Invasive species including a large amount of honeysuckle are currently an issue at the Preserve. Plans are to remove invasive species and open up the canopy and let the site develop into an open woodland habitat.
There is currently no trail map for this property. Visitors can enjoy foraging for mushrooms, wildlife viewing, photography, and walking. Pet owners can opt for a longer hike through Hickory Hill.
Address: 1355 Grissel Pl, Iowa City, IA 52245
Shimek Ravine is 13 acres of oak-hickory forest in a hilly area just west of Shimek Elementary School. Nearby residents purchased the property to protect it from development and donated it to the Trust in 1992.
Although Shimek Ravine is heavily crowded with invasives, it still remains a diverse woodland with over 160 species of vascular plants, 80% of which are native. It is often home to whitetail deer, raccoon, eastern turkey, opossum, two species of fox, the occasional bobcat, and numerous migratory bird species.
The Trust hopes to manage and contain the spread of several invasives such as: Oriental bittersweet, Japanese barberry, Burning bush, Honeysuckle, and Garlic mustard. By removing species that pose a threat to this woodland and mimicking natural disturbances, the quality of habitat will be preserved and expanded for native plant and wildlife communities.
Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, nature photography, bird watching, foraging, and walking. Shimek offers a good opportunity to talk with kids about Iowa’s native and invasive plants and their effect on ecosystems. Check out our Kids Corner page for ideas and printable sheets!
Address: 1554 Polk Ave NE. Solon, IA 52333
Strub Prairie, a small but diverse native prairie remnant harbors over 100 native species in the 1.08 acre preserve with 1/3 acre conservation easement adjoining it. This land is along an abandoned railroad right of way at the northeast corner of Highway 382 and Polk Avenue. The land once housed a propane storage business owned by Bud Strub. It was affectionately known as “propane prairie.” Bud made the purchase of this remnant possible in 2006.
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is 107.24 acres of woods and former pasture land, including over 15 acres of reconstructed prairie, and was donated in 1981 by Webster and Gloria Gelman, John Greenleaf and Barbara Greenleaf Buckley, Gerald and Sarah Howe, and Mauricio and Emilia Lasansky.
Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, walking, foraging, bird watching, photography, plant ID, and educational opportunities on prairie ecosystems. Turkey Creek offers one of the best places to observe diverse groups of pollinators in action, including the threatened and endangered Rusty-patch bumblebee. Kids can play in the creek and look for fossils, clams, craw-fish, frogs, toads, and insects. Bring a net and bucket to observe water critters even better! Turkey Creek is also home to an incredible variety of spring ephemerals.
Trails are fairly even & flat, mowed, and spacious for trail running and walking pets. Check out the trail map here.