Whiterock Conservancy is 5000+ acres of protected land near Coon Rapids, Iowa. And it’s an outdoor lover’s dream. With miles of trails, a diverse Iowa landscape, and so many ways to enjoy nature, you’ll want to go back again and again. The good news is, it’s just over an hour’s drive from Des Moines–the ideal day trip!
History of Whiterock Conservancy
Whiterock Conservancy is a beautiful gift to Iowans and visitors from all around. It began in 2004. And in its short history, it has gone above and beyond its mission of conservation, education, and outdoor recreation.
The Garst family donated the land for Whiterock Conservancy. It’s part of a land trust designed to protect and conserve the area for generations to come. And it’s run as a non-profit organization, relying on donations, fees, and farm income.
The Garst Farm made history when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited in the 1950s, during the Cold War. You can learn more about the history of the land and farm while visiting. Interpretive signs and brochures offer a glimpse into the past. History tours and talks are available on request.
Things to Do at Whiterock Conservancy
The list of things to do at the conservancy is looooong! Plan to spend some time there; you won’t run out of things to do and see.
Hike on 40+ miles of multi-use trails! Trails are well-marked gravel, paved, dirt, and mowed paths throughout the area. You can even hike the double-track trail that circles the property (also designed to accommodate UTVs).
Hiking is free, but $2 donations are welcome (pay at the trailheads).
Over 16 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails wind through the southwest side of the conservancy. A $5 day-use fee (or $25 annual pass) gives you access to all the singletrack trails. For trail conditions, check the Whiterock Conservancy Singletrack Facebook page.
Many of the mountain biking trails are intermediate. But if you’re looking for easier trails, you can also bike on the other multi-use trails there.
Bike rentals are available–call (712)-790-8221 Ext. 5 or email email@example.com.
Six miles of designated equestrian trails got specially designed for horseback riding. Horses are also allowed on the doubletrack trail and the Town Loop Trail. For trail updates, see the Whiterock Conservancy Equestrian Trails Facebook page. Fees are $10/horse per day or a $50 annual pass. Parking for trailers is available at the River and Oak Ridge Campgrounds.
Fish for free at any of twelve ponds at Whiterock Conservancy (Iowa fishing license is required). The ponds get restocked with Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Northern Pike, Walleye, and Perch. For more info, download the conservancy’s fishing brochure and map. Fishing equipment is available to rent–call (712)-790-8221 Ext. 5 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the stars
Whiterock has minimal light pollution and is an ideal spot to view the night sky! On a clear night, you can see the Milky Way with ease. So if you’re searching for the perfect stargazing opportunity, this is the place to go. Also, the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers hosts a Star Party there each year!
Rent a UTV to explore Whiterock Conservancy
Rent a John Deere Gator™ and drive the double-track trail to explore the conservancy. For reservations, call (712)-790-8221 Ext. 5 or email email@example.com.
Have your own ATV/UTV? The conservancy hosts a few “Slow Sunday Drives,” so you can enjoy the double-track trails.
The diverse habitats offer the perfect place to spot a variety of birds, including waterfowl, bald eagles, songbirds, and more. Over 150 species of birds live in or pass through the conservancy each year.
Paddle the Middle Raccoon River (rentals available)
The eight-mile water trail starts at Coon Rapids and ends at the River Campground at Whiterock Conservancy. You can also begin at Roadside Park for less time on the water. Single kayaks and 3-person canoes are available to rent, with shuttles. For reservations, call (712)-790-8221 Ext. 5 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Play a round of disc golf
The 9-hole Star Field disc golf course is at the Star Field Campground, at 1523 140th St, Coon Rapids, IA. Start at the northwest corner of the parking area (see the course map here).
See the farm
The farm is a working farm complete with livestock. And there’s a small Bison herd southwest of the family farm. You can even stay in a farmhouse! The Historic Garst Farmhouse, Betts Farmhouse, and Oak Ridge Farmhouse are available for rent.
Fees: Your donations are important
Whiterock Conservancy doesn’t receive federal or state financial support. It’s a non-profit land trust that relies only on donations, fees, and farm income. Paying fees and making donations help keep this fantastic place going!
Whiterock Conservancy Maps
For trail, campground, and other maps, see the Whiterock Conservancy website.
Camping at Whiterock Conservancy
Whiterock Conservancy has four campgrounds, nestled in the quiet countryside with views of the stars you can’t get anywhere else in Iowa. All camping is first-come, first-serve, and campers self-register at the kiosks. Below are brief descriptions of each campground.
Oak Ridge RV Campground
- 13 campsites, each with electric hookup
- Dump station
- Modern restrooms/showers
- Horse corral
- Access to trails
- See the Oak Ridge RV Campground webpage for more
Star Field Campground
- 13 non-electric sites (no RVs or trailers)
- Modern restrooms/showers
- Spacious campsites bordering the woodlands
- Trails nearby
- See the Star Field Campground webpage for more
- Five non-electric campsites (trailers okay, no generators)
- Shower house (heated by the sun)
- Horses allowed
- Trails nearby
- See the River Campground webpage for more
Primitive Fishing Campground
- Hike in tent sites
- Trail and Garst Family Farm pond access
- See the Primitive Fishing Campground webpage for more
Cabin and Farmhouse Rentals
Are you looking for an elegant one-room romantic getaway? Or a rustic, countryside cabin stay? Perhaps a private, rural home for the whole family? You’ll find it here.
Things to Do Nearby
If you plan to stay awhile, check out these other local attractions!
Check out the Sculpture Park off Hwy 141 near Whiterock Conservancy. See 15 sculptures there and others throughout the town of Coon Rapids. Speaking of Coon Rapids, there you’ll find one-of-a-kind shopping and dining options. It also has a golf course, aquatic center, and bowling alley!
The 89-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail isn’t too far from the conservancy. The Panora, Jefferson, Perry trailheads are all a 30-minute drive from there.
Perry is a 30-minute drive east of the conservancy. Dine at the Hotel Pattee, tour the Carnegie Library Museum, and be sure to stop at the Forest Park Museum (Dallas Co. Conservation HQ).
Visit Whiterock Conservancy Today!
Whiterock Conservancy is at 1436 IA-141, Coon Rapids, IA 50058. Access to many of the conservancy destinations requires traveling on gravel roads.
Directions to Whiterock Conservancy from Des Moines
- Take I-35/80 to IA-141 W/SE Grimes Blvd (EXIT 127). Follow Hwy 141 north to Whiterock Conservancy.
- Or take I-80 west to IA-25 N (EXIT 86). Head north on Hwy 25 to Hwy 141. Then head west on Hwy 141 to the conservancy.