Settings #7 – Fort Armstrong County’s Forest Preserves

Altogether the Fort Armstrong County Conservation Commission has close to twelve-thousand-acres of public land under its control, but by far their two most well-known and popularly used preserves are the:

– Great River Forest Preserve, adjacent to Five Falls State Park, encompassing about twelve-hundred acres of old growth timber. It has picnic areas, hiking and equestrian trails, but no camping. It does not have Mississippi River access. While the county owns the land, it is managed by the state as if it were part of the state park.

– Pincatauwee Forest Preserve, about eleven-hundred acres approximately mid-county along the Pincatauwee River. It is more heavily developed, with a campground, swimming area, fishing, hunting (in season) and several miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

The two are literally at opposite ends of the county, Great River to the south, Pincatauwee on the north. Ro, of course, has a strong bond with the Great River Forest Preserve, running on its trails regularly. Her association the Pincatauwee Preserve is pretty much limited to regular patrolling around and through it as a deputy.

The Conservation Commission was established in the early-60s. Its first project was to acquire a tract of land adjacent to the state park owned by the Iowa Resources Institute. The institute had bought the land years earlier to protect it from logging and development but with the intent of eventually turning it over to the state or county to be added to public lands. It became the core of the Great River Preserve; additional tracts were purchased or received by donation over the years.

The Pincatauwee Preserve was established in the early- 90s when the county acquired several thousand acres along the Pinky River once owned by a defunct logging company that hadn’t paid the taxes on the land for years. They developed about a third of it, with the rest remaining undeveloped and mainly used only for public hunting – although hunters were allowed to lease small tracts to locate seasonal housing, usually travel trailers or old school busses.

The commission also manages dozens of other sites around the county, including:

– The roughly three miles of the Shadowbrook bike path that is in the county, including The Bottoms, which Ro also has a strong link to.

– The 18-hole Long Hills Golf Course located along Shadowbrook west of Lee’s Landing.

– Several relatively small public use areas – fishing and picnicking only, no camping – at various locations along the Mississippi River.

– Tracts of timbered hunting plots scattered throughout the county.

The county fairgrounds are managed by a separate commission.

Next: Witness Tree Rod and Gun Club

© 2018 Dave Lager