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6 Ways to Start Off the New Year Outdoors

  • 12/29/2015 9:37:00 AM
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Join a First Day Hike in one of 19 Iowa State Parks or try one of 5 other activities to start off the new year outdoors | Iowa DNRWhat better way to celebrate the new year than by getting outdoors? Here are a few ideas to get your year off to a good start!

Start 2016 with a hike and a resolution to explore more Iowa State Parks. Nineteen state parks in Iowa are hosting free guided hikes on Jan. 1 as part of the national First Day Hikes initiative. Hikes average one to two miles, and most are pet-friendly and welcome people of all ages. Concerned about participating AND being able to see the Rose Bowl? All but one hike will accommodate those wanting to do both. For who would rather hike into the evening, there is another “rose” to explore. Prairie Rose State Park will feature a special “owl prowl” hike beginning at 5 p.m. For starting times, meeting locations and other First Day Hike details, visit

Go winter trout fishing in northeast Iowa’s trout streams, which are open for year-round fishing, or in urban lakes stocked by the DNR in January. As a part of the winter stocking program, trout are released in statewide locations that would not normally support trout in the warmer months. These urban lakes are stocked with trout for a fun fishing experience. A family friendly event is usually paired with the stocking to help beginners get started and be successful. Learn more about Iowa’s trout streams and urban stocking programs at

Chase the wily rooster pheasant. Pheasant season is open through Jan. 10, 2016 and recent snow may improve the opportunities for success. 2015 hunting licenses are valid through the pheasant season, so whether you received a 2016 hunting license in your stocking or are still holding a 2015, grab your favorite hunting partner, two-legged or four-legged, and good luck!

Take in the Soiree with the Swans in Cass County, Saturday, Jan. 9 at Atlantic’s Schildberg Recreation Area. Staff will be giving 10-minute trumpeter swan presentations every half-hour beginning at 11 a.m. with the last one presented at 2 p.m.  There will be time to view the swans through spotting scopes and witness random swan feeding sessions. Hot chocolate, cookies, grilled hotdogs and other snacks will be provided and donations are accepted. If the swans are not in the park or if there's bad weather, the program will be held at the Atlantic Public Library from noon to 1 p.m.. For more information contact Lora Kanning, naturalist, Cass County Conservation Board, 712-769-2372.

Bald Eagle Watch events are underway January through March around the state. Events are scheduled in the Quad Cities, Clinton, Dubuque, Keokuk, Muscatine, Coralville, Des Moines, Saylorville Lake, Effigy Mounds, O’Brien County and Sioux Rapids. For a detailed schedule with dates, times and specific locations visit:

Explore a favorite trail in a different season.The recent powdery snow that fell across much of Iowa the end of December will likely be around for a while, creating near perfect conditions for skiing and snowshoeing. 

Try cross country skiing or one of 5 other activities to start off the new year outdoors | Iowa DNR