The Prairie Farmer Recreation Trail
The Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail -- not just a great way to get from here to there (View Map). A great for walking, roller-blading, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, people watching, bird watching, observing wildlife, enjoying nature and many other great ideas just waiting to be discovered. Bicyclists, joggers, hikers, and cross-country skiers are all invited to use the trail.
Snowmobiles are allowed on a restricted basis between Ridgeway to near Cresco only. The small part of Northeast Iowa that you'll see while on the trail will say it all. We have fresh air, clean water, and open spaces. Discover Iowa. Discover the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail.
The Prairie Farmer Recreation Trail History
Much of the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail is constructed on the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad Line. The line dates from 1866, when the McGregor Western Railroad Company finished the route from McGregor to Cresco, Iowa. A year later the line was deeded to the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. By 1869, the McGregor and Sioux City Railroad, also to become part of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Line, finished its route from, Calmar to Nora Spring, Iowa.
During the early part of the 20th Century, train activity was at its peak. In any one day, up to 30 trains, would pass through Calmar, including passenger trains, freight trains, and mixed trains, many of which traveled on this portion of the line.
By the early 1950s, the popularity of the automobile took its toll on passenger trains. The Marquette, a luxurious passenger train, was pulled off the line. In 1960, the last passenger train to serve Calmar, the Sioux, was discontinued.
To convert the railroad line to trail, the ties were removed, the bed graded, and a limestone chip surface was compacted.
Calmar The terminus is located at the Calmar Train Depot at the intersection of U.S. Highway 52 and the present railroad crossing. Parking is available at the depot site, or around town.
Ridgeway The trail is accessible anywhere within the city limits of Ridgeway. (This is also the access to the snowmobile portion of the trail between Ridgeway and near-Cresco.) The most convenient access is at the Ridgeway Park, located on the east edge of town. The trail runs through the park, where conveniences of water, pit toilets, shelter, playground, picnicking, and parking are provided.
Cresco Access to the Prairie Farm Recreational Trail from Howard County Line is at the trailhead in Cresco.
Accesses are available at any road crossing along the trail. Please do not block the trail with your vehicles.
A small taste of the bounty found in other parts of Winneshiek County can be found along the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail. On either side of the trail, native prairie areas can be enjoyed from early spring with the emergence of Prairie Smoke, Puccoon, Alexander, and Prairie Phlox.
Midsummer brings about occurrences of Rattlesnake Master, Yellow Coneflower, Wild Quinine, and Blazing Star; and until snow falls, you can enjoy sights of Asters, Goldenrod, and Gentian. Please appreciate the plants where they are. Do not disturb them so the next person on the trail can enjoy them also.
Small woodlands made up of Elm, Sumac, Boxelder and Oak can also be found along the trail, and are home to many types of birds and wildlife.
The trail is funded by the Winneshiek County Conservation Board, the Howard County Conservation Board and by grants from the Iowa and Federal Departments of Transportation. The trail is now hard surfaced the twenty miles from Calmar to Cresco.
For further information about the trail or other parks, or preserves managed by the Winneshiek County Conservation Board, please contact the Board office at: 563.534.7145, or write to the board at 2546 Lake Meyer Road, Ft. Atkinson, Iowa 52144, or visit the Winneshiek County Conservation website by clicking here.
The Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail, extending twenty miles, from Calmar to Cresco provides a new aspect to the realm of activities provided by the Winneshiek County Conservation Board. Many hours of research and mediation as well as physical labor and management have gone into providing a recreational trail that can be used by all age groups and many interest groups.
All persons using the trail are at their own risk and should be aware of possible risk innate to remote and natural areas. Trail users are encouraged to wear protective gear on the trail such as bike helmets, etc. Customary trail etiquette like verbal signal while passing are also suggested. Bikers are also suggested to keep to the right while riding.