The (Loess) Hills are alive

This weekend we went on a mini Iowa adventure to the Loess Hills for the dedication of the Turin Prairie, a project of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. It felt so good to hike! Our garage sale hiking backpack is by far the best $30 piece of baby equipment.


Joe grew up in Council Bluffs, so the western Iowa landscape is home to him. The sun was glowing on golden fields as we drove the hour along I-29 to the hills from Council Bluffs, and it was fun to hike a quarter mile or so uphill to the dedication site, which overlooked the Loess Hlls landscape. (Photo below via INHF.)


I had heard about the Loess Hills from Joe, but had never before experienced them. According to, they are land formations made almost entirely of windblown soils.


“Toward the end of the last ice age, winds picked up soils that had been ground as fine as flour and formed dunes along the ancient waterway that became today’s Missouri River. The process repeated itself during the thousands of years the ice age took to end, enlarging the dunes. Because the prevailing winds were from the northwest, the dunes on the Iowa side of the river were higher than those west of the Missouri.”

That website also tells me that the ridges where we were hiking were once roamed by Ice age animals such as the wooly mammoth, camel, giant beaver and giant sloth (!!!).


While the ideal of walking in the footsteps of the giant sloth is pretty neat, being in a serene environment like the Turin Prairie allows you to see lots of wildlife and expansive views.


Iowa is the most altered landscape in the United States, so saving these wild places that preserve natural habitats is important.


I love that Emmett can grow up harvesting prairie seeds and wondering if a badger is going to come clambering out of a hole we guessed might be a den. Sweet Eileen – even she enjoyed being out among the butterflies, grasses and oaks.


Turin Prairie is going to be managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and open to the public. Read more about the project in a recent story from the INHF magazine Joe publishes.


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