Things To Do


Hiking & Running

Hikers, runners and walkers are always welcome on any of the trails at Whiterock Conservancy. There is no use fee, but a suggested donation of $2 can be made at any trail head.


The double track trail that runs around the entire property provides inspiring vistas of the valley. The trails designed for horseback riders provide a reinforced surface and the bike optimized trail will be a fun and flowy walk. Both wind through the savanna and forest for a shaded walk.


Along the way, you will see interpretive signs that feature natural, agricultural, archeological and cultural points of interest. In addition, you will find a wildlife viewing blind moved each season for an excellent view.

Horseback Riding

Our professional trail team has constructed six miles of equestrian trails that meander through the rolling hills in the river valley. In addition, fifteen miles of multi-use trails that provide some of the best vistas in Whiterock are open to equestrians.


In order to reinforce the soft soils, many parts of the horse trails will have a covering of fine gravel. With use over time, this limestone will mix with the soil to create a longer-lasting trail surface.

Trail use is $10 per horse per day to assist with trail maintenance and can be paid at any of the trail heads.  Parking for horse trailers is available at the River campground and at the Oak Ridge RV Campground/trailhead. Trails close when they are wet. You can find current trail conditions on the website homepage and on our Facebook group Whiterock Conservancy Equestrian Trails.


Please remember, hikers and runners will be sharing the equestrian trails and the multi-use trails may also have bikers and gators. Please respect other users. Please stay on the trails.


Mountain Biking

With sixteen miles of bike optimized single track trails and 12 miles of shared used trails there is plenty of room to find new adventures. Trails are professionally designed and built to have varying degrees of difficulty to test and build your skills.


Trail use is $5 per day to assist with trail maintenance and can be paid at any of the trail heads. Trails close when they are wet. You can find current trail conditions on the website homepage and on our Facebook group Whiterock Conservancy SingleTrack.

Please remember, hikers and runners will be sharing the equestrian trails and the multi-use trails may also have bikers and gators. Please respect other users. Please stay on the trails.


Canoeing & Kayaking

An eight mile Middle Raccoon River water trail starts at Riverside Park in Coon Rapids and ends at our main campground. This scenic float trip with breathtaking views of sandstone outcroppings, prairies, savannas and historic points of interest takes approximately two to five hours (depending on water flow). For a shorter float, you can start at Roadside Park in Coon Rapids.


Whiterock Conservancy rents canoes and kayaks, along with shuttle service, everyday by reservation. All of the access points are public and can be accessed at any time with your personal equipment. Paddling is dependent on the river’s water level and staff will make the final determination on the safety of the float.


For more information about rentals, visit our rentals webpage or Contact guest services at (712) 790-8221 Ext. 1  or for more information



Whiterock Conservancy offers access to 12 fishing ponds around the property, free of charge. The Garst Family invited local residents to fish on these ponds in the 1950s and Whiterock is proud to continue this tradition. A map of all the ponds can be downloaded here.

It is against the law to dump bait in Iowa lakes, rivers or streams. Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. If keeping bait, you must exchange water in the bait buckets with tap or bottled water before leaving any waterbody to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. You cannot stock or introduce any live fish, except for hooked bait, into waters without permission. Please respect posted limits at each pond to help keep these ponds healthy.

Iowa requires fishing licenses for anyone 16 years old or older. Licenses can be purchased locally at Hardware Hank (Main St in Coon Rapids) or Sparky’s One Stop Shop (Bayard). Bait can be found at Hardware Hank and Kemmis Country Store (Coon Rapids) and Sparky’s One Stop (Bayard) carry bait.



Whiterock Conservancy has the darkest skies in Iowa, and the local community continually works to control light pollution to keep it that way. Find a quiet hill and look up for a great night sky, the myriad of stars never fail to please. Whether you have a telescope or not, the Milky Way can be seen most nights.

Each year the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers hold at Star Party at Whiterock, and the public is invited to join in the fun one night. After a short astronomy talk, astronomer participants in the star party welcome everyone to take a look through their various telescopes at all the dark Iowa skies have to offer. If the weather is clear, visitors will have the chance to see numerous different galaxies, nebulas and stars millions of light years away, as well as some of the planets in our cosmic back yard, the Solar System. All ages are welcome, and appropriate attire for the weather and a blanket are recommended. Check the calendar of events for this year’s public viewing event.


Come See Our Bison!

.Whiterock is also the home of a small herd of Bison. These magnificent animals once roamed Iowa’s landscape in large numbers. As European settlers arrived and began hunting them for their plentiful meat and useful hides, bison herds began to dwindle. By the 1860’s bison were a rare sight in Iowa. Now a few captive herds are once again dotting the landscape. Whiterock’s herd can be seen in the pastures on the South and West sides of the Garst Home Farm and can often be seen from the Town Loop trail as it heads towards the visitor center or winds around the ponds. New calves are born in late spring and can be easily spotted because their fur is much lighter in color than the mature bison.




Whiterock Conservancy has unique geologic formations along with an abundance of flora and fauna including interesting mosses, lichens, dragonflies, and damselflies to fascinate all ages of explorers. Animals commonly seen around Whiterock include deer, beaver, river otter, frogs and more. If you are a native plant enthusiast you will be excited to visit spring, summer, and fall to see the cascade affect that native prairies provide. Some of the highlighted species purple milkweed, pale purple coneflower, false purple foxglove, and hoary puccoons. 


Birdwatchers are also welcome to come observe the variety of avian life that call Whiterock home. Anchoring the Raccoon River Savanna Bird Conservation Area, Whiterock Conservancy is visited annually by over 165 bird species. The river corridor is a migratory route for songbirds; wetlands provide habitat for waterfowl; and owls, hawks and eagles cruise the woodlands. A wildlife viewing platform will be placed along the trail and moved with the season to provide improved viewing opportunities.

Art & History

From statues to murals, public art can be seen at the Riverhouse, the roadside park on Highway 141, and throughout the community of Coon Rapids. The hybrid icons on Hwy. 141 are based on the history and technology of hybridized corn and the Cold War Era visit of Nikita Khrushchev. In addition, a collection of painting of Whiterock’s land by Nancy Thompson can be seen in the Bur Oak Visitors Center during office hours.

Or explore the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Farm Historic District on your own! We have brochures available describing various memorabilia and artifacts in the farmhouse. There are interpretive signs throughout the property describing historical events and current day practices. Subject to occupancy, guests may visit the Garst farmhouse individual rooms, which are full of antiques and historical photographs. Guided tours and history talks can be arranged for groups. Contact guest services at (712) 790-8221 Ext. 1 or for more information.

Whiterock Conservancy         712-790-8221

1436 Highway 141, Coon Rapids, IA 50058

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