Tools for Your Driftless Region Summer


Looking to truly rock your Driftless Region summer? Trails-App-2Check out these handy maps, apps, and resources to help make it all happen!

Iowa by Trail

For over 30 years, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has been helping establish recreational trails across the state. In just the past year, they have released a highly useful App that not only locates trails, but shows points of interest along the way, natural resource information, and also tracks distance, weather, events, and more. Check it out for iPhone or Android here.


Trout Run Trail Bike Map:

A handy pocket map of the TRT and Prairie Farmer Trail was produced in 2014 by Winneshiek County Conservation, the Winneshiek County CVB, and Inspire(d) Media (that’s us!). Points of interest, difficulty, and fun tips are all included. They’ve flown off of racks, but can still be found at the Decorah Visitors Center, Decorah Campground, and various locations in downtown Decorah. You can also find on on-line version here.

Trout Fishing Map:

An awesome pocket-sized reference guide to Winneshiek County Trout Fishing Streams is available from the Northeast Iowa RC&D and Winneshiek County CVB. It’s an extremely well done map that features streams and public areas that you may not even know of! Grab a copy at the Winneshiek County CVB office or contact Northeast Iowa RC&D at 563-864-7112.

Water Trail Maps

The Driftless Region is rich with great river and stream trails for paddling and fishing. Here in Northeast Iowa, we’re lucky to have an amazing resource for water trail maps also from the Northeast Iowa RC&D. Maps for the Turkey, Yellow, Wapsipinicon, and Upper Iowa Rivers are all available for a very small cost, or for free download. Plan your summer adventures on the great wild water of the Driftless –

New Historical Decorah Walking Trail Signs “A Walk Into the Past”

A new series of historical signs have been placed around downtown Decorah offering glimpses into the past at specific sites. Decorah High School art teacher Elizabeth Lorentzen, retired Luther professor Ed Epperly, and the Winneshiek County Historical Society have teamed up to create and implement the project, placing almost 20 historical signs throughout Downtown Decorah. A walking map is planned for this summer (2015) – we’ll keep you posted!

Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong

NordicFestBookCover(Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong, book cover design by Deb Paulson)

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into by committing to this book,” admits Dawn Svenson Holland, author of “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong.” “It’s been more time-consuming than I ever expected, but it has also been more rewarding – it’s felt like a labor of love.”

As Decorah prepares to celebrate the 50th Annual Nordic Fest July 28-30, 2016, Dawn Svenson Holland, daughter of longtime Fest historian Gary Svenson, credits her father’s work preserving history in researching the book. “I could not have completed this project without the clipping books my father put together,” she says. “And I do believe that had he been alive, he would have written this book.”

The project has been a passion for Dawn Svenson Holland and a small creative team including graphic designer Deb Paulson, and publisher Erik Anundsen. The process and research leading up to it has also been archived on a blog at:

The 300-plus-page coffee-table book will support the permanent placement of the Nordic Fest archives at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. The book includes 22 chapters of Fest history, as well as a section for recording personal memories. It also includes a DVD with archival footage of the first Nordic Fest and a promotional video made for the 25th Nordic Fest.

Presale orders may be placed online at, or in person with cash or check at the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, 507 West Water Street.  The presale cost for each book is $50, with a limit of five books per person. The cost increases to $65 per book at Nordic Fest.

Mange Takk!


2016 Nordic Fest Button Logo by Lauren Bonnie.



Hike, Totally: Take a Walk in the Driftless

Photo by Lauren Kraus

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Soaring bluffs, craggy rocks, open fields, and mossy trails… yes, the Driftless Region is an amazing place for a nice, long hike. Or even a quick walk!

There are tons of wonderful trails – both rugged and groomed – in Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Southwest Wisconsin. Inspire(d) has featured a good number of them through a series by former contributor Lauren Kraus (see below for the list), but we felt it was about time to talk the walk (pun!) again.

Inspired by the (relatively) new Driftless Area Hikers Club, we decided to catch up with club leader, Peg Matter, to get some hiking tips and new trail ideas. Matter, former co-owner of Decorah Hatchery, was off on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore as we were going to press, so good thing for the Internet!

The Driftless Area Hikers Club was founded by the Decorah Hatchery, and hikes are generally led by Matter. Each month, the club does one full day, 8 to 12-mile-hike in the Driftless Region, and also one half-day, 5-mile hike in the Decorah area. There is also a walking group that meets in Decorah in the parking lot across from the Dunning Springs’ entrance every Tuesday at 5:15 pm for an hour-long walk in the woods. Find details at or by inquiring at Decorah Hatchery (

Plus, more good news: Waking is not only good for your body; it’s good for your mind as well. A recent Stanford study found that walking increases your creativity by an average of 60 percent! As Henry David Thoreau says, “The moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

Do you have a favorite trail in the Driftless Region you think we should feature? Let us know! Email aryn [at] with your ideas. Thanks!

Photo courtesy Peg Matter


Interview with Driftless Area Hikers Club leader, Peg Matter

Do you have any favorite trails in the area that we haven’t covered yet?

City, county, and state parks provide beautiful, well-groomed hiking trails in the Driftless Region. We even have a national park in Iowa – Effigy Mounds National Park – with plenty of hiking trails, Mississippi river overlooks, and of course effigy mounds that are thousands of years old. There is a great museum and kids can spend the day earning a junior ranger badge.

At Pikes Peak State Park (Iowa) you can see the Wisconsin River entering into the Mississippi along with the limestone bluffs you expect in the region. There is a mature maple forest providing shade on hot summer days and beautiful fall colors later in the season. There are enough hiking trails that you can do an all day loop or head out for just a couple hours.

Backbone State park was Iowa’s first state park and is at the southwestern limits of the Driftless area. You will find a backbone of bedrock jutting out over the Maquoketa River. The river is dammed, providing a lake with a swimming beach or you can kayak around the lake and then up the river a good distance before returning downstream to the lake. There are 21 miles of trail going by springs, caves, sinkholes and karst topography. The East Lake trail and Backbone are not to be missed.

Backbone BackboneBuilding
Photos courtesy Peg Matter


Pike’s Peak State Park
McGregor, Iowa

Of special note: There are fossil remains including brachiopods, gastropods and cephalopods, and the trail goes past Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful (and cool in the summer) spring. Note there is road construction heading into the park through the end of July, 2015

Backbone State Park,
Between Strawberry Point and Dundee, Iowa

Of special note: There are exclusive trails for snowmobiling and /or cross-country skiing in the winter, and also mountain biking trails: Barred Owl, Bluebird, East Lake, and West Lake. Plus, there are opportunities to rock climb here! The most popular climbing spots are located near Backbone Trail. Climbers must register at the park office.

What do you need to head out on the trail?

Basics for heading into the woods – other than the all important water – are sun protection (hat, lotion, sun glasses), extra layer (rain coat), first aid supplies, illumination (headlamp or flashlight), and insect repellent. You can spray your feet and socks with insect repellent before heading into a tick area.

If you’re heading out for a longer hike it is important to have a map. Many parks have maps of their trails on line that you can print off before leaving home. Otherwise if there is a map posted at the trailhead, take of picture of it with your phone so that you will have something to refer back to. Learn more about other helpful items by researching the Ten Essentials for hiking (see below for details).

Are there any extra tips you’ve gathered over your years of hiking?

Knowing your plants and animals will enhance your hiking experience. Additionally it’s good to be able to recognize poison ivy, to know which wild parsnip causes a reaction, and to study up on deer ticks to reduce the fear factor. Consider yourself lucky if you ever see a rattlesnake!

Remember the Leave No Trace principle: You carry it in, you carry it out – that means apple cores and orange peels too, so bring a little plastic bag.

What do you think is the best part about hiking?

Hiking is a great way to spend time with friends and family, appreciating the beauty of our parks and feeling good after a nice long walk. The solitude of a walk in the woods is restorative also, just be sure to let someone know that you’re headed out – or sign in at the register box by the trailhead if they have one.

Photo by Lauren Kraus


The original Ten Essentials list was assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors. In 2003, the group updated the list to a “systems” approach rather than listing individual items (for example, map and compass now fall into the Navigation “system”.)

Updated Ten Essential “Systems”

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Check other features highlighting the Driftless Region!

Decorah Area Trails: Twin Springs, Upper Ice Cave Hill in Dunning’s Spring Park, and Van Peenen Park

Trails north of Decorah: Pine Bluff and Coon Creek

The Backwoods of Winneshiek County: Bear Creek and Pine Creek Areas

Falcon Springs State Wildlife Area and Lionberger Environmental Preserve

Trails at Lake Meyer (Calmar, Iowa) + Mother’s Day Trail in Decorah

Southeast Minnesota: Root River State Trail and Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail

Effigy Mounds National Monument (NE Iowa)

Kickapoo Valley Reserve (SW Wisconsin)