Whitewater Canyon Hiking


Scenic Overlook

Hello and welcome to the blog!  Wednesday afternoon was spent hiking at Whitewater Canyon – a county park a half hour from home.  The 5 hour, 5 plus mile hike was a great way to enjoy the improving spring weather as well as learn a little about soil conservation in the process.  In addition, the activity had a positive effect on the blood sugar for many hours afterward.


Whitewater Canyon is along Whitewater Creek, flowing from Dubuque County through parts of Jones County, meandering into the north fork of the Maquoketa River, and eventually emptying into the Mississippi.

7_Whitewater Area

Surrounding countryside near the trail head.

Whitewater Canyon is one of three true canyons spaced across Iowa.  As one heads west, Ledges State Park is a canyon centrally  located north of Des Moines near Highway 30.  It is the area where I biked the High Trestle Trail (with the lighted bridge) The third canyon, “Preparation Canyon”, is about a half hour north of the Council Bluffs / Omaha area at the extreme west end of the state.  All three parks provide terrific hiking opportunities and spectacular views.


At the beginning of Wednesday’s hike, I took two trails, the first ending at the scenic overlook in the top picture.  The view was fantastic.  When the weather warms up and things turn green, it will be even prettier.  Nearly calling it a day, a friendly man and his wife recommended another portion of the park.  I figured, “Why not?”

4_Dirt DamPerhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the hike was this “check dam”.  Most of us think of a dam as something to hold back water… but this dam was built for soil conservation.

The rich, surrounding farm land is extremely hilly.  A small creek was at the bottom; water and soil would drain from all directions due to snow melt and heavy rains.  Eventually, after many years of farming and aided by gravity, the waterway would widen and carry increasing amounts of rich farmland topsoil with it to the useless land below.  This cement check dam gently blocks the movement.  Tiles (tubes) on the sides help drain off water from deeper in the field without transferring large amounts of dirt.  The check dam was constructed in late 1935 as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corp – a series of projects meant to give men meaningful jobs after the economic collapse of the Great Depression.  We need something like the C.C.C. more than ever in this era.


With limestone all around, one would expect there would be caves.  I went into a small cave (despite a little Hollywood-induced fear of bats and bears) and found it was empty.  It seemed like a great place to camp although I am sure there would have been plenty of bats in the summer time.  Sis didn’t know this but Mom’s family had a small limestone cave on their farm in Jackson County.  They used it for storing food that had been canned in Mason jars.  The 52 degree climate would work great!  Did you know that the world famous Maytag brand blue cheese (made in Newton, Iowa) is aged in a cave?


3_FungusThere were several fungi visible including these mushrooms at the end of a log.  I also saw a number of turkey tail mushrooms that had gone unharvested for the winter.

That being said, we are quickly approaching the mushroom hunting season in Iowa.  If the new work schedule works out, I plan to do some hunting for the coveted morel mushrooms this year.

As the hiking ended, the sun was lowering and the temperature had started to quickly drop; it was good to get back.  It’s been a long time since I walked this far, especially up and down very steep hills on slanted trails.  Though toward the end it was grueling, I’m looking forward to returning later this year.  You can’t beat a good “learn and burn” walk.

Tin ManBack to reality… Today I told Sis that the body feels like the “tin man” after a rainstorm.  Being heavy and 49 years old will do that to a person.  But more of these long nature hikes will help a lot and I’ll post some pictures.  Biking, hiking, fishing, and such makes losing weight pleasurable.  It’s going to be a fun and busy 2015!

Training for the new job starts tomorrow but the actual work does not being until later next week.  It’s likely there will be a little camping trip slipped in there somewhere.  There’s another state park with some hiking opportunities just east of here.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Take care!

Brad, Serena, and Jesse James
Enjoying nature in Eastern Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to Whitewater Canyon Hiking

  1. Good luck tomorrow with the job, I hope it will be ok.

    Camping is the best! I was just bribed into accepting a wedding invitation (nOt my thing) with the promise of an exceptionally nice place for my tent. Ok then (I mumbled ungratefully).

    • VanTrekker says:

      A free place to camp is a great thing! I’m kind of the same way – I don’t go to weddings very often… hmmmmm… probably ’cause I don’t have many friends (or they don’t have anything to do with the van camping hermit).

      Have a good time if you go! You might just have a cool adventure along the way!

  2. Robert Marcoux says:

    I started viewing your site while you were going through your van living days and really appreciated your insights as I am building up a van this spring. I was a little disappointed when you stopped living in the van but now that I see what else you are doing, I’m back on board. I really like the fact that you are showing some of the parts of your state that you love, especially the woods, forests, lakes, parks, flora and fauna. It keeps your site very interesting and makes me want to go vacation there. Keep up the good work.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Robert. Thank you for the comments. There have been quite a few times when I have missed living in the van, occasionally opting to sleep outside at night while the cats are indoors! It’s more expensive to have a home base, but it’s worth it. For some, the “Quartzsite” lifestyle is true happiness; for others like me, having a van and a more permanent dwelling is the best of both worlds. The home, van, and outdoor workshop are 3 “man caves”. Depending on the new work schedule and fickle Iowa weather, I plan to go for a six mile hike in the near future and check out another state park. There will be pictures. Take care and thanks for reading!