Thank goodness for friends! I was invited to join one this weekend for a day of exploration and recreation at Whiterock Conservancy. The park is nestled along 7 miles of the Middle Raccoon River Valley watershed just outside Coon Rapids IA. Turning off Hwy 141 to the park, you would never guess that two miles down the road heaven can be found.
The lush 5500 acre landscape was donated to the state of Iowa by the Garst Family; who had maintained the property as a agritourism destination for many years prior to the origination of Whiterock in 2007. The Garst family is known for its hand in agriculture development in the United States; including R&D that lead to huge strides in seed innovations and mass distribution thru the families businesses which include Pioneer seed.
The sustainable recreation area is beautiful but very purposeful. It is home to a large oak savanna, agricultural land, upland forests, wetlands, and preserved prairie. There are 30 miles of multi use trails which offer access to hiking, horseback riding, camping and even include a few historical residences that you can stay in.
The Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Farmstead hosted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1959 to show and share the family businesses agricultural knowledge and developments as goodwill in the hopes that helping the Soviets move into the new techniques would bring more health to the country’s economy and people.
The property is also home to a barn, which during the early 20th century was home to one of the largest honky tonk in the midwest. The region was best known during that period for the friendly attitudes towards local bootleggers and while there were many arrests for illegal liquor stocks and sales, there is not 1 conviction in that county during that period of time.
Whether you go to learn the regions rich history, take a walk in the hills of the valley, or float down the Raccoon River to the sound of the water and breeze in the trees; there is plenty to do at Whiterock and for those who enjoy the outdoors.. you will find your own little piece of heaven here.