5/11/16 – Due to recent rains and saturated trails, the trails at Pioneer Ridge Nature Area are closed to horseback riding and biking until further notice.
Horseback Riders: Check out the information at the bottom of this page about riding wet trails. We appreciate your help in keeping our trails in good condition.
In 1977, the people of Wapello County voted to establish a county conservation board for the purpose of purchasing and developing lands for parks, hunting and fishing access and other recreational uses in the county.
Today all of Iowa’s 99 counties have a County Conservation Board. Wapello County was the 98th county to establish it’s Board, consequently it is one of the youngest conservation boards in the state.
As of the fall of 2012, the Wapello County Conservation Board has fulfilled part of this goal by maintaining eleven areas totaling over 2000 acres. In combination, these areas provide extremely diverse habitats providing residents with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities such as picnicking, bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, camping, hunting and fishing.
Navigating wet trails. Should I ride?
Spring can be a frustrating time of year for horseback riders. The weather is finally warming up, the flowers are blooming, and the leaves are starting to come out on the trees – but in many places the trails are still wet. It’s true that April showers bring May flowers but it’s also true that wet riding in the spring can ruin trails for the entire summer. Some trail managers have decided to institute seasonal closures because of the actions of a few careless riders.
Trail damage and erosion is one of the most effective reasons trail managers use to close trails. You shouldn’t be surprised to find a trail that has been ridden in the mud one day closed thereafter. This can also include rocked trail if it is too wet. A horseback rider should always make a conscious effort to preserve the environment they are riding in. This includes an honest evaluation of the trail condition and an effort to minimize damage to it.
What to do? First, consider the weather when you make your weekend riding plans. A Wednesday rain shower can mean sloppy trails through Saturday and Sunday. Just because sunny skies are forecast on the day you plan to ride doesn’t mean the trails will be in good condition.
Wet trails are all the more tempting to ride when you’ve already invested time and energy getting to the trailhead. To avoid the temptation, try calling ahead to your local park management office or check websites to see if they’ve been updated about the trail status. Wet trail riding is bad for the environment, your gear, bad for the trails, and riding in the rain is pretty miserable.
Don’t go around puddles, go straight through them. If everyone goes around the outskirts of a puddle it damages the sides of the trail and widens it. Going through the puddle keeps the trail at the same width and minimizes trail damage. Always stay on the trail.
Even if you find your favorite trails are too wet to ride, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the saddle. Consider alternate riding locations with better drainage or head onto forest roads, gravel roads, or even paved routes if it is safe with low traffic. Training rides on the road will help you on the trail this summer plus it’s a great excuse to get out and enjoy the weather on your horse. If your local trails are wet this time of year hold off on that trail ride and put in some training miles instead. Your body, your horse, and your trails will thank you this summer.
By Denise Schieffer