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Conservationists Are Getting On Their Bikes To See Western Iowa's Loess Hills Region

Katie Peikes
The Loess Hills has over half of Iowa's remaining tallgrass prairie.

A group of conservationists is embarking on a four-day scenic bike tour through western Iowa’s Loess Hills region. The tour, which starts Thursday, is designed to get people out to this rare landform and recognize its value.
The ride is like a shorter version of RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, a seven-day ride from Iowa’s western to eastern border. In the ride billed as the Loess Hills Parks and Peaks Bicycle Tour, people will pedal just over 150 miles over four days, following the Missouri River Valley from Lewis and Clark State Park in Monona County to Fremont County’s Waubonsie State Park.

The Loess Hills’ bluffs and ridges were formed by wind-deposited silt. It’s a landform unique to western Iowa and a region near Shaanxi, China and is home to over half of Iowa’s remaining tallgrass prairie.  

“A lot of people in Iowa don’t even realize they exist or don’t understand what they are,” said Lance Brisbois, the project coordinator for Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, the group organizing the ride. “So we really want people to come and visit and explore and see what we have.”

Brisbois continued, “The more people we have come visit and realize what we have, the more they’ll want to protect it.”

The ride goes mostly along the base of the Loess Hills, though there are a few places where cyclists will go into the hills and ride some gradual slopes, Brisbois said.

About a dozen people will participate in the ride, which is in its second year. Along the journey, riders will learn about the hills through some educational programs and they’ll camp at sites like Loess Hills State Forest.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.