Tag Archives: Cedar River

Eastern Iowa River Hikes | Palisades Kepler State Park

by Melanie and Jim

Last month we enjoyed a number of outings in our own backyard. On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we headed north a few miles to Palisades-Kepler State Park, on the Cedar River. It’s becoming a favorite retreat for us, both for its proximity and also the hiking. (You can find some photos from a hike last fall here.)

The trail system isn’t extensive. The main trail is out and back, following the tree-lined east bluff of the Cedar River. The fossil-embedded rocks tower over the hiker at some points. At others, the hiker ascends the bluff to walk along the upper surface. There are plenty of roots and rocks, ups and downs, and terrific scenery to keep things interesting.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bigger scale. But interesting things appear when you pay attention to the small, too. The grey limestone cliffs host plants growing in unexpected places. Ferns of all sizes, mosses, and wildflowers thrust from the stone. Columbines seemed to thrive on the rock face.

Jack-in-the-pulpits and shooting stars rose up, scattered throughout the park.

As we headed out, we saw this slope covered with wild geraniums.

We left the park and headed toward home. About halfway is the town of Solon. Lucky for us, the volunteer firefighters were holding their 51st annual breakfast to raise funds for the fire station. Abundant plates full of pancakes, eggs, and sausage or ham, as well as hot coffee, helped refill us after our hike. The breakfast was serendipity this year, as we hadn’t known it was being held that day. But it’s already on our calendar for next year!


Cedar Bluff | Hiking the Wetland

by Jim and Melanie

What better way to enjoy the scents and colors of spring than being outside? With rain in the forecast for several days to come, we chose Saturday for an outing. The temperature warmed to upper 70s by mid-day, but the morning was fresh. Clouds and sunlight played in the sky, elbowing each other for position.

A friend suggested we check out this county park located in Cedar County, Iowa. Here is a link to a Google map if you want to explore. In the map link, we parked in the small lot just left of the road. We got out and started walking west.


There were no other cars in the lot and no signs of others in the area. It looked like we’d have the place to ourselves. That thought was banished, though, just after we stepped onto the path. Two red-headed woodpeckers chased through the trees on our left. As we watched them, an indigo bunting came into view. Next, a rose-breasted grosbeak turned, displaying the patch of red from which its name comes. Clearly, we were not alone.

A bird blind shed hugged one edge of the trail. The feeders weren’t filled and there were no signs the blind was tended.

We turned to head into timber, closer to the river. Birdsong filled the air, including persistent honking of geese forward and to our left.

A barred owl called to our right. Intrigued, we left the path and headed deeper into the woods. As our eyes searched high for the owl, we spotted Baltimore orioles flitting through the trees at high speed.

A small creek rippled. Jams of old trees, twisted and snarled, gave testament to the power of water.

We were not alone in the wetland woods. Other birds we saw or heard included pheasant, wrens, a brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbirds, catbirds, and a rooster. Just the right kind of company for a green-scented spring day.

Hike Along the Cedar River

by Jim and Melanie

As with most people, a lot of things are pulling us several directions. We said ‘No’ to the outside forces recently and made our escape to Kepler-Palisades State Park.

DSCN0640Kepler-Palisades is one of the Iowa state parks near us. It is east of Cedar Rapids, just off of U.S. 30, Lincoln Highway. The Cedar River cuts through some coral beds as it makes its way southeast toward a union with the Iowa River, before joining the Mississippi.

We entered the park off Hwy. 30 on Kepler Drive. At the ‘T’ near the river, we turned right. Left of the red marker at the river, you can see some shadows cast onto the water. The shadows are from a high cliff face, or palisades, and the trail follows it for quite a distance.

From the main trail head, the trail begins flat and fairly smooth. Quickly the hiker has to decide whether to take a “high road” or a “low road.” They both end up at the same place, a compass pavilion near the high point of the park. Rocks and roots make watching your feet important. Past the pavilion, the trail becomes a lot more interesting and a little more difficult with more elevation changes and trickier footing.

Even so, on the trail there is little danger other than a sprained ankle or scuffed knee. Off trail, it is dangerous with loose rocks, particularly on the river side. Some adventurous people get permission at the park office to do some climbing and rappelling. Over the years, multiple people have fallen to their death after wandering off the trail. We noticed more railing and signs had been added pointing out the dangers.

At the bottom of the overview picture is a run-down dam. The very low water levels from the dry season we’ve had make it possible to walk around the area now. Below you can see the stairway to the dam. The passage at the bottom is barely wide enough to fit an adult.

Come for more walk in the park.