The Driftless Trail
Imagine hiking a footpath that wanders through the woods, prairies, farms, bluffs and streams of Iowa County’s Driftless landscape. It takes you through state conservation lands and through nooks and crannies owned by people who want to share the beauty of their land with you. Hike the trail for three miles or do a multi-day, 50-mile loop that connects Tower Hill, Governor Dodge, and Blue Mounds State Parks. During the winter, strap on snowshoes or skis. Explore the vistas, valleys, and cultural sites that make this area so widely renowned. This is the vision we have for the Driftless Trail.
Beyond serving up this unique experience, the Driftless Trail will create a corridor for land conservation and climate change resiliency. It will entice people to exercise, spend quality time with others, and learn about the nature, history, and agriculture they are walking through. And it will be a new economic resource for seven rural gateway communities.
This project embodies DALC’s holistic approach to conservation, a philosophy best described by the late UW-Madison landscape architect, Phil Lewis. He lived in the hills this trail will traverse and created the term “e-corridors” to describe projects that incorporate ecology, environment, esthetics, exercise, and education. DALC adds easements and economics to the mix, and the Driftless Trail covers it all.
DALC will encourage businesses, schools, health care providers, and government officials in each town to engage with the trail as a valuable community resource.
The Planning Process and Timeline
For three years, a planning team worked with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program to develop the Concept Plan that is guiding this project. The plan includes valuable input from the Ice Age Trail Association, North Country Trail Association, Taliesin Preservation, advisory team members, project area landowners, and the public.
It will likely take 15-20 years to complete a network of trails that connect the three state parks, Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area, Trout Creek Fishery Area, Love & Strutt Creeks Fishery Area, and private lands in between. This is an ambitious and exciting project!
The first trail section to be developed will be the 10-mile Lowery Creek Segment -- from Taliesin, south through the Lowery Creek watershed to Pleasant Ridge, near the northeast corner of Governor Dodge State Park. Construction will hopefully begin in 2020.
The conservation world increasingly recognizes that corridors of contiguous, managed natural areas provide great value for movement of wildlife, distribution of native plants, and resistance to our rapidly changing climate. The larger the block of connected natural area, the more wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, erosion control, and biodiversity we have.
Throughout the Driftless Trail corridor, DALC will implement our two-pronged approach to land conservation – protect land that is managed and manage land that is protected. Both are essential. We will use the trail as an incentive for managing and protecting the land it runs through, and will assist with gathering resources to make this happen.
Hosting the Driftless Trail
First and foremost, DALC has no power of eminent domain.
We will only work with landowners who volunteer to host the Driftless Trail.
The number one reason people enjoy hosting a public trail is the satisfaction of sharing their land with others. While we prefer to develop whole property easements, the language will clearly define the trail corridor, which will be placed where the trail will least affect the landowner and avoid impacts to sensitive natural resources. Users of this type of trail tend to be very respectful of private property, and every effort will be made to avoid conflict with landowner needs.
Volunteer to help with project planning or trail construction
Join our “keep informed” list to stay updated on project happenings.
Lend your particular expertise by joining our Advisory Team
Contribute much needed financial support. (Donate online or contact our office.)
Thank you to Driftless Trail financial and in-kind supporters:
Alliant Energy Foundation
Gathering Waters Conservancy – Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Partnership (LEAP)
John C. Bock Foundation
National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program