Sand prairies developed on the extensive deposits that were left when the glaciers retreated and melted over 10,000 years ago. Well-drained sandy soils are characteristic of sand prairies, and plants tend to grow much shorter due to the lack of soil moisture and the sandy soil composition. As with all native prairies, this prairie has never been plowed since the glaciers deposited the sandy soil here!
The original 20 acre preserve was donated to the Linn County Conservation Board by the Rock Island Railroad Company in 1962. In 1978 it was recognized for its unique habitats and became a part of the Iowa State Preserve System and named the Rock Island Botanical Preserve. In 2002, over 100 more acres were added to the Preserve through donations. In addition to the sand prairie, habitats include wetlands and woodlands. Within these unique habitats, 491 plant species have been identified with 15 classified as rare. Four rare species of butterflies and the state-threatened Blandings and ornate box turtles make their homes here as well.
Please note that there is a narrow lane named Preserve Way that takes you to the parking area. Although there is a sign posted saying “Private Drive”, Linn County has an easement on this road, so it is actually open for public use. Operating hours are sunrise to sunset. Also, the parking lot and part of the easement road may not be plowed in winter, but hiking to the cache is possible.
To receive credit for this earth cache, email to me the answers to the following questions:
- Describe the composition of the trail. (This question is exempt in deep snow cover.)
- Explain how this sand prairie was formed. (Refer to the description.)
- Going west a few steps, estimate the height of the sand hill you are standing on.
- What makes this area unique?