Explore Kuehn Conservation Area

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Explore Kuehn Conservation Area

Kuehn (pronounced Keen) Conservation Area is not only a uniquely beautiful area with forest, restored prairie, and wildlife but also pays tribute to the Native Americans that once lived on the land. Learn about the historical significance and explore the 1000-acre area.

Prehistoric artifacts were found on the land from the Woodland and Great Oasis traditions indicating that these Native American tribes and cultures once occupied the area. In the 1980s, private landowner Gerald Kuehn donated 350 acres to the Dallas County Conservation Board to establish the Kuehn Conservation Area. It has now grown to 1,000 acres from acquisition from local landowners. 

The Keuhn area is divided into three spaces including a wildlife refuge, public hunting, and bow hunting. It is a great place where visitors can enjoy nature, explore the diverse ecosystems, and participate in recreational activities.

Note: The modern restrooms are open and located in the Bear Creek Nature Center.

Kuehn Conservation, Dallas County, Iowa, parks, hiking


32828 Houston Trail in Earlham, Iowa about 30 miles west of Des Moines. Take the Earlham exit. 

Note: There are about 4 miles of gravel road to get to the Kuehn Conservation Area.

Park Amenities

  • Fishing
  • Hiking (great options for short hikes and viewing wildlife)
  • Hunting
  • Pets Allowed
  • Picnic Tables Available
  • Restrooms
  • Tents Allowed (Upper camping area and lower camping area)


Prairie hikes are a must! My family and I met Erica, Naturalist with Dallas County, when we first arrived at Kuehn. She was a wealth of knowledge about the history, trails, and artifacts at the park. I have two young boys and she suggested we hike the Waterfall Trail. Perfect for kids at .31 miles long, this trail winds through the forest down to a creek and small waterfall. My 5-year-old had no trouble hiking and my 2-year-old hiked most of it. They both loved playing in the shallow water and throwing rocks. This is a great shaded hike for a hot summer day. 

There are lots of other short trials that can be found on the Trail Map.

After our hike, we ate lunch at one of the picnic tables. There are several located beneath some shady trees.

Burial Mounds

The burial mounds are located on the Maria Pearson Spirit Mountain Trail. These are Native American burial mounds from at least 3000 BC. They were damaged by colonial settlers in the mid-1800s who may have been looking for goods like silver and copper. While you can hike to the site, they ask that visitors not take pictures of the mounds out of respect.

There is also a seasonal tipi as well as a council circle with a plaque stating “Much can be learned by watching children play” stated Black Elk, the Lakota Elder.

Prairie Awakening

The Annual Prairie Awakening- Prairie Awoke Celebrations is held each September with Native American songs, dance, and drums. The hope is to “awaken the prairie” and our connection to the land while demonstrating appreciation and respect for the Native American cultures. Follow the Dallas County Conservation Board Facebook page for details closer to the event. 

Dallas County Conservation Board Classes

Follow the Dallas County Conservation Board (DCCB) on Facebook to view their upcoming events. Examples of classes at Kuehn Conservation Area include:

1. Seasonal hikes to teach bird-watching skills and observe new birds as they arrive throughout the season. It’s part of the Beginner to Birder (B2b) Project to provide education to birders. These are being offered this Summer of 2023. 

2. Fauna and Flora photography classes

3. Special hikes have included a Mother’s Day Hike and Wildflower Walk. During the Winter months, they have Animal Sign Hikes to learn about the different animal tracks in the area as well as Winter Hikes to learn how plants and animals survive the cold temperatures. These are led by naturalists with the DCCB. 

4. Stargazing Program to learn about star charts and identify constellations.


There are two designated areas for hunting including bow-hunting in the southwest portion and public hunting along the Raccoon River in the north portion. Learn more here.


There are two areas for tent camping and you can either make a reservation or first come/first serve. Primitive camping is $10 per tent per night. While there are restrooms in the Bear Creek Education Center and a water pump, there aren’t any showers on site.

South Racoon River

Bring your kayak or canoe and paddle in the South Raccoon River. Enjoy fishing from the sandbars.


Every year school classrooms visit the Bear Creek Education Center to learn more about wildlife, map reading, and ecological systems. The center is open for programs only. While we were visiting, several 5th grade classrooms were there learning about different animals like beavers and deer that inhabit the area and exploring the prairie trails. 

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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