Welcome to the Winnebago County Conservation Board, one of 99 county conservation boards in Iowa.

We are located in the rolling hills of north-central Iowa's prairie pothole region.

Our purpose is to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for everyone and to protect and conserve our natural resources.

Scroll down for the latest news and browse through our web site often to see what we have to offer! And, be sure to contact us if you have any comments or questions!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Read the Spring, 2022, edition of our newsletter,
"The Prairie Country Quarterly," here.

(Our newsletter has gone all digital! Let us know if you'd like
an email when it is published here on our web site.)

Check out our Thorpe Park web cam here!

Three Deer Eating

A big thank you goes out to these dedicated volunteers from Winnebago Industries who recently helped to clear an area around Lake Catherine and split firewood for the Thorpe Park campground. Thanks to their hard work, park visitors will have a better view of the lake, better access to the lake, and a nice supply of free firewood for their campfires. We truly appreciate all they did for Thorpe Park!

Left Photo: Tom Hopperstad and Dave Leidall

Right Photo: Mark Miller, Brody Bennett, Mike Isebrand, Jason Kendall, Shannon Swearengen, and Carl Kammrad


Are you looking for a summer job? Do you like to work outdoors? If so, you might want to consider applying to be a Natural Resource Summer Intern for the Winnebago County Conservation Board! You'll get to work outdoors, helping us to manage and enhance our county parks and wildlife areas. If you'd like to learn more about the position, click here for a job description. If you'd actually like to apply for the job, click here to download a job application. And, of course, if you have any questions about the job, please contact our office at 641-565-3390 or WCCB Director Robert Schwartz at rschwartz@winnebagoccb.com

Our Environmental Education Center Specs have been released for bidding!

Due to Covid cost increases, the bids last year for our nature center came in 30% higher than what we had anticipated. But, we have continued to fundraise and have also changed a few aspects of the building plan. As a result, we recently released the revised specs to contractors, with the new bid opening now scheduled for June 14th! If you are a contractor, and are interested in acquiring the plans and specs, you can see more information about the bidding process here.

Of course, we will still need donations to help us finish the project, as well as to furnish the new center and create exhibits! So, it's not too late to help out. In fact, you can donate here on our web site! We want to thank all the donors who have already contributed so generously to this project and have helped us get this far. We are truly grateful for all the support we have received! We will keep everyone posted as the project moves along.

Environmental Education Center Capital Campaign

Connecting Generations Naturally:
A Campaign to Build an Environmental Education Center in Winnebago County

Why an Environmental Education Center?

Currently, Winnebago County has no environmental education center. The WCCB offices are housed in a 65-year old converted cabin which is not ADA-compliant and is at the end of a 5-mile gravel road. The current building is less than 2,000 square feet and can accommodate fewer than a dozen visitors at a time.

Almost 3/4 of Iowa's counties now have nature centers. These facilities get people outdoors and promote an increased quality of life. They offer environmental programming for school and civic groups, as well as the general public. They are tourist destinations that help visitors learn about the valuable natural resources of the area and also serve as meeting locations for local civic groups and other organizations. Our center would serve all of these purposes, as well as house the offices of the WCCB.

Blomster Ground in Fall
  • The center will contain exhibits and interactive displays to help increase people's awareness and knowledge of their natural resources, as well as how to conserve those resources.
  • It will be centrally-located in the county, just south of the north junction of Highways 9 and 69.
  • The building will be 40' x 96', or 7,680 square feet over two levels.
  • It will be a rustic design, with 28'-high vaulted ceilings.
  • The building will meet ADA specifications for accessibility.
  • It will include a variety of green design elements, including possibly geothermal and solar energy systems.
  • Rooms will include offices, a large program/meeting room (that will seat 85-100 people), an exhibit area, a workshop/activity area, a staff meeting room, and a kitchenette.


It is estimated that the cost of the new center will be around $2 million. The WCCB has already voted to commit $225,000 to the project and the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors has committed $145,000. None of this money will come from county tax dollars. The rest is being raised through grants and private donations.

The following donor recognition levels have been established...

  • Chickadee Level: < $250
  • Bluebird Level: $250-$499
  • Goldfinch Level: $500-$999
  • Cardinal Level: $1,000-$2,499
  • Sandhill Crane Level: $2,500-$4,999
  • Trumpeter Swan Level: $5,000-$9,999
  • Bald Eagle Level: $10,000 and higher.

All donations under $250 will be recognized in "The Prairie Country Quarterly," our quarterly newsletter. Donations above that amount will also be recognized at the center itself. A variety of naming opportunities will also be available for larger donations.

Fundraising continues. We have completed preliminary dirt work, installed the septic system, and plan to let construction bids this spring, with actual construction possibly beginning later this year. If all goes as expected, we then hope to be holding our Grand Opening sometime in 2023!

Winnebago County Conservation Environmental Education Center Draft


If you would like to help us with this exciting project, you can use this Pledge Form and send your donations to:

The Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation, Inc.
34496 110th Avenue
Forest City, IA 50436.

You can also donate via credit card, debit card, or Pay Pal.

Our Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so your contributions are tax-deductible. If you have questions about this project, or if you would like to make an especially large donation, please feel free to call and talk to us at 641-565-3390.

Thank you!

Do you shop on Amazon?

If so, you can help out our Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation!

Just click here and you can designate us as your preferred charitable organization! Then, each time you shop, go to smile.amazon.com and .5% of your qualified purchases will be donated to our foundation. It's an easy way to donate, and it doesn't cost you anything! For more information about AmazonSmile, click here.

Be sure to check it out. And, thank you!

Available on Amazon Smile

Treat yourself to a relaxing stay at the Lake Catherine Cabin!

Please Note:
For (Covid) safety reasons, we have removed all the kitchen utensils from the cabin, including pots, pans, dishes, cooking utensils, silverware, etc. Please bring along your own kitchen supplies. All kitchen appliances (refrigerator, stove, toaster, coffee maker, microwave) will still be available for use. Please remember, as always, you will still need to bring your own bedding and towels. 

For more information about the cabin, you can download the following items:

Cabin rates are $61.00/weeknight and $77.00/Friday and Saturday nights. (These rates include sales tax and Iowa hotel/motel tax.) There is also a $25 pet fee for up to two pets that is good for the entire stay. To reserve dates, first check the calendar to see which dates are available. Then, click the "Reserve Cabin Now" button to complete and return the rental agreement either through the mail or electronically as an email attachment. To pay, you can either send a check or you can include a credit/debit card number on your reservation form. (Convenience fees will apply for use of a credit/debit card). Your reservation is not final until we receive your rental agreement and payment. Once we receive those, we will contact you to confirm your reservation.  Let us know if you have any questions! We look forward to seeing you!


Cabin Availability


Please check the calendar to see which
dates are available
before making a reservation.

Green dates are available.
Red dates are not available.
Orange dates--Cabin closed for maintenance 

  Please call 641-565-3390
   for same-day reservations.

A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends.
Thank you!



If you'd like to learn more about pollinators and pollinator gardening, check out the Iowa DNR's Pollinator Page!

In case you needed another reason to get outdoors...

A big thank you goes out to these dedicated volunteers from Winnebago Industries who recently helped to clear an area around Lake Catherine and split firewood for the Thorpe Park campground. (See thread...)


There's still time to join our summer book club meeting! We will be will discussing "The Outermost House" by Henry Beston. The meeting will be held over Zoom on Tuesday evening, June 14th, beginning at 7:00 PM. To join the meeting, contact lralls@winnebagoccb.com for the link.

If you're outdoors this Memorial Day weekend, don't be afraid of any snakes that you may encounter; around here, we don't have any venomous snakes. So, just enjoy the opportunity to see these really fascinating animals!

We hope to see you this evening for our Wilderness Camping program at Thorpe Park! Come learn how to plan and enjoy a camping trip to a wilderness area such as the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. The program will begin at 7:00 PM at the shelterhouse and last about an hour.

The Forest City 6th-graders had a great time at Thorpe Park last Friday! They got to fish, make kites, go on a scavenger hunt, learn how to set up a tent, learn about amphibians, take nature photos, play games, and see how goats are being used at Pilot Knob to control invasives.


Here are some of the regular after-hour shooters that have been at the Hogsback Target Shooting Range recently. The shooting hours are clearly marked on signs that cannot be missed, but these people have been there long after 7:00 PM.


The Florence Trap Shooting Range west of Thompson will open for the season next Wednesday, May 25th! Here are the dates (through July) that it will be open for public shooting. We hope that you'll be able to join us some evening!

Load More