The Raccoon River Valley Trail provides 89 miles of bike riding across three Iowa counties. This trail is one of the longest paved trails in the United States. My ride took place on part of the newer North Loop. The concrete trail is in fantastic condition and runs flat and fast.
Like most bike trails in Iowa it was once part of a railroad. This segment once belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad. On a foggy morning in 1918, one mile east of Dallas Center, a head on train collision occurred involving a passenger train traveling from Des Moines and a freight train from Fort Dodge. One train was derailed and an engineman killed. Unfortunately this event is not documented along the bike trail.
A trailhead is located on the west side of Waukee at the corner of Hickman and R22. Restrooms, water, trail permits, and picnic tables are available here. Look for the raccoon depicted in the brickwork.
Plans to construct a public art display called “Railroad Pergola - in the shadow of the rails” are underway with construction to begin in 2015.
Heading out towards Dallas Center I wasn’t sure the trail would be clear of snow. I was in luck. The trail was dry and in great condition minus the scattered gravel by the Dallas Center grain elevator.
Riders 18 and up are required to a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year. Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing permits.
Keep an eye out for traffic when crossing gravel road intersections.
With this portion of the trail being out in the open be ready for some extra effort on windy days.
Crossing gravel road intersections on a bike can sometimes be tricky with loose or wet gravel to contend with. You don’t have to worry about that on this trail as concrete crossings are provided for cyclists.
A Eagle Scout from Waukee built a memorial garden where the trail meets 270th street. The memorial is dedicated to a former Waukee resident, John Cisar, Jr. He was an avid cyclist and actor who died while riding the trail. It’s a peaceful spot to rest, remember, and reflect.
Arriving Dallas Center I decided to grab some lunch at the Korner Kone. I love this place. Their soft served ice cream is the best I’ve had. You can watch Looney Tunes if you eat inside and their staff are the nicest you’ll ever find. I decided to eat outside and soak in the sun next to the melting pile of snow.
On the return to Waukee I stopped and took in the view of Iowa’s horizon. Under that blue sky with no one for miles I felt nothing close to being alone or feeling small but instead a peaceful sense of belonging.
What the?? At first I thought there was a big hay bale on the trail, but as I got closer I realized it was a huge water tank. The winds were horrible this winter and this was proof as the heavy tank had to have been blown at least a mile before rolling down from the farm fields onto the trail. Something tells me the farmer it belongs to won’t think to check the bike trail for missing equipment.
I have a favorite tree along the trail. To me it’s more of a sculpture and always catches my eye.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the new art installation at the memorial garden. The recumbent bike looked to be enjoying a tailwind ride.
Snow melt ponds dotted farm fields and were serving as rest areas for migrating ducks and geese.
At the Korner Kone I ordered a turkey sub sandwich. It had provolone cheese, sauce, and generous slices of turkey. When I unwrapped the sub I was surprised to find a big crunchy pickle spear. Yum! The onion stuck to the bun in picture I took proves I need to work on my foodie photo skills.
- The weather has turned bringing back a companion I had been missing. A clear trail with the comfort of wide open spaces.