Spotlight on Floyd County Parks: Fossil and Prairie

By Thomas Nelson,

Fossil Prairie Park is Floyd County Conservation’s flag ship, a park with over five miles worth of trails and beautiful prairie all around.

The over 400-acre park is located outside of of Rockford, and the park is also home to the Floyd County Conservation visitor’s center.

The park was acquired in 1989 and the visitor’s center was built in spring 1999 to spring 2000.

The visitor center’s hours are Monday to Friday 1 to 4 p.m. through Labor Day. After Labor Day it is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

The park was purchased with REAP, or resource enhancement and protection grant, said Floyd County Conservation Naturalist Heidi Reams.

“People have been fossil hunting here for years,” Reams said. “Prior to it becoming a park it was owned by the Rockford Brick and Tile company.”

The company was digging in a quarry located at the park and found Devonian fossils.

The Devonian period was 365 million years ago, when Iowa was under an ocean.

The company closed in 1976 and then it was owned by what was Allied Concrete until it was bought by the county, Reams said.

“I’ve had people that visit that remember coming to get permission to come fossil hunt here and they now are bringing their grandchildren here to fossil hunt,” Reams said. “We’ve had fossil hunters here a long time.”

People can still come to Fossil and Prairie Park and search for fossils today during park hours.

The park is open from dawn to dusk.

The one cabin that is here was built from original logs from a different cabin that was built in the 1880s, Reams said.

“It was reconstructed, so to speak, to connect with our native prairie that we have here at the park and to show our visitors what life would be like if you lived on the prairie in a cabin,” Reams said.

There’s always something different at the park, with the wildlife and flowers always changing, Reams said.

“We are a state preserve, we are the 93rd state preserve,” Reams said. “That gives our features here at the park another layer of protection.”

There are 80 acres of native prairie.

“Its too hilly and rocky to farm, so its never been turned over,” Reams said.

The Fossil and Prairie Park is the largest park in Floyd County, Reams said.

“We have schools that come from all over Northeast Iowa during field trip season,” Reams said. “We get a lot of visitors per year.”