The Iowa Great Lakes area doesn’t completely shut down after Labor Day.
It may come as a surprise to some, but even when Arnolds Park Amusement Park is closed and the wind makes it a little too chilly to go boating, there is still plenty to do in the Iowa Great Lakes area.
For instance, the Dickinson County Nature Center is open year-round to residents and tourists, and the nature center staff members still offer a variety of public programs even in the “off-season.”
Take Abbie Gardner and her family. They first came to the Okoboji area in July but decided to stay on through the winter. Granted, that was in 1856 when the first settlers were coming to Iowa and the Gardner family had a little different viewpoint than lake houses and a shoreline full of boat hoists.
This time that year, Gardner and her family would have started preparing for their first Okoboji winter.
It wouldn’t have been easy though --- fresh food was processed and put away for long winter nights; the cabin was prepared to take on harsh winds; quilts and heavier clothes were mended for one more year’s use.
You can have a firsthand look at just how sparsely the little Gardner cabin was furnished and imagine how difficult it was to last a winter inside by attending the next Hike the Wild event put on by the Dickinson County Conservation Board.
Meet at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, and caravan to Arnolds Park for an easy hike to Pillsbury Point on West Lake Okoboji followed by a tour of the Abbie Gardner Cabin and Interpretive Center.
Jack Jones, a docent at the Abbie Gardner Cabin site, said people enjoy visiting the cabin each season to see artifacts and learn about Iowa Great Lakes area history.
“They’re interested in how people lived back then, and they’re interested in how this impacts us today,” he said. “I think it gives us a better appreciation of the area today, and I think we’re all kind of, in a certain way, guided by what has gone on before. We’re guided by history.”
Continuing the fun the following day, environmental education coordinator Karess Knudtson will teach an Art & Nature series class on Andy Goldsworthy’s art. Call 712-336-6352 to register for the 6 p.m. class Wednesday, Sept. 23.
Goldsworthy is known for art created with and in nature. His photos reflect sculptures made out of leaves, abstract pieces formed with reeds floating on water and beautiful images featuring simple pebbles and stones.
Knudtson will take students out into the wild to create their own natural art that will be left outside to melt back with nature as time goes on.
“Andy Goldsworthy is the master of environmental art working with whatever is on hand at a given location,” Knudtson said. “During the class we will explore some of Goldsworthy’s incredible photographs and then head outside to try our hand at his technique. We do not have to feel as though we must create a masterpiece during this event, we can simply enjoy being outside and the process of working with naturals elements. This type of outside creativity is fun for all ages.”
Both Hike the Wild and the Art & Nature courses will continue monthly year-round. Hike the Wild takes people to a variety of public areas throughout Dickinson County and is held the fourth Tuesday of each month. Art & Nature classes help people connect the two with courses held the fourth Wednesday monthly.
For more information on these events and other Dickinson County Conservation Board programming, please visit our website or call 712-336-6352. The Dickinson County Nature Center is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and is located at 2279 170th St., Okoboji.