Dugout Creek

This vast complex contains a variety of special habitats from an excelsior fen to upland prairie to a wetland complex. Although there are no specific trails, the 782 acre site provides plenty of space to explore. Get out and get down to examine the many plants, insects and animals on this special site.

Geological History

This unique area is a large excelsior fen which is fed by groundwater as opposed to rainwater. As the groundwater passes through the very nutrient rich, alkaline substrate, the water becomes “harder” supporting a specialized plant community.

Zonation of plants is an unusual phenomenon found in plant communities. Plants in fens have three distinct zones – discharge, sedge mat and border. These zones form in concentric circles much like the growth rings of a tree trunk with the discharge area in the center. The Excelsior fen within Dug Out Creek is an excellent location to observe this plant growth pattern.

Location Description

Iowa fens shelter more than 200 species of wildflowers as well as 13% of the state’s native wildflowers. Certain species such as Beak-rush, Grass of Parnassus and Brook Lobelia are environmental indicators in this and other fens.

Wetlands of all types are important for wildlife species. Some of the wetland birds nesting on this site include mallards, redhead ducks, Yellow headed Blackbirds, common yellowthroats, and Virginia and Sora rails. The upland species include Bobolinks, sedge wrens, and even northern harriers.

Invertebrates also thrive in the fen environment. A wide variety of butterflies and microscopic diatoms live amid the border zone.

HUNTING IS ALLOWED on this site. Waterfowl, deer and pheasant are plentiful.

Driving Directions and other Information

  • 130th Ave – From the intersection of Hwy 9 and Hwy 86 (west of Spirit Lake): Go 7 miles west on Hwy 9 and 1 mile south
  • GPS Coordinants -- N43deg25.798 W095deg19.42
  • 782 acres - managed by the Iowa DNR as a Wetland Production Area
  • Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, birding, hunting
Educational Activity:
View Dugout Creek via Google Map by Clicking HERE! (Please disable your browser's popup blocker to view map)
Take a short visit to Dugout Creek via the video below!

Wild Categories Photo Gallery