DECORAH — Hikers and bikers have been flocking to complete an 11-mile loop around Decorah on the recently finished Trout Run Trail.
After more than a decade of planning and construction, the $8 million trail was completed with the Aug. 7 opening of a graceful bridge across Highway 9.
Brenda Balk, director of the Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a steady stream of visitors has come to circle the city and sample the unending succession of scenery that includes forested limestone bluffs, sparkling trout streams, gushing springs, prairies, church steeples, courthouse domes, grazing cattle and rustic barns.
“Almost everything that makes northeast Iowa interesting and unique is visible from the trail,” she said.
The trail also provides one of the best available views of the world-famous Decorah eagles nest, which has attracted millions of fans through the nest camera operated by the Raptor Resource Project.
One of the trail’s most dramatic views, in Balk’s estimation, is “The Cut,” a segment blasted from rock with minimal disturbance to the area’s natural appeal.
Besides its diversity of scenery, the hard-surfaced, four-season trail accommodates a diverse set of users who include hikers, bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, bird watchers, anglers and, eventually, cross-country skiers.
Apart from the trail’s health and recreation benefits, backers expect it to boost tourism by attracting visitors and increasing business in area restaurants, hotels, motels and retail establishments.
“It’s been tough to track usage so far, but we want hard-core numbers, and we are looking at a trail counter system to provide them,” Balk said.
The trail will be formally dedicated during “Trail Weekend,” set for Sept. 22 and 23. The weekend’s activities are detailed here.
Plans are also under way to connect the Trout Run Trail with the 20-mile Prairie Farmer Trail, which runs from Calmar to Cresco.
The Winneshiek County Conservation Board has applied for a $280,000 state Resource Enhancement and Protection grant to help get the link started.
The combined 41-mile route “would definitely make northeast Iowa a destination for cyclists,” said Conservation Director Barb Schroeder.
It is the Conservation Board’s “number one” priority, she said.