One of America's Best Recreational Trails

Raccoon River Valley Trail Association

14581 K Avenue

Perry, Iowa 50220 | 515-465-3577

Dallas • Guthrie • Greene Counties in Iowa

Wow! Our new neighbor, the High Trestle Trail, with its amazing half-mile long bridge that is 13 stories high, is even better than people were saying it’d be. Dignitaries and the media got a preview of it on April 27, and a huge turnout from the public was expected on April 30 for the opening “Grand Celebration.” We’ve got photos & details here.

Board member, RRVT Association

MADRID, Iowa, April 27, 2011 — We’ve now had our first look at the brand new 25-mile-long “High Trestle Trail” and its already-legendary ”Art Bridge” that is a half-mile long and 13 stories high.

It’s as good as they were saying it was going to be.  Maybe better.

“This is something I’m going to look forward to, riding my bicycle on this trail and across this bridge,” said Governor Terry Branstad, who reminded the crowd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, April 27, that he and First Lady Chris Branstad own a home eight miles north of the trail.  “And I’m sure my children and grandchildren will want to ride it, too, as well as people coming from across the nation.”

“I love it!” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. “This is another great example of big things happening in small places.”

“It’s been a $15 million project,” said Mark Ackelson, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which led the development, fundraising and promotion of the new trail.  “That’s quite a price.  But when you think about all the wonderful experiences that our families, friends and visitors from across the nation are going to have out here, it’s really a priceless project.”  He noted that 80 percent of the cost was covered by 18 different public grants.

Congressman Leonard Boswell said he looks forward to riding his bicycle on the trail, too, and he told about how in recent years, he has flown an airplane up the river valley many times to monitor the project.  “This is a natural, just what we need,” Boswell said. “People across the United States know Iowa for RAGBRAI, which is tremendous, but I tell people to come to Iowa a week early, or stay afterward, and ride our recreational trails.  I see this and it makes me look forward to our next (trail) project.  Let’s just keep on going.” 

Ribbon Cutting

Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation President Mark Ackelson, U.S. Congressman Leonard Boswell and other dignitaries gathered Wednesday, April 27, at the west end of the “Art Bridge” on the brand new High Trestle Trail for a ribbon cutting and formal opening. A “Grand Celebration” of the opening is scheduled in all the towns on Saturday, April 30.

David Mackaman, regional president of Wells Fargo Bank and a key figure in a drive that raised more than $1 million from 1,000 individual donors, said the trail and bridge are “a great example of a public-private partnership and what can happen when we work together.”  He said the project is “going to help central Iowa become known as the trails capital of the world.”  He added that the High Trestle Trail “will be like a jewel in our crown, something that is going to attract people here to play, to work and even to live.”

The trail, eight years in the planning and development, runs on a former railroad right-of-way, going northwest from Ankeny to an area known as “The Oasis.”  Then it continues north to Sheldahl and Slater, where it connects to the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail that runs to the east.  The High Trestle Trail turns west at Slater, runs to Madrid, across the huge bridge over the Des Moines River valley and into Woodward.  Eventually, it is expected to run on west from Woodward to Bouton and Perry, where it will connect with the Raccoon River Valley Trail’s new North Loop.

Besides the bridge and the river valley, what impressed us the most in our first look at the High Trestle Trail on Wednesday is the trail’s corridor.  At least the portion we saw between Madrid and Woodward has an excellent, mature stand of trees along both sides of the trail, providing cover from both the sun and the wind.  And of course, the design of the trail has all the latest amenities and techniques.  Its concrete surface is 10 feet wide, and it is paved right over the gravel roads that intersect the trail.

You’ll find additional information and insights about the trail in the captions to the photos below.

And to learn more, go to the High Trestle Trail portion of the Internet site of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which you can access by clicking here.

Even better, you can go experience the trail this Saturday, April 30, on its “Grand Celebration,” which is featuring special activities in all five of the towns.  You can get more details about that situation on that same Internet site above. 

John Moreland & Joe Connolly

Cyclists John Moreland (left), of Des Moines, and Joe Connolly, of Council Bluffs, are shown after they stopped on a ride east across the bridge to look out over the vast Des Moines River valley. The steel framework that is tilted at different angles over the bridge represents the shaft of a coal mine, tying to the heritage of this area.

West Towers Bridge Behind

Here you can get a good view of just how big the towers are at both ends of the “Art Bridge.” The stone towers stand 42 feet high. The dark strips on the towers represent coal veins that were found and mined in the area in earlier years.

Artwork On Tower Base

Here is a close-up of the base of one of the towers at the ends of the bridge. You can see how the tiles are made to resemble chunks of coal.

Interpretive Signage

As you ride across the bridge, there are places to pull off so you can take some time and look out at the Des Moines River and the surrounding valley. Those pull-offs feature very well done interpretive signage to help you understand what you’re seeing.  The trail is 10 feet wide, and the deck on the bridge seemed a little wider than that, with extra room for the side railings.

Side View Of Bridge

At the east end of the bridge, we peeked around the side of it for a view of just how high it looks!

High Trestle Trail Bridge At Night

This photo shows the special blue lighting that highlights the Art Bridge at night on the High Trestle Trail. The strip lighting is placed on the steel framework that is a portrayal of a coal mine shaft. “A couple of weeks ago, I rode across this bridge for the first time at night when the blue lights were on,” said veteran Des Moines cyclist Bill Rumme. “It was such a kick I busted out laughing and laughed all the way across the bridge!” (This photo by Kelly Green Photography is from the Internet site of RDG Planning & Design, one of the partners on the trail and bridge project.)