Natural Areas

Dunning's Springs is a popular destination among students for its 200 feet waterfall and hiking trails.

Located along the Upper Iowa River, Pulpit Rock campground provides opportunities for fishing and canoeing.

The 27-acre Anderson Prairie serves as an ecological learning site for biology and environmental studies courses.

One of several ponds on campus used by biology students, Lindeman Pond has painted turtles, spring peepers, and bluegill, as well as microscopic organisms.

The oldest park in Decorah, Phelps includes trails, cookout grills, scenic overlooks, and more!

Palisades Park has miles of hiking and biking trails, not to mention a great view of Decorah!

Dunning's Springs
Pulpit Rock
Anderson Prairie
Lindeman Pond
Phelps Park
Palisades Park

Northeastern Iowa, along the Upper Iowa River, is a natural draw for students interested in a variety of perspectives, including biology, environmental studies, recreation, contemplative studies, or art. Known as the Driftless Area, this part of the Upper Midwest escaped the most recent glaciation. It features rugged topography with a great variety of natural habitats.

Students can walk out their back door and step on to the trail system to enter the prairie or woods. Because of their easy accessibility, many of the natural areas are used by hundreds of students each year for field laboratories. The diversity of habitats and ongoing restoration projects provide many opportunities for student research projects in ecology, microbiology, geology, hydrology, entomology, and more.

Luther's natural areas provide a scenic backdrop to the school. These expanses include:

  • Woodlands
    Luther's woodlands include Hickory Ridge Woods and Roslien Woodlands, which are used by students for their fieldwork, classes, land stewardship, hiking/running trails, and more.
  • River and Floodplain
    Students use the Upper Iowa River, Lindeman Pond, and Hoslett Study Area for biological and other environmental sciences. Beyond the classroom, these waters provide enjoyable opportunities for recreational activities, including kayaking, swimming, ice skating, and more.
  • Prairies
    Restored and reconstructed prairies allow students to learn about ecology while enjoying the aesthetics that come with Iowa prairies.
  • Remote Natural Areas
    Other natural areas include more forests, grasslands, and bodies of water in Lionberger Environmental Preserve, wetland plants in Freeport Marsh, and a large maple basswood forest at the Weigle-Roslien Tract.

Hiking, kayaking, bird watching, and other outdoor activities are encouraged in these locations. To visit and explore the natural areas, download our outdoor activity maps.

Quick Facts

  • Luther's natural areas include nearly 700 acres which are accessible by 8 miles of hiking trails.
  • The natural areas are managed by Luther students, faculty, and staff.
  • Land stewardship interns work on invasive species removal, native species plantings, restoration ecology research, and more, and have come from majors across the campus (Biology, Environmental studies, English...)

Natural Assets Article

Read about the natural areas located around Luther campus and Decorah in the Natural Assets article from the Luther Alumni Magazine.