"Herndon to Coon Rapids" Trail

The proposed “Herndon to Coon Rapids” Trail will extend the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) from Herndon 17 miles west through Guthrie County to end at the Coon Rapids-Whiterock rural tourism destination area. This will complete a key segment of the cross-country American Discovery Trail and provide Des Moines bikers a 60-mile off-road route all the way to Coon Rapids.
Above: American Discovery Trail; Below: Iowa portion of the American Discovery Trail


The trail will provide enhanced access to the seven-square-mile Whiterock Conservancy land trust, with its own very extensive internal trail system serving hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and disabled using electric carts. 
The non-profit Whiterock anchors the DNR-designated 54,000-acre Raccoon River Savannna Bird Conservation Area  includes more than 1,000 acres of extremely rare oak savannah harboring multiple bird species of greatest conservation need.


Whiterock also features the historic Garst farm, which hosted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during his unprecedented visit held at the height of the Cold War. This event has gone down in history as an amazing example of citizen diplomacy and of the power of agriculture to ease international tensions. In 2009, a state-wide 50th anniversary commemoration of that historic event included the listing of the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Farmstead on the National Register of Historic Places. Coon Rapids remains an important host of many Iowa-Russian exchanges.


Due to its many historical, environmental, and cultural assets, in 2005 Coon Rapids was named one of the first three “Iowa Great Places” and in 2007, received White House designation as a Preserve America Community.


Coon Rapids is rapidly becoming a major biking destination for west-central Iowa. An existing 9-mile paved-trail loop links the northern portions of Whiterock directly to the Coon Rapids business district, and federal funds are now being used to build an internal soft trail system that will serve mountain bikers and equestrians. One day, Coon Rapids will serve as the hub for three area trail systems: the Sauk Rail system to the north, the T-Bone trail to the southwest, and the RRVT to the east.
Above: Map of future potential trail links
The “Herndon to Coon Rapids” Trail will allow Coon Rapids-Whiterock to provide greatly enhanced destination potential for the RRVT, enhancing overall use of the trail. An economic impact assessment by Iowa State University estimates the trail link, when constructed, will generate more than $1 million in annual user spending, $200,000 of new income and 12 jobs, concentrated especially in the Coon Rapids-Bayard area. Construction impacts are also expected to be significant. Construction of the 17-mile trail link will generate some $10.8 million in sales, $3.4 million in labor income and 109 jobs.
Above: Map of Future "Herndon to Coon Rapids" Trail
Between Herndon to one mile east of Bayard, the trail will be constructed on abandoned railroad Right-of-Way, mostly owned by a local business, Shippers Consortium, which has offered to donate this land to Guthrie County. Additional Right-of-Way portions along this segment are owned by the Iowa DOT and by 2-3 local landowners. Potential opposition has been expressed by only one of these landowners; however, an alternative half-mile route can be used, if needed, within DOT Right-of-Way along the edge of Highway 141, and then back north again to the abandoned rail bed.
Above: Map of Future "Herndon to Coon Rapids" Trail
Between one mile east of Bayard to Coon Rapids, the trail will be constructed adjacent to an active low-use Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway currently serving a Farmers Cooperative feed mill and Poet Biorefinery ethanol plant. Options for this segment will be to construct the trail either 1) within the BNSF Right-of-Way on an abandoned rail bed running parallel to the active rail bed, or 2) on a dirt county road coming west out of Bayard and then on private lands lying adjacent to the active rail line. Both options appear viable, although using the railroad Right-of-Way would lower engineering costs significantly.


Numerous bridges are missing along the proposed route between Herndon and Bagley, between Bagley and Bayard, and between Bayard and Coon Rapids. As bridges are put in, the respective trail segments can be opened for use by hikers, snowmobilers, and possibly, hunters. The last step in the development of the trail corridor would be paving it with long-lasting concrete, with cattle and machinery crossings installed as necessary for local farmers.
Local Government Leaders & Organizations Supporting this Trail
Mayor Jim Pedelty of Carroll
City of Coon Rapids
Coon Rapids Development Group
Creating Great Places
Farmers Cooperative (business located along route)
Guthrie County Tourism
Iowa Bicycle Coalition
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
M&M Divide Resource Conservation & Development
Midwest Partnership
Raccoon River Valley Trail Association
Region XII Council of Governments
Snowchasers Snowmobiling Club
Whiterock Conservancy