While Iowa has a number of bustling cities and towns, the state’s rural counties have actually proven to be some of the most beloved locations. The limited light pollution in these areas makes them prime spots for stargazing. So, grab your binoculars or telescopes, and check out five of the best places to marvel at constellations in the state.
Annett Nature Center Park
The Annett Nature Center Park (ANC) is perched on a hillside above a six-acre pond and a 10-acre wetland. It’s also adjacent to Lake Ahquabi State Park. Normally, the ANC serves as the hub for conservation education programs. For those looking to stargaze, the park is nestled in Warren County, where the limited light pollution makes the night sky even more visible and beautiful. For more information, visit www.warrenccb.org.
This 5,500-acre nonprofit land trust balances sustainable agriculture, natural resource protection and public recreation on the most beautiful, natural landscape. Among the handful of activities that visitors can enjoy, the most famed venture is stargazing at what many call the “darkest skies in Iowa.” For more information, visit www.whiterockconservancy.org.
Preparation Canyon State Park
Preparation Canyon State Park is located in the unique Loess Hills, and the park boasts a number of daytime activities that include sightseeing, hiking and yes—even stargazing. Turn your gaze above and marvel at the wonder of Iowa’s magical dark skies on this remote 344-acre area. For more information, visit www.iowadnr.gov.
Eden Valley Wildlife Refuge
Nestled along the banks of Bear Creek is the Eden Valley Wildlife Refuge—a 201-acre park that’s garnered a reputation for hiking, camping and stargazing. Dark sky enthusiasts are encouraged to visit the observation tower, which offers different platform levels and a 360-degree view of the surrounding areas. For more information, visit www.mycountyparks.com.
Eastern Iowa Observatory
The Eastern Iowa Observatory is home to a number of portable telescopes and two permanent telescopes. Located near Mount Vernon and Palisades-Kepler State Park, the observatory is open to eager stargazers and the general public throughout the year—and the property also serves as the host to several of the state’s most special events. For more information, visit www.cedar-astronomers.org.