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306. Viking Lake State Park and Hacklebarney Woods County Park, Stanton, Iowa

A pair of parks that harbor an important patch of hardwoods amid expanses of farmland and remnant grasslands.

In a little-visited corner of southwestern Iowa lie Viking Lake State Park and Hacklebarney Woods County Park, forming an important patch of hardwoods amid expanses of farmland and remnant grasslands. The parks, about 3 miles apart, harbor several bird species at the western edge of their distribution plus migrant passerines, and the lake and numerous ponds attract a wide variety of waterbirds. While not many birders make the trek to this slice of the Midwest, these parks add bird diversity to the farmland species and provide a fascinating avifaunal juncture of east and west.

During spring migration, the majority of eastern warblers (nearly 30 species), vireos, and thrushes pass through; several species remain to nest. Some of the uncommon nesting warblers for this region that can readily be found include Northern Parula, and, along a creek deep in the forest at Hacklebarney Woods, Louisiana Waterthrushes hold territories. Even Kentucky and Worm-eating Warblers have made summer appearances but likely do not nest here every year.

I personally enjoy hitting the loop trail that winds for 6 miles around Viking Lake and covers all the important habitats. Another 3-mile nature trail at Hacklebarney Woods also leads deep into the forest and is usually full of birds with no other visitors.

306. Viking Lake State Park and Hacklebarney Woods County Park, Stanton, Iowa

Directions

In southwestern Iowa, Viking Lake State Park covers the environs of Viking Lake off Hwy. 34, approximately 4 miles east of the small town of Stanton in Montgomery County. The entrance is at the end of Rd. H42. Hacklebarney Woods County Park lies a further 3 miles east along Hwy. 34 and is well signposted.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
40°58’29.26″N 95°2’6.63″W

Habitat

Deciduous hardwood forest, overgrown fields, stands of red cedar, thickets, lake, and smaller ponds.

Terrain

Mainly flat with small ravines and slight rises.

Birds

One-hundred-and-fifty species, with many more waiting to be found. Year-round: Trumpeter Swan, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Wild Turkey, Great Horned and Barred Owls, five species of woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren. Spring and fall: Black-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, four species of thrush, and up to 30 species of warbler. Summer: Wood Duck, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Bell’s, Yellow-throated, Warbling, and Red-eyed Vireos, swallows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers. Winter: waterfowl, raptors, and sparrows, Winter Wren. Rarities: Neotropic Cormorant and Worm-eating Warbler.

When to go

Year-round. Spring and fall migration bring the highest diversity.

Amenities

Ten miles of hiking trails in total and easy access to a variety of habitats from paved roads. Several lookout points. Campgrounds, restrooms, boat ramps, and picnic areas.

Access

State park and county park that are open all year, no fees. Camping available at both for fees.

Tips

Bring comfortable hiking shoes and a backpack in order to explore the myriad trails winding through the forest and access the best available habitats. A scope can be helpful to scan Viking Lake and a camera to capture the variety of approachable birdlife. Also, bring a sense for exploration in this little-studied area.

For more info

Viking Lake State Park
Hacklebarney Woods Park

Site nearby

Anderson Wildlife Area
Lies right outside of Red Oak about 15 minutes to the west of Viking Lake State Park. The remnant prairie here holds an excellent variety of grassland species, including Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, Sedge Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, and a small nesting population of the sought-after Henslow’s Sparrow.

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