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McFarland Park
Parks and Trails
Location: 56461 180th St
Ames, IA 50010
Amenities: Bicycling, Canoeing, Conference Rooms, Cross Country Skiing, Hiking, Kayaking, Pets Allowed, Picnic Tables, and Pond and River Fishing
Maps: Google | Bing | Yahoo!
Link: Map of McFarland Park

McFarland Park is a 200-acre area located northeast of Ames. The park offers visitors a variety of ecotypes to explore including tallgrass prairie, woodland, and stream habitats. Facilities include:
Story County Conservation Center: Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The offices of the administrative and environmental education staff are housed at this building, and the multipurpose room is available for rent for social gatherings and meetings. Educational displays throughout the year fill the center. A cedar deck is adjacent to the building for picnics and public use.
  • Stargazing Observatory:  Supervised by the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers (AAAA); available to the public through astronomy programs offered by AAAA.
  • Touch-a-Life Trail: Hard-surfaced trail through various plant communities including prairie, woodlands, and ponds; handicapped access to fishing dock, deck overlooking the lake, and handicapped accessible picnic sites.
  • Picnic areas with grills: Some sites are handicap accessible
  • Supervised youth camping -  $20/site/night payable at time of reservation - reservation required. Campsites are closed Dec 1-Mar 31.
  • Hiking and Off-road Biking: The park's 5.5 miles of trails are open to hiking and off-road biking, but interior trails with stairs are closed to bicyclists. Please obey all signs. Equestrians are not allowed in the park; horseback riding is allowed on the trails at Peterson Park and along the greenbelt.
  • 6.5-acre lake: The lake is stocked with bluegill, bass, and catfish.
  • Winter activities: Ice fishing and cross-country skiing.

Current and Upcoming Events For This Facility

Date Event Title
Come and go as you please
Come enjoy an afternoon all about birds! Go on a guided birding hike, meet a live raptor, create a bird feeding treat and crafts, play some games, and then participate in the Iowa Bird of Mouth project to write and publish a poem! This afternoon of indoor and outdoor activities is fun for all ages, but themed for preschoolers through middle school. This event is free and no registration is required.
Geocache Egg Hunt
Your family will love this new-age way of hunting eggs. Join Naturalist Jess Lancial to learn how to use a GPS, then go search the woods to find the Conservation Bunny's nests of hidden treasures. Collect prizes and candy and discover some of nature's treasures along the way. Be sure to keep a watchful eye as you may come across a golden egg containing giveaways! This program is limited to 20 groups, so be sure to register early to reserve your spot! We recommend that groups not exceed eight people as groups will share one GPS unit. Fee of $5 per collector (any child 3-14 years old) with registration required by 4:00 p.m. on April 12.
Come and go as you please
Partners Spring Festival
Enjoy an afternoon in the park canoeing and fishing, gazing at the sun and wildflowers, learning about pollinators and native plants, and participating in crowd-sourced poetry! The day will include:
- Live music by the Britches & Hose Ukulele Club
- Unveiling of the new Discovery Nature Playscape
- Native plant sale by ISU’s EEOB Department
- Solar viewing provided by the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers
- Canoeing lead by the Skunk River Paddlers
- Fishing poles and bait available from Story County Conservation
- Booths by Iowa Bird of Mouth, Plant.Grow.Fly., Iowa Native Plant Society, and Master Gardeners
- The annual photo contest entries will be on display inside the conservation center. Awards will be presented during band intermission.
Evening Exploration
Discover the mysteries of the dark at the park! Follow us on a journey to understand just what it takes to be a creature of the night. Test your senses and try your hand at talking with the owls. Capture this unique opportunity to see McFarland Park through lightless eyes. This hike is not intended to scare but to excite your imagination.
If you wish to bring a flashlight, please cover it with red tissue paper. We will begin the hike at the conservation center. Please dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes. This event will include an hour and a half hike and is a family-friendly event, however it is not intended for strollers or wagons. Please no light-up shoes.
Registration required by 4pm on Wednesday, May 31..
6/12/2017 - 6/16/2017
Day camp - runs from 9am-11:30am each day
Waterbugs Nature Camp A (for kids completing grades 1 or 2 this spring)
Calling all explorers! Search for nature's treasures as we follow maps, make mini-rafts, investigate wildlife, and step into creeks and marshes. Discover Story County natural areas through hands-on activities, art, stories, games, and journaling.