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McFarland Park
Parks and Trails
Location: 56461 180th St
Ames, IA 50010
Amenities: Camping, Conference Rooms, Cross Country Skiing, Free Parking, Hiking, Off-road Bicycling, Picnic Tables, Pond and River Fishing, and Public Restrooms
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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., and Sundays, 2-5 p.m. April through October. 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
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 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. Participants should dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes. This is an event for the whole family but is not stroller friendly. This program is free, but registration is required by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 20. Space is limited, so register early!
WildTots: Hurray for Dirt!
Join Naturalist Jess Lancial as you explore dirt through a series of activities, crafts, and a snack. This program is designed for children ages 2-4 and an adult. Be prepared to get muddy outside!
Fee: $5.00/child. Pre-registration with payment is required by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 21.
Story County Trails Advisory Meeting
If you enjoy biking, hiking, horseback riding, or canoeing in Story County, consider joining the Story County Trails Advisory Committee. Come share your ideas or perhaps volunteer to improve SCC's trail system. Monthly meetings are held the last Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the conservation center. For more information, contact Special Projects Ranger Carol Williams at (515) 232-2516 or
O.W.L.S.: The Iowa Choice Harvest Story
Penny Brown Huber, CEO/President of Iowa Choice Harvest, will tell the story of creating a new farmer owned food manufacturing company in Iowa. Iowa Choice Harvest utilizes locally grown crops by quickly freezing fruits and vegetables and then packaging them for wholesale at grocery stores. Today the company is owned 60% by Iowa farmers and 40% by other Iowa residents. Fee: $7 for optional lunch with registration required by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 29. Menu: Baked potato bar including broccoli, bacon bits , ham, salsa and other toppings, and peach crisp.
Story County Conservation Partners Meeting
Story County Conservation Partners invites the public to attend its advisory committee meeting on Thursday, September 4, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Story County Conservation Center at McFarland Park (56461 180th Street) northeast of Ames.

Story County Conservation Partners are community members who want to help Story County Conservation achieve its mission of enhancing the quality of life for all citizens of the county. Since its establishment in 1996, Partners has raised over $195,000 to help support the quarterly newsletter, sponsor annual spring and fall festivals, and assist with many other programs and projects.