Calkins Nature Area

calkins 2020
Calkins Donation

Calkins Nature Area is a truly unique asset to Hardin County. Located between Iowa Falls and Alden, Calkins Nature Area boasts a first rate nature center of over 6,000 square feet which greets you as you enter 76 acres of rolling hills, nestled up to the banks of the Iowa River. Admission is free to the public.

Native Ecosystem Representations

Covering those rolling hills are representations of the major ecosystems that are native to this area of the state:

  • Bottomland forest
  • Oak savanna
  • Riparian
  • Tallgrass prairie
  • Upland forest
  • Wetland

Map of Calkins Grounds

calkins grounds

Calkins Trail Map

Calkins Trail Map

Wildlife Species

Calkins WetlandWith a keen eye, many of Iowa’s native wildlife species can be spotted year round while exploring the extensive network of nature trails at Calkins. There are miles of trail system on the grounds of Calkins Nature Area for exploration and discovery. Visitors can get an up-close view of Monarch metamorphism in the Shirley Welden Butterfly House and test their bird identification skills at the bird blind.

A few things that can be spotted at the wetland or along the Iowa River are:

  • Ducks
  • Frogs
  • Salamanders
  • Song birds
  • Turtles


Calkins Nature Center contains a Native American and Natural History Museum that tells the story of the county’s ecological and cultural history. The museum is home to one of central Iowa’s largest collections of Native American artifacts dating back to the earliest inhabitants of North America. There is also a classroom, resource library and great room that is available for meetings and public programs.

Shirley's Butterfly House

Open to the public, Calkins Nature Area maintains a butterfly house that was graciously donated by Shirley Welden of Iowa Falls. The house features a netted cover for air and sunlight permeability, while also being able to house various pollinator species. The main goal is to house Monarch Butterflies for the annual Monarch Tagging Program. Inside the house you will find beautiful water fountains, various native prairie flowers, walkways and benches. Stop out mid-summer for a beautiful and amazing experience!


In addition to the nature center and amphitheater, these attractions are also found at Calkins Nature Area:

  • 3 miles of hiking trails to explore native ecosystems
  • 2,000 square foot educational rain garden
  • Butterfly house with native wildflowers and butterfly species
  • Cross-country ski trail and ski rental
  • Full-sized Plains Native American tipi
  • Gazebo and picnic area
  • Live wildlife exhibit featuring over 20 species of native wildlife
  • Native American agriculture and foraging garden
  • Nature exploration backpacks
  • Wild bird observatory