The Bluff Creek ORV Park is another example of how hard work, persistence and federal and Iowa ATV (ATVs and off-highway motorcycles) registration grant money, combined with volunteerism, can work to develop public riding areas.
Bluff Creek is owned and maintained by the Iowa Partners of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. The project started in 1990 and finally became a reality in 1992.
There were a few key people who stayed the course to open these trails for riding: Dale Witzenburg and Randy Van Maaron were two of the key players. They didn't give up when faced with numerous road blocks and dead ends.
The park currently covers 300 acres of diverse terrain with more than 20 miles of trails. The land is mostly abandoned strip coal mines, with terrain ranging from steep hill climbs to rolling hills.
Wooded areas feature trails that twist and turn among the trees, with hills thrown in to get you off the seat and shifting your weight forward. A perimeter trail that circles the entire area is designed for all skill levels of riders and will always bring you back to the large parking lot if you get turned around.
Trails are open to ATVs and motorcycles and closed to large four-wheel vehicles and dune buggies.
Riding hours are restricted from dawn to dusk but feel free to stay overnight. Primitive camping is allowed. Currently there are portable toilets that are handicapped accessible, but this will change later this year. The Bluff Creek Riders Association that helps maintain the area received a grant to build showers and toilets.
For riders who want to practice their motocross skills there are three motocross tracks. Those tracks may offer limited American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned races this summer.
Bluff Creek practices good trail management, closing the trails during mud season or after heavy rainfall. This is when trails are the most susceptible to damage. To check for closures log on to www.IowaOHV.com.
If you aren't set up for primitive camping, the closest motels, restaurants, gas, groceries and all the other desirable amenities are available in Oskaloosa, Iowa, about nine miles away.
There are no daily use fees or camping fees but all riders must display a valid Iowa OHV sticker. Out-of-state riders can buy stickers from any outlet that sells Iowa hunting or fishing licenses or at the Wal-Mart in Oskaloosa.
Riders under 18 must possess an OHV Safety Training Certificate. Riding double isn't allowed. The minimum age to ride ATVs in Iowa is 12, but there are no age restrictions for riding motorcycles.
Helmets are required for all riders in all Iowa OHV parks.
Bluff Creek is 65 miles southeast of Des Moines, Iowa, and only nine miles Southwest of Oskaloosa.
To find Bluff Creek from Hwy. 163 on the southwest side of Oskaloosa, take county road T-39 south about eight miles to the intersection of county road G-71. Continue south one more mile on T-39 to the entrance of the park.
If you are in the area for a long weekend and you have ridden all the trails to your heart’s content, Lake Rathbun is only 35 miles away and has a smaller OHV area that is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For any Iowa-specific questions you can contact ATV Program Director David Downing, who is with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, at (515) 281-3449; or Paul Romans, executive director of the Iowa OHV Association, at (515) 460-6482. For the latest information, including temporary closures, visit www.IowaOHV.com.