If I told you there is a place in our state where you can go annually in April to watch and listen to the mating rituals of prairie chickens, would you believe me? I hope so...because it is true.
A few miles to the west of Kellerton, population 315 in Ringgold County, is the Kellerton Grasslands Bird Conservation Area. It is a property under the management of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Every spring, an annual event to witness the mating rituals of the prairie chicken is held. In some cases, it's less seeing and more hearing. The male prairie chickens let off a distinctive "booming" sound as they are courting the females...thus the property is known as the "booming grounds". I've never witnessed this myself, but I watched a 5 minute IPTV clip on it recently. It's worth checking out. There's also an interesting article here from the Mason City Globe-Gazette. A simple search of the web will yield lots of interesting articles about the work being done to bring this native bird's numbers back up.
If I've piqued your interest, the annual day has been scheduled for Saturday, April 6. You might have to get there early in the morning but it could be quite the adventure! If you cannot make it that day but want to stop by the property, it's of course open to the public. A friend and I stopped by on a recent Sunday and though it was bone-chillingly cold, we checked out the "viewing platform". There's a sign off the highway letting you know to head south for a mile or two to find it.
There's a small wooden structure accompanied by a small parking lot
The platform is handicap accessible and includes a telescope and some built in benches.
There's also some signs that provides more information about the prairie chicken in addition to the property and other wildlife conservation efforts.
When my friend and I stopped by, it was well below zero and so we did not stay long. It would be fun to go back when it is warmer. Obviously, this was not going to be a day when the prairie chickens would be looking to do too much mating. However, you can see that the grasslands are relatively vast.
My friend and I went back into town after visiting the platform and found a lot to appreciate. We found a couple of nice old church buildings.
This one has an interesting Jesus in the clouds sign. I'd love to know more about the story behind this.
The downtown area has some nice buildings that are in varying stages of use and condition.
They sure do not make brick buildings like this anymore.
I don't know if Tom's or Legends are still operational, but they appear to be potentially good small town hangouts.
There's what appears to be an old gymnasium with other park amenities and playground equipment nearby.
Near the water tower is another park. This one includes a picnic shelter.
Elsewhere, I spotted a ball field.
There's a business in town that appears to rent out or perhaps manufactures dumpsters.
My friend spotted a historical sign that appears to pay homage to the town's past railroad heritage.
Around town, there are some modest single family homes.
The flag in front of this house looks a bit tattered.
I spotted a couple larger and/or unique homes.
Of course, there is a cemetery, too.
I hope Kellerton is able to draw a good crowd of curious prairie chicken adventurers in a few weeks. If you go, I'd love to hear more about the experience. Up until coming to town, I had no idea this property or annual tradition occurred. Heck, I didn't even know that there were any prairie chickens left in our state. It's a great example of why we should all learn more about what's going on around us and then support it and appreciate it. As I'm prone to say, you can go 300 or 3000 miles for a great adventure, but you can also oftentimes go just 3 or 30, too.