Iowa DNR Trail Brochure

Gull Point State Park
1500 Harpen St.
Wahpeton, IA 51351

Iowa DNR Trail Brochure

Welcome to the Barney Peterson Memorial Interpretive Trail.  The trail length is approximately 1.5 miles in length.  It will take about 45 minutes to hike the trail.  Please follow along in this brochure as you walk along the trail to learn more about the area’s natural and cultural history.

This area is an island that is surrounded by West Lake Okoboji and a canal.  The land was used as a golf course from 1917-1942, and closed in 1942 due to World War II.  In 1946 the golf course reopened for one year and then closed again.  It was converted to a pasture in 1946 and refined that way until the summer of 1949.

The Prairie Gold Boy Scout Council purchased the property in the summer of 1949 and operated a Boy Scout Camp here until 1974 when the Iowa Conservation Commission (now the Iowa DNR) purchased the property.  Barney Peterson was employed by the Boy Scouts to help preserve this natural area so that it could be enjoyed by future generations.  In respect for his hard work, the nature trail has been named in his memory.

The best way to enjoy the trial is to get out and experience nature first hand: be alert for wildlife, look for wildflowers, touch the rough bard or soft leaves of a tree and inhale the fresh aroma of pine and cedar trees.  Please do not pick or remove any natural objects, so that others may have the same quality experience.

  1. Tamarack or Larch
    This tree is more commonly a tree of the north and prefers moist of boggy soil.  It is an unusual conifer, since it’s soft needles turn yellow and drop in the fall.  In addition to being the only conifer that sheds its needles, it is the only conifer in the Untied State that has it’s needles arranged in bushy clusters at the ends of small branches.
  2. Eastern Red Cedar 
    For all of Iowa except the northeaster portion, this sis the only native evergreen in the state.  The needles are sharp and prickly on young shoots, but scaly and shine on older branches.  The aromatic odor given off by the needles and twigs is also found in the peel, reddish-brown trunk.  The wood, reputed to have moth-repellent qualities, is valued for use in storage chests.  The fruit is fleshy, bluish berry (technically a cone) which require two to three years to grow.  It is eaten by songbirds and small mammals.  The cedar also provides important protective nesting cover.
  3. Chapel Building
    This building was used as a chapel by the Boy Scouts.  The plaque is in memory of Douglas Callenius, a high school student and Life Scout from Humboldt, who was killed while on a church sponsored hayride.
  4. Black Walnut
    The walnut is a valuable tree to the wildlife community proving food for many animals, including squirrels, birds, and others.  It is equally as valuable to humans.  We use theWoo walnut in our own food sources, as well as utilizing its high quality wood in our home furnishings.
  5. Wood Duck Nest Box
    Nesting boxes such as the one you see on this latched cottonwood tree, coupled with wise management and habitat preservation, have helped to bring the brilliantly-colored wood duck back from the brink of extinction.  The light, cream-colored eggs are incubated for 30-32 days and soon after hatching, the young ducks will crawl to the nest’s opening with their sharp claws and drop to the ground.  There they will begin the process of learning to swim, forage for food, and fly, in preparation for the long fall migration southward with their parents.
  6. Canal/Canoe Storage Shelter
    This canal is a chute off West Okoboji Lake and was once developed to be the “Venice of Iowa.”  On the west side of the canal/bridge you will see what looks to be a shelter.  It is actually a canoe storage bunk the Boy Scouts used when they owned the property.
  7. Wildlife Viewing Overlook
    Looking out from this spot you may be able to catch a glimpse of the many water bound mammals of the area such as the beaver, mink, muskrat, raccoon, and others.  Take a break and enjoy the view.
  8. Black Raspberries
    This shrub grows in vase-like clumps with stems arching back toward the ground.  Where the tips of the stems touch the ground, they may take root to form new plans and in time, a dense thicket is formed.  The white-powdered stems have sharp, strongly hooked prickles.  In the spring, the five petalled, white flowers add beauty to the edges of woods and fields, later developing small, tasty black fruit.  Rabbits and other small animals find patches of this shrub to be ideal shelter from hungry predators.
  9. Former Golf Course Tee Box
    This area was once a tee box for the golf course which was located here in the early 1900’s.  Through this overlook you can see where the former fairway was located, and it is a great place to sit back and look for whitetail deer.
  10. Wet Weather Marsh
    In the spring, when there is water in the area, waterfowl such as ducks and geese use this as a nesting area.  When it is dry due to insufficient rainfall, the area provides good wildlife cover.  The grass is dense and the mixture of plants provides an abundant food supply.  This type of area is necessary for a complete balance of habitat and food for all wildlife.
  11. Succession
    Looking out from this point you can see the meeting of prairie and woodland.  Where etc two different cover types meet, woodland and grassland, and “edge effect” is created. Many kinds of wildlife visit such edges because they provide food and shelter in a relatively small area.  If undisturbed, the woodland will eventually take Ove the prairie.  Shrubs such as honeysuckle and sumac being to invade the grass lands first. Then trees like the eastern red cedar and green ash appear next to the shrubs and become the dominant species.  After a few years their seedlings cannot tolerate the shading of the larger trees and are in time replaced by more shade-tolerant varieties. Oak is among the most shade tolerant trees in this area and soon comes to dominate the forest ecosystem.  Fires, started by Native Americans, kept the prairie from becoming woodlands before settlers arrived and altered the nature of the landscape through agriculture.
  12. Dead Snag
    The remains of this dead tree, or snag, will in time break down and retune to the soil giving many needed nutrients.  Meanwhile, it will be an important part of the local habitat, providing a source of food and shelter for nesting woodpeckers and other small animals.
  13. Smooth Sumac
    This sumac has a short, crooked, leaning trunk and gnarled, leggy branches.  It grows in open fields and roadsides, spreading rapidly to form colonies of shrubs or small trees.  The leaves have 11 to 31 long, narrow leaflets which turn scarlet-red in the fall.  In the late summer, its fruit of dry, red hairy berries are clustered in dense, erect spikes at the end of the branches.  These berries provide food for wildlife in the winter.
  14. Red Pine
    The red pine is a self pruning tree, there tends not to be many dead branches in the tree.  At times there will be long lengths of branchless trunk that extend upward into the canopy.  The red pine produces cones which are a valuable food source for the local wildlife.
  15. Tall Grass Prairie
    Take a walk out into the tall grass prairie to get a feel for how tall the grasses really are. This small area is restored prairie grassland.  It has been planted with a variety of tall prairie grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, and switch grass.  Prairies provide cover for many different species of wildlife such as whitetail deer, song birds, and others.
  16. Bur Oak
    The bur oak is Iowa’s official state tree.  It’s massive trunk large size and spreading limbs are a common site in Iowa.  Slow growing they often live up to 300 years.  Its thick, ridged, corky bark is able to withstand most prairie fires.  The acorns have a rough, prickly cap, giving it the name “bur” oak.  Acorns are an important food for many animals, including squirrels, deer, mice and wood ducks.  In fact the squirrel and blue jay’s habit of burying acorns each fall probably aided in the northerly spread of oaks.