Sun and Snow at Ledges State Park

It was one of those bright and sunny, yet extremely cold winter days.   With a fresh layer of snow, I set out to explore Canyon Drive in Ledges State Park.

Ledges State Park south of Boone, Iowa was one of the first state parks in the state.  It opened in 1924 and is still one of the most visited parks in the state. 

Aerial view of Ledges State Park south of Boone, Iowa.

Canyon Drive is the main attraction at the park.  It’s a one-way road winding down the hill, through a canyon with 100-foot sandstone bluffs, all while crisscrossing Pea’s Creek.  However, during the winter, this one-way is closed to vehicle traffic.

But don’t let that stop you from exploring the Ledges during the winter.

I would recommend parking in the lower lot at the end of Canyon Drive (here’s the exact google maps link to this location)

When Pea’s Creek is frozen, it is sometimes used as a pathway into the park for hikers and cross-county skiers.

From here, I grabbed my gear and headed up into Canyon Drive on foot.   

There were about 6 inches of fresh snow –  and my boots were sinking in deep. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I took my full camera bag, which is about 30 lbs and then also carried my drone bag along with me.  

I won’t make that mistake again, I really only needed one camera, one lens, and the drone.  

In fact, when got deeper into the canyon and found that I wanted to switch from the camera to the drone, I found that I couldn’t find a reliable place to leave the camera bag – so lesson learned,  next time don’t overpack for a hike in deep snow. 

One of the main focal points along Canyon drive is the stone arch bridge, built around 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corp.  I stayed to photograph this area for a while and then headed further into the canyon.   The drive crossed over Pea’s Creek several times, but there were no problems with crossing it, as there was a solid frozen layer on the water which was covered with additional snow.

I eventually pulled out the drone and started to cover the scene from above –   as the views show how the overall canyon was carved out millions of years ago.

To my surprise, I certainly wasn’t alone in the park.  I encountered other hikers, a few people walking their dog, cross country skiers, and even a mountain biker who was blitzing through the snow piles and seemed to be thoroughly loving it.

As you could imagine, it’s quiet in the canyon during the winter.  You might think… duh.  Of course it is, there’s no one there.  You’re right – but there’s also another factor that you don’t count on.  The extra layer of snow helps to deaden the sound in the canyon. As you walk through the canyon, you certainly hear the crunch of your boots breaking the frozen surface of the snow. But if you stop and stand still –  it’s the most amazing quiet place.  

Aerial photo showing tracks and shadows in the fresh snow at Ledges State Park.

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