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Matsell Bridge Natural Area

 
Cabins Cabins at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Red Oak Cabin is a popular getaway for nature enthusiasts and hunters alike. The rustic cabin is located on a bluff with a spectacular view of the Wapsipinicon River valley. The cabin is located approximately half a mile from the parking area and is accessible by foot only. The opportunity to "get away from it all" and the primitive amenities make Red Oak a popular destination.
Camping Camping at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Matsell Bridge has several options available for camping enthusiasts. There is a primitive campground with 22 sites and an equestrian campground with 20 sites, 8 of which have fire rings. The equestrian campground features hitching posts, water availability, and lots of space all situated with direct access to the park's equestrian trails. There are also several pack in campsites to provide that backwoods experience. In addition, primitive Red Oak Cabin is available for reservation.
Canoeing & Kayaking Canoeing & Kayaking at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
The Wapsipinicon is a great river to canoe and kayak on. Matsell Bridge Natural Area has a boat ramp that provides access to the Wapsipinicon. Many people either start or end their float journey here.
Equestrian Activities Equestrian Activities at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Matsell Bridge Natural Area is a favorite among equestrian entusiasts. There are over 10 miles of horseback riding opportunities. Matsell Bridge also offers an equestrian campground featuring hitching posts, water, and a lot of space all situated with direct access to the equestrian trails in the park.
Facility Rentals Facility Rentals at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Red Oak Cabin is available for reservation. All other campsites are first come, first serve.
Fishing Fishing at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
The rocky shores, riffles, and deep holes of the Wapsipinicon River provide excellent habitat for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, walleye and many other fish species, A boat ramp is located just west of the Matsell Park Road bridge over the Wapsipinicon River.
Historic Visits Historic Visits at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
The first acquisition of public land occurred at Matsell Bridge in 1956 by the Iowa Conservation Commission, but this part of Linn County has a rich history dating backs hundreds if not thousands of years. Matsell Bridge is named for George W. Matsell, the New York City Chief of Police from 1845-1857. Legend has it that Matsell befriended some American Indians visiting New York City. They appreciated his kindness and invited him to visit them in Iowa. When he arrived, Matsell fell in love with the land and eventually built a mansion near the present day equestrian camping area. Matsell fashioned his home after George Washington's Mount Vernon home that overlooks the Potomac River. At one time, his land holdings in this area topped 3,000 acres. Additional buildings were added to the farmstead until there were a total of 11 buildings including livestock barns, grain storage, a gate keepers house, and an ice house. Over time, the buildings fell into a state of disrepair and were razed. Today, the only thing remaining of the large estate is the ice house, and the main entry gates.
Hunting Hunting at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Matsell Bridge is the largest natural area in Linn County at nearly 2000 acres. Numerous wildlife species make Matsell Bridge Natural Area their home. Providing suitable habitat to meet wildlife's needs is a significant focus of the staff who maintains this area. Many game species including deer, squirrels, raccoons, pheasant quail and many furbearing animals are found here. Many species of waterfowl use the Wapsipinicon River and it's backwaters. There are several different areas of Matsell Bridge Natural Area that are open to public hunting. In addition, many hunters rent the Red Oak Cabin for a complete hunting excursion experience. All hunters are expected to follow all regulations set forth by the Iowa DNR.
Other Activities Other Activities at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Matsell Bridge Shooting Range
This regionally unique public facility features four shooting ranges open to the public. Distances are 15 , 50, 100, and 200 yards. The shotgun range closed in fall of 2013 and will not re-open at this location. The conservation board is looking into other options.
Picnicking Picnicking at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
There are picnic tables available by the boat ramp. In addition, the campground fire rings can be used for grilling/cooking purposes. Many people also enjoy hiking up to the Red Cedar Cabin and using the outdoor fire ring there, provided it is not reserved at the time.
Trails & Hiking Trails & Hiking at Matsell Bridge Natural Area
Three trails are located at Matsell Bridge providing over 12.5 miles of hiking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding opportunities.