Serenity at Fort Des Moines Park

Published 10/4/2022 3:42:51 PM

A perfect place to enjoy your day, Fort Des Moines Park is a 135-acre county park that offers a variety of outdoor activities. Originally a training center in 1901, it housed many troops over the years, including the US Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps during World War II. Then in 1972 it became the park known as Fort Des Moines Park after being obtained by Polk County Conservation. 

Fort Des Moines Park offers an excellent opportunity to get out and reconnect with nature. Spending time outdoors is restorative and provides both physical and mental health benefits. As soon as I entered the park a red-tailed hawk flew across my path. Bees, butterflies, dragonflies, turtles, and the telltale bubbles of fish are just some of the creatures you may encounter.

9:00 AM- Hike the Trails

As you start your morning with a Hike around the park, take time to listen to the trees rustling. Fort Des Moines Park offers three trails with an easy difficulty. The longest is the Lakeside trail, a total of 1.1 miles. If you are looking for a shorter walk there is the Savanna Loop Trail, 0.7 miles, and the Prairie Trail which is 0.5 miles. All provide the opportunity to get your body moving. Walking is meditative and the left-right movement has shown to have significant benefits for your mental health.

While hiking with your friends take the opportunity to participate in the fun treasure hunt that is geocaching. Geocaching is a great way to feel connected to a larger community. Participate in the global treasure hunt by using your GPS to discover hidden caches around the park. Take something from the cache and leave something behind for the next adventurer. 

10:00 AM- Enjoy the Pond

The 14 acre pond allows for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boards, and boating. Fishing allows for relaxation, reducing stress, and can be done alone, with friends, or family. The pond houses bass, bluegills, catfish, and crappies. Bring your kayak, paddle board, canoe, or electric boats to enjoy the pond. 

Whether fishing, on the water, or just sitting on the dock, look around and notice the sun glinting off the water. Take this time to practice some deep diaphragmatic breathing aka belly breathing. Inhale through your nose as your belly fills, then release out of your mouth  slowly. These grounding breaths help with relaxation and stress relief. 

11:00 AM - Earthing in the Arboretum

After enjoying some quiet contemplation on the pond, enjoy a self-guided tour in the 1.5-acre arboretum.  The arboretum is home to native trees with markers to help you identify and learn about the trees. This is a perfect time to do some Earthing; a practice where you walk around barefoot on grass, dirt, or sand. This grounding practice is recommended for at least thirty minutes a day. It is a great way to reconnect with the earth and has a beneficial impact on those with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and fatigue. Let the natural oasis be a place of calm and serenity.

12:00 PM - Picnic in the Park

Fort Des Moines Park offers  several picnic tables and grills throughout the park. Three season shelters are first come first serve and available to rent. The first shelter is located near the main entrance with access to the boat ramp, pond, and a large grassy area where you can practice yoga, or lay out a blanket and cloud gaze.

The second shelter is close to the playground making it perfect for families, or adults can enjoy the nearby volleyball court. The trees from the arboretum allow ample shade. The third shelter houses a wood-burning stone fireplace, excellent for s'mores, or cooking a delicious lunch. Cozy up next to the fireplace on brisk fall days. All shelters are ADA accessible and bathrooms are found nearby.

Getting out in nature has a proven beneficial impact on your mental and physical health. Getting moving while walking or kayaking is a great way to start your day. Then you can focus on more restorative and relaxing techniques. Enjoy your day and embrace the tranquility at this hidden gem surrounded by the urban landscape. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and water to help stay happy and healthy.