“A loop upon the restored Oak Savanna at the Motor Mill Historic Site.”
— Kenny Slocum
Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Views — Wildlife
The trailhead is marked with a sandwich board sign just west of the campground.
At its start, a short steep climb gains the initial table before leveling off briefly. An interpretive sign leads the way up to the oak savanna on the user's left; the prairie trail system continues to the right.
A longer and steeper climb gains the bluff top about 0.2 miles in. An old rock quarry used to construct the buildings at the historic site can be spotted to the right. A small loop to the left takes users to the bluff's edge overlooking the old town of Motor, and across the river to the south unit. Just past the rock quarry, a kickout provides a gorgeous view of the Turkey River valley below.
Continuing along the bluff's edge, the trail winds through open savanna. The site was restored in 2005, by clearing trees to open up the canopy and allow grasses and native wildflowers to flourish on the forest floor. Subsequent burns in 2007 and 2008 have further restored the once-common habitat, though some invasives have begun to creep back in.
The turn back downhill can be a little difficult to locate depending on the time of year and how much the trail has been used. Once users find their way back downhill (by whatever means seem most like a human trail and least like a game path), they will link back up with a trail, running just inside the treeline parallel with a firebreak on the adjacent prairie.
Rocky outcrops provide a great chance of spotting foxes and coyotes, an abundance of which call the area home. The open woodlands also provide exceptional habitat and viewing opportunities for whitetail deer and turkey, who enjoy the open oak woodlands especially in the fall; the north unit is free of hunting thus providing both food (acorns) and protection.
The trail follows along the treeline before finding its way back to the sandwich board in the old town site.
Flora & Fauna
The open woodlands are exceptional habitat, with the open canopy allowing more food to grow on the forest floor than other woodlands in the area. Just about all manner of Iowa wild creatures can be spotted in these woods.