LINCOLN — As Kickapoo Creek Park Ranger John Fink and I crossed the suspension bridge over the water that gives the park its name, a barred owl hooted in the distance and other birds provided a musical soundtrack to our hike.
We passed under a sign that read, “May the natural beauty of this park remain as an inspiration to you and those who follow.”
Kickapoo Creek Park’s natural beauty is definitely inspirational, whether you are walking along the creek, through the woods and prairie or among the wildflowers.
The 160-acre park on the north end of Lincoln at 2000 N. Jefferson St. is operated by the Logan County Park & Trails Foundation. It is a private organization, but the park is open to the public from 7 a.m. until a half hour after sunset.
“The park was founded in 1969 by Violet Scully. She donated the ground. She wanted to give back to the community,” said Fink.
The park has about 10 miles of trails. Large signs at three locations give you an overview of the trail system. One is located by the first parking lot on your right as you enter the park.
Smaller signs throughout the park help you orient yourself with “You Are Here” stars and provide information on what’s nearby and what you might see. They include QR codes for your smartphone for more detailed information.
Of those I stopped to read, my favorite was No. 12 “Mr. Sycamore Tree,” in a picnic area next to Kickapoo Creek near the suspension bridge. It describes the hollow tree as “a well-known landmark of the park and a great photo opportunity.”
The Creek Bottom Trail follows Kickapoo Creek and also cuts through the woods to make a loop.
Fink said the trail “wanders all the way along the creek … with sandbars. People like going out and playing, skipping rocks.”
A wooden suspension bridge provides access to the Bald Cypress Loop Trail, a portion of which also follows the creek.
Spring wildflowers are currently blooming along the Creek Bottom and Bald Cypress trails.
There also are a Prairie Trail and an Osage Orange Trail. The latter is planted with a hedgerow and is shaded and cool in the summer, Fink said.
The Prairie Trail has lots of birds and wildflowers in the summer, he added.
A good place to watch for birds, in addition to the hiking trails, is a blind set up near the park office overlooking several bird feeders. In the relatively brief time I sat there, protected during a light drizzle, I saw a Baltimore oriole, three species of woodpeckers, a tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows and mourning doves.
Park by the fitness trail that starts across the street.
The Fun and Fitness Trail has stationary bicycles, balance beams, sit-up spots, monkey bars and other workout equipment along the way.
“It’s pretty hilly, so a lot of people like getting their exercise in and staying fit,” said Fink. “It’s probably a couple-mile loop running through everything up and down the hills and people will stop off and hop on the sit-ups or pull-ups and get their workout in.”
For those seeking a more leisurely approach, there is also a 2-mile paved road you can bike, hike or drive.
The park also includes playground equipment and picnic tables. Two pavilions are available to reserve and there is an area used by Scouts.
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A sign at the other end of the bridge is a reminder to treat the area with respect — a message we should heed everywhere. The sign says, “Let no one say and say it to your shame that all was beauty here until you came.”
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