Listed on the National Audubon Society’s Great River Birding Trail, Horseshoe Lake State Park’s 2,400-acre lake, an oxbow formation in the floodplain of the Mississippi, attracts some of the largest and most diverse populations of egrets and herons in the area.
This 3.8-mile counterclockwise loop begins at a small parking area just west of the causeway and circumnavigates Walkers Island. Begin by heading north from the parking area past wildlife cropland and along the wooded shoreline. Expect to see dense groves of silver maple, hackberry, and cottonwoods and great shoreline views as you round the heavily wooded islet before turning south at mile 0.7.
About one-third of the way down the island’s western edge, the trail turns away from the shoreline and enters a gated grove of oak and maple while passing the park’s 48-site campground. After re-connecting with the shoreline at mile 2.3, the trail turns east. Take the 5-minute side-trip to one of the island’s five bird-watching platforms on its southern tip to watch for Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons near the shore, especially abundant in July and August.
The final northbound stretch of trail passed beneath maple and cottonwood and though the adjacent south pool of the lake is drained and planted with millet in the late summer (one reason it attracts such large numbers of birds) during wet weather, this section of trail can be muddy and wet enough that you may prefer to walk some stretches of it sans shoes and socks.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire