Thurman, Iowa – Sitting 30 miles south of Council Bluffs is a been-here-forever, old school kind of place that has been attracting duck hunters from across southwest Iowa for more than 100 years. Forney Lake Wildlife Area, acquired by the State of Iowa from the Forney family in 1943, has become a 1,317-acre public land mix of natural wetlands and Loess Hills bluffs, bisected by Bluff Road, in northwest Fremont County.
On this early June morning at the gravel boat ramp on the south side of the wetland, the calm water surface comes alive from the entry splash of nervous bullfrogs. Looking to the northwest, a lone pelican is cruising through the middle of the marsh. The calls of sora rails hidden in the emergent vegetation can be heard.
Forney Lake’s 570-acre marsh is home to mink, muskrats, raccoons, beaver, yellow headed blackbirds, Wilson’s phalarope, American avocets, a variety of ducks and geese and more. It frequently hosts 50,000 plus snow geese on their trip north in the spring. It’s visited by groups of white-faced ibis. A pair of bald eagles have established a nest overlooking Little Forney.
While deciding what to do at Forney Lake Wildlife Area can be a challenge, the decision to visit should be a no-brainer. From hiking to kayaking, wildlife watching, hunting and fishing, Forney Lake Wildlife Area can fill a weekend’s worth of activities.
“I’ve never seen anyone kayaking the marsh but it would be a pretty sweet kayaking place,” said Matt Dollison, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The east side of the area is a rugged mix of prairie and timber encompassing the west edge of the Loess Hills and adjoins Fremont County’s 90-acre Forney Lake tract that supports populations of six-lined race runners, northern prairie skinks, graham’s crayfish