Spotlight: Veterans National Recreation Trail at Coralville Lake
From Iowa City, Iowa, take I-80 north to Exit 244 (Dubuque Street); go North 3 miles to West Overlook Road. Follow this road across the dam and the trailhead is at the parking area on the right.
What You’ll Find
A memorial to the area’s living, decorated veterans, and a barrier free access trail that accommodates wheelchair users, people with walking disabilities as well as the other users. The asphalt and boardwalk trail meanders through mature oak, hickory, and maple trees. Thousands visit the trail every year—including many undergoing physical rehabilitation—to enjoy exercising and observing nature. Local facilities that arrange visits to the trail include the University of Iowa Hospital and agencies that serve those with disabilities.
Make Sure You
Visit the Daniel Vickroy Bird Observatory where you can replenish birdfeeders outside the observatory or cross the picturesque 80-foot Richard Pelechek Bridge. The bridge was dedicated in 1990 to a World War II Army veteran who lost his right eye and leg during a battle in Germany.
Pause and reflect along the quarter-mile trail that features a number of quiet rest areas and benches donated by the local American Legion chapter or by veterans’ families. See seven monuments engraved with the names of the trail’s 154 honorees, and stop at the American flag that is illuminated year-round.
Three Coralville Lake campgrounds accept advance reservations including Sandy Beach Camp, Sugar Bottom and Dam Complex. The campgrounds offer additional recreational opportunities such as swimming beaches, playgrounds, disc golf, and access to trails for hiking, mountain biking, or exploring.
Each year on Memorial Day, a dedication ceremony is held to honor local military veterans. Veterans nominated for the honor must be still living, decorated with a Purple Heart or higher, and a resident of Johnson County, Iowa. Often 400 to 500 guests attend the ceremonies, including local dignitaries and members of Congress. To date, the trail honors more than 150 veterans.
The trail serves as a quiet, poignant reminder of the County’s brave sons and daughters who served with distinction in the U.S. military. Army Corps Rangers John Castle and Kate Soska designed the trail in 1989 and wanted to invest the trail with a higher level of meaning. The local American Legion responded enthusiastically to the idea and joined the Lake’s rangers to make the trail a success. Jeffrey Peck, a Vietnam veteran and Corps ranger who started at Coralville Lake in 1998, took over care of the trail, and offers, "We would not live by the freedoms we enjoy if it were not for the men and women who died fighting for those freedoms.” Clearly proud of his involvement with the trail project, Jeffrey currently handles much of the trail’s maintenance, even blowing snow in the winter.
Who else is honored at Coralville Lake’s Veterans Trail? Come experience the trail and find out more history about its honorees.