Our Work

Whiterock Conservancy Sustainable Soft Trails Design

Coon Rapids, Iowa

Confluence was part of a multi-disciplinary team responsible for the design and development of a weekend-length trail experience that celebrates and interprets the rural landscape in west central Iowa. The client, Whiterock Conservancy, is a non-profit land trust whose mission is to find balance between agriculture and the environment, while involving the public in both. The Conservancy stewards more than 5,000 acres of mixed-use land along the Middle Raccoon River.


Confluence led the team in the design of a 30-mile long “soft” trail network to replace the eroding, poorly marked and, in some places, non-existent “trails” currently used by hikers and equestrians. Approximately two-thirds of the new system is comprised of single-track trail to accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and cross-country skiers. The remaining double track trails will accommodate electric carts, emergency vehicles and maintenance equipment. Trail amenities include river access points, wildlife viewing infrastructure, wilderness campsite development, and additional interpretative signage and habitat improvements. This project is unique in that Whiterock Conservancy hired outside resource professionals to evaluate and identify interpretive opportunities for ecology, archaeology, geology and water resources.


“Soft” trail refers to natural surface or dirt trails which cut across hill sides allowing for natural drainage and an improved visitor experience. This cutting-edge and highly engineered approach to trail design is relatively inexpensive to construct and is believed to have significantly fewer environmental impacts than traditional trails. Trail conditions, erosion, invasive species and water quality will be monitored annually. Goals for the trail project include economic and environmental sustainability and user learning and satisfaction.