Retz Memorial Forest

This woodland features a variety of plant species, such as this hepatica.

This area contains an example of good-quality woodland in Iowa and is adjacent to Motor Mill, where historic limestone buildings dating back to 1866 are located.

Why You Should Visit

Retz Memorial Forest features a diverse complex of oak, sugar maple and basswood forest within the context of the highly dissected landscape typical of northeast Iowa’s Paleozoic Plateau. Picturesque limestone cliffs and chimneys tower over a deep ravine filled with massive limestone blocks.


Clayton County, about 20 miles from the Wisconsin border.


49 acres


Retz is an upland forest, which is a region of forest land that is found on hills and plains away from rivers and marshes.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Retz Memorial Forest was purchased by the Conservancy in 1965 from the Kopp family. It was named in memory of Lyle Retz, who played a major part in the acquisition of the site.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In 1980, the forest was designated as a biological and geological State Preserve.

What to See: Plants

The blocks of limestone in the forest’s ravine are covered with lush growths of mosses, lichens, liverworts and walking ferns. The diversity of habitats also supports over 130 species of vascular plants, including Canada yew, Jack-in-the-pulpit, nodding trillium, hepatica and showy orchis.

What to See: Animals

Some of the animals that live in this site include spring peepers, treefrogs noted for their spring "chorusing", and a wide variety of forest birds, including scarlet tanagers, pileated woodpeckers and ruffed grouse.

Retz is an upland forest, which is a region of forest land that is found on hills and plains away from rivers and marshes.


From Elkader, take Highway 13 to Grape Road. Follow this road east 3.6 miles to Galaxy Road Turn south and go 2.8 miles to the Motor Mill by the Turkey River. Turn north on Dead End road and follow it another mile to the preserve on the north side of the road (sign: Retz Memorial Woods).


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments