It’s that time of year when many Iowans are feeling the effects of “cabin fever.” John Maehl with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the cure could involve a visit to a state park for some outdoor winter fun. He says cross-country skiing is an inexpressive way to get exercise and enjoy the parks.

“Many of our trails that are more level and longer in distance, we groom those with a snow machine pulling a trailer that leaves some packed-down tracks specifically for cross-country skiers,” Maehl said. He suggests calling your local state park to check if they offer groomed trails for cross-country skiing.

Maehl is based in Monticello and says two of the more popular parks in northeast Iowa for the activity are Mines of Spain State Park near Dubuque and Volga River State Park near Fayette. Hiking is another popular activity during the winter months at state parks. Maehl suggests taking a walk on a state park trail after dark.

“We don’t have the night sky pollution like you do in the city,” Maehl said. “You’ll see the outdoors in a way you’ve never seen it before. The stars are so bright, there’s so many of them and they reflect off the snow. It’s just a whole different way to experience the outdoors.” Iowans can also visit state parks in the winter for ice-fishing, sledding or bird watching. Maehl says there’s not a wide variety of birds in Iowa at this time of year, but they’re much easier to see.

He notes bald eagles are especially active this time of year and can be spotted plucking fish out of rivers running through state parks. Maehl says a few brave Iowans enjoy tent camping in the winter, but most prefer to seek out parks with cabins for rent. Maehl was a guest on the Iowa Public Radio program Talk of Iowa.