Matsell Bridge Trail In Iowa

Here is everything you need to know about the Matsell Bridge Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Iowa
  • Length: 8.4 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: Linn County Conservation.
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The Matsell Bridge Trail, located in Linn County, Iowa, holds a significant historical value. The trail is named after the Matsell family, who were early settlers in the area. The history of the Matsell Bridge Trail dates back to the mid-1800s when the first bridge was constructed across the Wapsipinicon River.

The original Matsell Bridge, built in 1867, was a wooden covered bridge that served as a vital transportation link for the local community. It provided a crucial connection between the towns of Central City and Viola, allowing for the movement of people, goods, and livestock. The bridge was an engineering marvel of its time, showcasing the craftsmanship and skills of the builders.

Over the years, the Matsell Bridge underwent several renovations and reconstructions due to wear and tear caused by floods and heavy traffic. In 1916, the original wooden bridge was replaced with a steel truss bridge, which further improved its durability and capacity. This new bridge played a crucial role in facilitating the growth and development of the surrounding areas.

However, as time passed, the Matsell Bridge became outdated and unable to handle the increasing traffic demands. In 1999, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic, and a new modern bridge was constructed nearby. Recognizing the historical significance of the Matsell Bridge, efforts were made to preserve and repurpose it as a recreational trail.

Today, the Matsell Bridge Trail stands as a testament to the region’s rich history. The trail follows the path of the original bridge, offering visitors a chance to experience the past while enjoying the natural beauty of the Wapsipinicon River Valley. The preserved steel truss bridge serves as a reminder of the area’s transportation heritage and provides a unique opportunity for locals and tourists alike to connect with the history of Linn County.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Matsell Bridge Natural Area: This is the main access point for the Matsell Bridge Trail. It is located at 3750 County Road X40, Central City, Iowa. There is a parking lot available for trail users.

2. Pinicon Ridge Park: This park is located at 4729 Horseshoe Falls Road, Central City, Iowa. It offers access to the Matsell Bridge Trail and has parking facilities.

3. Stone City: This historic village is located near the Matsell Bridge Trail and provides access to the trail. It is located at 12229 Stone City Road, Anamosa, Iowa.

4. Indian Bluffs and Pictured Rocks County Park: These parks are located near the Matsell Bridge Trail and provide access to the trail. They are located at 10360 County Road X40, Anamosa, Iowa.

5. Wapsipinicon State Park: This state park is located near the Matsell Bridge Trail and offers access to the trail. It is located at 21301 County Road E34, Anamosa, Iowa.

6. Buffalo Creek Park: This park is located near the Matsell Bridge Trail and provides access to the trail. It is located at 2299 Buffalo Creek Boulevard, Solon, Iowa.

7. Squaw Creek Park: This park is located near the Matsell Bridge Trail and offers access to the trail. It is located at 4305 Squaw Lane, Marion, Iowa.

8. Cedar Valley Nature Trail: This trail intersects with the Matsell Bridge Trail, providing access to both trails. It is located at various points along its route, including Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Center Point, Iowa.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Matsell Bridge Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Uber – On-demand ridesharing service.
2. Lyft – Ride-hailing service connecting passengers with drivers.
3. Taxi – Traditional taxi service for convenient transportation.
4. Cedar Rapids Transit – Public bus service in the Cedar Rapids area.
5. Yellow Cab – Local taxi company providing transportation services.
6. Greyhound – Intercity bus service connecting various locations.
7. Budget Car Rental – Car rental service for personal transportation needs.
8. Enterprise Rent-A-Car – Car rental service offering a wide range of vehicles.
9. Hertz – Car rental company providing options for short-term transportation.
10. Avis – Car rental service with a variety of vehicle options.


The amenities available at the Matsell Bridge Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at the trailhead or nearby.

2. Parking: There is ample parking available at the trailhead for visitors.

3. Camping Sites: Matsell Bridge offers camping sites for overnight stays. These sites may have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack amidst the scenic surroundings.

5. Hiking Trails: Matsell Bridge Trail offers various hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area.

6. Fishing: The trail provides access to fishing spots along the river, allowing anglers to enjoy their favorite activity.

7. Wildlife Viewing: The trail offers opportunities for wildlife viewing, with the chance to spot birds, deer, and other animals in their natural habitat.

8. Scenic Overlooks: There are scenic overlooks along the trail that provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the river and nearby forests.

9. Interpretive Signage: Matsell Bridge Trail features interpretive signage that provides information about the history, geology, and ecology of the area, enhancing the educational experience for visitors.

10. Dog-Friendly: The trail is dog-friendly, allowing visitors to bring their furry friends along for a hike or walk. However, dogs must be kept on a leash and cleaned up after.

Please note that amenities may be subject to change or seasonal availability, so it is always recommended to check with the trail authorities or visitor center for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Comfort Inn & Suites – Convenient lodging option near Matsell Bridge Trail.
2. Subway – Quick and tasty food service located nearby.
3. Casey’s General Store – Convenient store offering food and emergency services.
4. Super 8 by Wyndham – Nearby lodging option for a comfortable stay.
5. McDonald’s – Fast-food restaurant serving a variety of meals.
6. Dollar General – Store offering emergency supplies and food items.
7. Days Inn & Suites – Lodging option with amenities near Matsell Bridge Trail.
8. Pizza Hut – Casual dining option serving pizza and other dishes.
9. BP Gas Station – Emergency services and convenience store located nearby.
10. Subway – Another quick and delicious food service option in the vicinity.

Matsell Bridge Trail Difficulty Notes

The Matsell Bridge Trail offers a moderate difficulty level for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans approximately 3.5 miles and features a variety of terrains, including wooded areas, open fields, and rocky sections. While the trail is generally well-maintained, there are some steep inclines and uneven surfaces that may pose a challenge for beginners or those with limited mobility. Additionally, the trail can become muddy and slippery after rainfall, requiring extra caution. However, the beautiful scenery, including views of the Wapsipinicon River and the historic Matsell Bridge, make the trail a worthwhile adventure for those seeking a moderate level of difficulty.

Features And Attractions

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Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles and horses are allowed on the trail, but must yield to pedestrians.
4. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail.
5. Camping and fires are prohibited along the trail.
6. Hunting and fishing are not allowed on the trail.
7. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
8. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during hunting seasons.
9. Do not disturb or harm wildlife or plant life along the trail.
10. Leave no trace – pack out all trash and litter.
11. Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at trailheads or along the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Matsell Bridge Trail, located in Linn County, Iowa, offers a picturesque and serene experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery, creating a stunning backdrop for hikers and nature lovers. The mild temperatures during this time make it ideal for exploring the trail without the scorching heat of summer.

Fall is another fantastic time to visit the Matsell Bridge Trail. The trail is enveloped in a riot of colors as the leaves change, providing a breathtaking view for visitors. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make hiking or biking along the trail a pleasant and invigorating experience. Additionally, the fall season offers a chance to witness the migratory birds that pass through the area, adding to the trail’s natural beauty.

It’s important to note that the Matsell Bridge Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to the potential for icy conditions and snow accumulation, the trail is closed from December through February. This closure ensures the safety of visitors and prevents any damage to the trail. However, during the closure, visitors can still enjoy the nearby Matsell Park, which offers various recreational activities such as camping, fishing, and picnicking.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Matsell Bridge Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the trail is adorned with vibrant colors and pleasant temperatures. However, it’s essential to plan your visit accordingly, as the trail is closed during the winter months for safety reasons. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, hiker, or cyclist, the Matsell Bridge Trail promises a memorable and scenic experience throughout the year.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trail entrance for easy access.
2. Accessible Trail Entrance: A smooth and level entrance to the trail, allowing wheelchair users to easily enter.
3. Paved Pathways: The trail consists of paved pathways, ensuring a smooth and accessible surface for wheelchair users.
4. Wide Trails: The trails are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and allow for easy passing.
5. Rest Areas with Benches: Regularly spaced benches along the trail provide resting spots for wheelchair users.
6. Accessible Restrooms: Restrooms equipped with accessible features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
7. Handrails and Guardrails: Handrails and guardrails are installed along certain sections of the trail to provide additional support and safety.
8. Signage: Clear and visible signage throughout the trail, including accessible symbols and directions.
9. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and seating options for wheelchair users.
10. Assistance Animals Allowed: The trail permits the presence of service animals to assist individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the Matsell Bridge Trail, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths and avoid venturing off into unmarked areas. Straying from the trail can lead to accidents, getting lost, or disturbing the natural habitat.

2. Wear appropriate footwear: The trail may have uneven terrain, so it is essential to wear sturdy and comfortable shoes or hiking boots to prevent slips, trips, or falls.

3. Dress appropriately: Dress in layers and wear weather-appropriate clothing. Consider the season, temperature, and weather conditions to ensure comfort and protection from the elements.

4. Carry water and snacks: Bring an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated during your visit. Additionally, pack some energy-boosting snacks to keep you fueled throughout the trail.

5. Be aware of wildlife: Matsell Bridge Trail is home to various wildlife species. Respect their habitat and observe them from a safe distance. Do not approach or feed any animals you encounter.

6. Use insect repellent: Depending on the time of year, insects like mosquitoes and ticks may be present. Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from bites and potential diseases.

7. Be cautious of poison ivy: Learn to identify poison ivy and avoid contact with it. It can cause an itchy rash and discomfort. If you come into contact with it, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.

8. Stay alert and aware: Keep an eye out for any potential hazards, such as fallen branches, slippery surfaces, or steep areas. Stay focused on your surroundings to prevent accidents.

9. Carry a cell phone: It is always a good idea to have a cell phone with you in case of emergencies. Ensure it is fully charged and has a signal in the area.

10. Let someone know your plans: Before heading out on the trail, inform a friend or family member about your plans, including your expected return time. This way, someone will be aware if you encounter any issues or delays.

Remember, safety should be a priority when visiting any outdoor location. By following these guidelines, you can have an enjoyable and safe experience on the Matsell Bridge Trail.

Conservation Notes

The Matsell Bridge Trail, located in Linn County, Iowa, holds a conservation status that aims to protect and preserve its natural resources and biodiversity. As a designated conservation area, the trail is subject to specific regulations and management practices to ensure the long-term sustainability of its ecosystems. These measures are implemented to safeguard the unique flora and fauna found within the trail’s boundaries.

The conservation status of the Matsell Bridge Trail focuses on maintaining the integrity of its habitats and ecosystems. Efforts are made to prevent habitat degradation and fragmentation, which can negatively impact the survival of various plant and animal species. Conservation practices include the preservation of native vegetation, controlling invasive species, and managing human activities to minimize disturbance to wildlife.

Furthermore, the conservation status of the Matsell Bridge Trail emphasizes the importance of environmental education and public awareness. Educational programs and interpretive signage are implemented to inform visitors about the significance of the trail’s natural resources and the importance of their conservation. By promoting understanding and appreciation of the trail’s ecological value, visitors are encouraged to act responsibly and contribute to its preservation.

Overall, the conservation status of the Matsell Bridge Trail reflects a commitment to protecting its unique ecosystems and promoting sustainable use. Through careful management and public engagement, this conservation area strives to maintain its ecological integrity for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

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