Sylvan Runkel State Preserve is located in the Loess Hills landform region and features Loess Hills landscape and a prairie consisting of steep hills. The Loess Hills were formed after silt deposited by glacial meltwater thousands of years ago was blown by floodplain winds. There are various types of vegetation on the preserve including prairie, forest and brush. More than 200 plant species grow here, starting in spring on the prairie with wildflowers like pasqueflower and prairie violet. Summertime brings flowers like rough blazing star and prairie ragwort. Plants found nowhere else in the state besides the Loess Hills are found here as well, like yucca and cut-leaf iron plant. Fall welcomes blooms like pink gerardia and sky blue aster. More than 100 bird species habituate the preserve, including yellow-billed and black-billed cuckoos and scarlet tanager. Hunting is permitted here, where 27 mammals and 15 reptiles also habituate, such as the meadow jumping mouse, the badger and the Plains spadefoot toad. Fifty-six butterfly species thrive here as well, including 6 rare ones like the dusted skipper and the Ottoe skipper.
The Iowa Conservation Commission acquired the two tracts of land on the preserve in 1973 and 1980 and they became a biological and geological state preserve in 1996. It was named after Sylvan Runkel, who was a forester, naturalist and teacher.
Fees, permits, and reservations may apply.