Clayton County Conservation - Osborne Nature Center

The Clayton County Conservation Board
invites you to visit and enjoy the natural resources and recreational opportunities in Clayton County.

Iowa's County Conservation Board System startd in 1955. Clayton County's Conservation Board continues to strive to meet the goals outlined in the Iowa Code (acquire, develop, maintain, and make available to the citizens of the county forests, wildlife, and other conservation areas. To promote and preserve the general welfare of the people). The Clayton County Conservation Board manages some 1000 acres.

Clayton County Conservation
29862 Osborne Road
Elkader, Iowa 52043

Ph: 563-245-1516


Visitor/Nature Center Hours

Summer schedule April to October
8:00am-4:00pm Monday-Saturday
12:00-4:00pm Sunday

Winter Schedule October to April
Monday- Saturday
Closed on Sundays

All Parks
close at 10:30 pm

Osborne Welcome Center

Osborne Nature Center

Historical Accounts of Osborne

Many people ask the history of Osborne… when it was started, where it is headed and so on.  The name of the center comes from the gentleman that first occupied this site in 1865 and named it after himself- Thomas Osborne.  In 1878 Mr. Osborne began selling plots of land in order to form the town of Osborne.  By 1880 Osborne had grown to include 50 full time residents, a 2 ½ story hotel, blacksmith shop, general store, grain elevator and railroad depot.

Osborne General Store


Osborne Train Station


Osborne Blacksmith Osborne Hotel

However, due to low food prices the town began to fade until the town quickly shrank to less than 10 people.  Today there is still one person and two dogs who boast that they live in the town of Osborne. 

 Osborne and the Clayton County Conservation Board

In the fall of 1960, the Clayton County Conservation Board purchased 60 acres of the original Osborne homestead and established it as a county park.  The Conservation Board’s vision was to create a forest where students could learn in the great outdoors.  In the spring of 1961, a variety of evergreen trees were planted, so that visitors could identify them.  Today that stand of trees is 45 years old and continues to teach youngsters the importance of trees in Iowa.

This vision of “a place where students can learn” has been the guiding force for the development of the Osborne Center.  In 1971 the Conservation Board purchased an additional 155 acres of land from Ben Casey.  The land, located north across the Volga River, is used for archery, hiking, skiing, sledding, and birding.  The first conservation board nature center was built in 1971.  At that time the center hosted around 250 students a year.  Today, two full-time naturalists serve nearly 15,000 students each year.

Osborne Picnic Shelter Osborne Walking Trail Osborne Center

In September 1987, the Clayton County Conservation Board received a $150,000 grant to create a Visitor Welcome Center from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. The Conservation Board had to match this grant with money donated from thousands of people!  Evidence of this support can still be seen today inside the Osborne Center in the form of a money tree. Stop by the Welcome Center to learn more about travel opportunities in Iowa, visit with a certified Iowa Travel Counselor and pick up brochures and maps. While there, check out the Iowa Room Gift Shop. Come visit with us and see what great and unusual products are available right here at Osborne!



Clayton County Conservation
29862 Osborne Road
Elkader, Iowa 52043

Phone: 563-245-1516

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