Carney Marsh

Drawing of bird flying in marshPolk County Conservation Board and Des Moines Area Community College
"Partners in Conservation"

Carney Marsh is located on the south side of Ankeny, Iowa, between Highway 69 and Interstate 35 on NE 70th Avenue. This 40-acre wildlife sanctuary was dedicated by the Polk County Conservation Board on April 11, 2000.

A diversity of habitats at Carney Marsh including wetlands, sedge meadows, willow thickets, lowland forests and prairies attract a variety of wildlife which thrive in the midst of an expanding metropolitan area. These habitats can be viewed from the north to south trail that passes through the area.

The marsh is noted for its muskrats who build lodges in the fall for their winter dens. Canada geese use the "rat" lodges as nesting sites in the spring. Yellow-headed blackbirds, which generally require high quality wetlands, nest on a regular basis at Carney Marsh. Wood ducks, tree swallows and eastern bluebirds raise their young in nest boxes that have been bladed on the area. Ring-necked pheasants cackle away in the spring to establish their breeding territories. Red-tailed hawks frequently soar over the area in search of unsuspecting prey.

Carney Marsh signMigratory waterfowl seek refuge in the wetlands, during the spring and fall seasons. The mating calls of frogs and toads can be deafening during the spring season at Carney Marsh.

Carney Marsh is used by schools for environmental studies. The area has been a favorite place for members of the Des Moines Audubon Society.

The staff at Yellow Banks County Parks manages Carney Marsh. Faculty and students from Des Moines Area Community college also participate in managing the area as Stewardship Volunteers. Management activities include prairie restoration, water level management, invasive plant species removal, nest box maintenance, trail maintenance and development of environmental education materials.

Grass growing in marshYou can do your part to maintain Carney marsh as a beautiful and health natural area. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. Please do not litter. Off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and horses are not permitted in the area.

Please do not feel the wildlife at Carney Marsh. The marsh offers natural foods that attract wildlife. Human foods may contain substances that harm wildlife. In turn, animals may become dependent on human foods.

Please do not release fish, tame ducks or other animals in the Carney Marsh area. Exotic or domestic animals may disrupt the delicate balance of nature in the marsh.

The Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU) has an office complex adjacent to Carney Marsh. The IAMU staff has restored prairies and wetlands on their grounds. These areas have expanded the habitat that is available to wildlife in the Carney Marsh area. You ca view photos of their restoration projects at

Call 515-323-5300 for information on other natural areas managed by the Polk County Conservation Board. The board's website is​​. You will find descriptions of wildlife areas, parks, trails and recreational areas along with information on special events and volunteer opportunities.