June 26:Trails are open to all users. The bridge on the main loop trail is open for bikes and walkers.

Our History

The Land Trust

Whiterock, as this land has been called for years, is the core land base managed by Whiterock Conservancy (WRC) along the Middle Raccoon River. Whiterock, a 4,300 acre contiguous land tract, is part of a multi-phase gift from the Garst family to WRC. The land has long been the centerpiece of the Garst family’s pride, history, and identity.

From the Garst Home Farm, where Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited in 1959, south along an 8-mile stretch of the Middle Raccoon River, the Garst Family has farmed, recreated, hunted, and lived on this land since the 1800s. In 2004, the family began the process of gifting the land to Whiterock Conservancy in an effort to forever protect the land. In 2006, WRC became a 501c3 nonprofit land trust, allowing for Whiterock Conservancy to accept tax deductible donations and formally become a part of the growing land trust conservation movement.

We have dedicated our short history to the idea that land that is ecologically healthy and concurrently able to realize economic and social returns can protect itself by meeting human and environmental needs over time.

The First Settlers

Most of the first settlers in the Middle Raccoon River valley came from forested areas further east, so they were accustomed to farming in timberland clearings. The valley’s landscape suited them since they were able to find easy access to water and building materials. Although the valley was densely settled by 1900, it gradually depopulated as farm families relocated to more fertile areas north and east of Coon Rapids. The land was used mainly for farmsteads until the Garsts began to consolidate the land.

The Garst Farmhouse

The Garst Farmstead is the property’s featured historic landmark. In fact, the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Farmstead Historic District was designated by the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Garst Farmstead traces the trajectory of one man in particular, Roswell Garst. Roswell got into the business of selling hybridized seed corn just as the development hit the market. The hybrid corn produced a greater yield and grew to regular heights; this allowed farmers to use mechanized harvesting methods rather than harvesting by hand. These two benefits revolutionized the agricultural business. Roswell and his business partners changed the face of agriculture so dramatically that nearly the entire country converted to hybridized corn and mechanized harvesting by 1945.

In 1959, just two years before construction on the Berlin Wall began, the Garst farmhouse played host to a diplomatic meeting of global significance. The Garsts led the way in spreading agricultural technology to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. The Premiere of the Soviet Union at the time was a moderate named Nikita Khrushchev who decided to take a short trip to the United States, during which he would visit with his friend Roswell Garst. Other significant political figures included in the meeting were Henry Cabot Lodge and Adlai Stevenson. They were joined by nine hundred National Guardsmen and scores of journalists. Even though Soviet-American relations soured further in the years after the visit, the farmhouse was still a key player in one of the grandest attempts at Cold War cooperation.

The Dance Barn

During the Great Depression, the barn was converted into a dance hall. There was a 25¢ per person cover fee for Saturday night dances that featured local musicians. A neighbor ran a Model T “Whiterock Special” to ferry town folks to the barn. The Riverhouse Barn became a good place to find Templeton Rye, a famous bootleg whiskey distilled in a nearby town. The dance barn is still used to host weddings and other parties.