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Rail Explorers opens new ecotourism experience in Boone County

Rail Explorers hopes to give underused or abandoned railroad tracks around central Iowa new life with tours that preserve history and showcase the state's beauty.

BOONE, Iowa — A new way to explore central Iowa opened to the public in Boone County Thursday morning.

Rail Explorers allows riders to tour the area on a railroad using pedal-powered technology.

Visitors will cross the 156 foot high historic Bass Point Creek High Bridge and ride through the Des Moines River Valley on rail bikes. 

Mary Joy Lu, who started Rail Explorers in 2015 with her husband, said the purpose of the eco tour is to give people a unique experience and also preserve parts of the country's history.

"There's a lot of tracks being ripped up and they go into abandonment and we just figured that with a community having an option to bring in Rail Explorers, they can just delay making a decision and think about preserving the railroad for future railroad use," Lu said.

The new attraction will be bringing more than 20 jobs to Boone. 

Mike Hammond, executive director for the Boone Chamber of Commerce said that the endeavor is welcomed, since it will bring not only jobs but also attention to the small town.

"[People can] come and visit our shops, come and visit our restaurants. See what life is like in Boone County," Hammond said. "Maybe they'll come for another visit maybe they'll come stay, so that's what we hope."

The rail bike tours span 12.5 miles of Iowa wilderness and last two hours.

"I hope what our riders get out of this is a sense of nature, a sense of history, a sense of joint experience," Lu said.

The cost to ride is $90 for two people and $160 for four. 

More information on rides, location and can be found on the Rail Explorers website.

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