STATE PARK AND RECREATION AREAS
For more information contact: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines 50319; 515/281-8368; http://www.state.ia.us/parks
The Iowa state park system offers an outstanding array of outdoor recreation opportunities within its 83* state parks and recreation areas. Nearly 53,000 acres of land are available for activities ranging from sight-seeing and hiking to camping, picnicking, and swimming. Iowa's parks and recreation areas also encompass a great variety of beautiful and unique natural settings, as well as points of historic significance.
Park lands are operated and maintained by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the use and enjoyment of Iowa residents and visitors. The park system is administered by the headquarter's staff in Des Moines and 4 park supervisors located throughout the state.
State park attendance during the past five years has averaged 12 million, annually.
Facilities and Attractions
Iowa's state parks, recreation areas, and forests provide 62 campgrounds encompassing over 5,697 campsites. Campgrounds range from the primitive to those with modern restroom facilities and electrical hookups. Special equestrian campgrounds are available at six state parks and forests. Picnicking facilities are present in almost all state park and recreation areas. Many parks feature picnic shelters.
Lodges, available in 18 Iowa state parks, provide excellent settings for all types of family and group events. Family cabins are available on a weekly rental basis at eight parks, providing very economical opportunities for family recreation in a variety of beautiful settings. Three parks feature group camping opportunities geared to large groups desiring accommodations in attractive, natural settings. All of these facilities are available on a reservation basis at economical charges.
Water recreation opportunities abound in Iowa's state parks and recreation areas. A total of 24 parks feature artificial lakes, most with formal beach and boat rental opportunities. Seventeen parks are located on the state's most beautiful natural lakes. Three parks border the several large U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundments. In those parks where lakes are not present, rivers and streams normally exist. These provide a variety of recreational opportunities in their own right.
Iowa's state parks and recreation areas offer hundreds of miles of recreational trails. Opportunities are provided for the hiker, snowmobile enthusiast, cross-country skier, and equestrian. In addition, three parks feature paved bicycle paths.
Formal nature trails are located in over 40 state parks and recreation areas. Brochures, keyed to points of natural or historical interest, are available at each trailhead. In addition, many state parks offer a variety of evening campground programs featuring movies, slide presentations, and guest speakers.
A formal interpretive center is open year-round at the E.B. Lyons Woodland Preserve just south of Dubuque. The center borders the 1,260-acre "Mines of Spain" tract, an area of unique natural, historical, and archaeological significance. The South Bluff Nature Center at beautiful Bellevue State Park is open seasonally and for special interpretive events. Bellevue's "Butterfly Garden" is unique to the Midwest. Its 150 individual plots contain a myriad of annual and perennial plants, which provide food and shelter for a wide variety of butterflies. The Iowa state park's interpretive program is continually expanding in order to offer additional education and enjoyment to state park visitors.
In 1983, the Iowa Conservation Commission, now known as the Department of Natural Resources, was given "Cedar Rock," an historic home designed by the great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The residence, donated by the Lowell Walter family, is located on the scenic Wapsipinicon River in northeast Iowa. The furnished home and grounds are open for public and group tours May through October.
Fort Atkinson in northeast Iowa was built and operated by the U.S. Army in the 1840s. Only a few of the original buildings remain. However, the largest of those now houses a museum, open to the public on a seasonal basis. Since 1977, the fort has been the site of the Fort Atkinson Rendezvous, a two-day recreation of an 1840 era fur trader's rendezvous. It is held the last full weekend of September.
Park Fees and Services
There is a nominal fee for swimming at state park beaches where concession facilities and lifeguards are provided. Nightly fees are charged for overnight camping: $9.00 per night for a campsite in modern campground (showers and flush toilets); $7.00 per night for nonmodern; and $3.00 additional if a site equipped with electrical hookup is occupied. Camping fees are discounted at many parks during the fall, winter and early spring seasons. Most state park campgrounds provide drinking water, tables, grills, and toilet facilities. Many feature sewage dump stations. A detailed "Guide to Iowa's State Parks, Forests, and Recreation Areas" is available, as well as individual brochures for the specific parks.
* - Includes 21 areas managed under lease by county conservation boards or municipalities.
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources