Now that warmer spring weather is here, why not head out with your family for a weekend of camping? Being outdoors is a wonderful way to leave the stress of the week behind, teach kids an appreciation for Mother Nature and bring the family a little closer. It’s also a great opportunity to go electronic free, have fun telling stories around a campfire and making s’mores! Here are a few camping destinations around Central Iowa with good reputations for families:
11407 NW Jester Park Drive
Granger, IA 50109
Just a few miles north of Des Moines families can experience nature at Jester Park. The park offers several amenities not found at other parks including: hiking, golfing and horseback riding. Overnight options include several campgrounds, for walk-ins, tents and campers, they also have cabins available for reservation.
There are several kid friendly areas scattered throughout the park. The children’s playground in the main picnic area includes separate play areas for preschoolers and older children. There is also a Natural Playscape located between the Bison enclosure and the end of the Hickory Ridge Hiking Trail. There are a few vending machines located in the park, but convenience stores or grocery stores are a bit of a drive. So come prepared with your supplies.
Lake Ahquabi State Park
16510 118th Avenue
Indianola, IA 50125
Located just six miles north of Indianola, Lake Ahquabi State Park offers serenity for nature lovers, in part due to the 115-acre Ahquabi Lake, where you can canoe, fish or swim. The campground’s 141 sites welcome RVs and tents, with 56 non-electric sites there is plenty of opportunity to “rough it”. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring and the campground is open year round.
Memorial Day through Labor Day paddleboats, canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the concessionaire adjacent to the beach. Campers can also find bait, firewood, soda and snacks there as well. Many of the park’s structures were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s and remain available for the enjoyment of park visitors today.
Rock Creek State Park
5627 Rock Creek E Street
Kellogg, IA 50135
Just 50 miles outside of Des Moines, Rock Creek State Park is one of Iowa’s camping hotspots and getaway destinations. Enjoy individual or group campsites with easy access to hiking trails and the lake. The camping area offers modern restrooms and showers, as well as a “convenience store” where you can purchase concessions, bait and tackle, boat rental and firewood.
The lake is the real draw at this state park. Whether you boat, swim, fish or just want to observe wildlife this is a great place to do it. Reserve early! Advance campsite reservations can be made through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and spots fill up quickly.
5600 NW 78th Avenue
Johnston, IA 50131
If you’re a water-loving family craving a “staycation,” Saylorville Lake may be just the ticket. For Des Moines families, it’s just a few minutes away, but you’ll feel miles from home. This 16,000-acre lake is ringed by four campgrounds featuring 525 campsites of varying sizes, amenities and facilities, so whether you’re RV-ing or pitching a tent you’ll find something suitable.
Many people go to Saylorville Lake for the swimming and boating opportunities. The lake’s marina is privately operated and offers boat storage, boat rentals, access to boat ramps and a convenience center. They also have two restaurants including Latitude 41 Bar & Grill, the only floating restaurant in Central Iowa.
13821 130th Street
Sportsman Park, located just outside of Dawson, IA allows for a more intimate camping experience. There are ten electrical hook-up sites, eight tent sites and two cabins available for reservation. The park features a shower house and modern restroom, available May through October. The cabins sleep five people and include a bathroom with a shower, microwave, refrigerator, heat and air conditioning for all season use. Guests will need to bring pillows, towels, linens and camping supplies.
Campers can enjoy nature by hiking, fishing in the Raccoon River, playing on the handicap accessible playground, and bird watching. It’s also a great geo-caching site.
Where’s your family’s favorite camping spot in Central Iowa?