Summer Camp 2020: Outdoor and Nature Camps for Des Moines Kids

Summer Camp 2020: Outdoor and Nature Camps for Des Moines Kids

***With the fluidity of COVID-19 pandemic, summer camp officials are cautiously making plans to welcome campers come June, while also admitting those plans could change at any time.

Some camps may either alter their programming, postpone start dates or cancel altogether. Please use caution and be sure to check out the camp’s cancellation policy before registering. 

If your kid is looking for a summer camp experience that will immerse them in the natural world, the Des Moines area has more options than you can shake a stick at!  We continue to add to our Summer Camp Guide with a look at nature-themed camp options. These programs offer young naturalists summer days spent studying, exploring and appreciating nature–interacting with animals, hiking and communing with the natural world around them.

Looking for more camp options? Check out our new Summer Camp Guide, full of traditional and specialty camp options for kids of all ages, stages and interests.

Note: This is a working list, so check back often for new listings.  If you know of a sports themed summer camp or clinic that you would like to have included to this guide, please email the listing information to or leave a comment below.

dsm4kids does NOT host any summer camps. Please contact the specific venue or organization hosting the camp for additional information and to register.

Nature and Outdoor Summer Camps in Des Moines:

Animal Related Summer Camps in Des Moines

Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo offers a number of camps throughout the summer for kids ages three to sixth grade.  The zoo’s weekly Safari Camps are a great way to experience animals and all the Zoo has to offer including science experiments, crafts, and so much more.  Kids in seventh grade can attend a Junior Zookeeper or Animal Careers camp.  Pre-registration is required for all classes and must be received at least seven days before class starts. The Zoo intends to hold all of their camp sessions beginning the week of June 22, 2020. They are implementing new practices and procedures to handle COVID-19 restrictions effectively and efficiently.

Summer Camp 2020: Outdoor and Nature Camps for Des Moines Kids –

Outdoor and Nature Camps in Des Moines

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden camps allow children to explore the natural world through the lens of their favorite activities. Using the gardens as unique classrooms, children are inspired to create and explore with hands-on activities.  Guest speakers from a wide range of expertise will participate. Camps run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and are offered June 17th through August 12th.  2020 registration is open.  The Botanical Garden is closed and no announcement for summer camps have been made. 

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

The Iowa DNR offers overnight summer camps for 12 to 15-year-old girls through its Outdoor Journey for Girls.  Campers get hands-on experiences including canoeing, water safety, camping, survival, hunter education and fishing. Held annually in June, July and August.  Contact the DNR to determine if camp will be taking place or not. 

Living History Farms

LHF’s outdoor day camp setting provides a fun and unique way for children entering kindergarten through 12th grade to experience day-to-day farm and town life from the years 1700 through 1900. History will come to life as campers fill their days with outdoor, hands-on activities, games, crafts and visits to Living History Farms’ historic sites. 2020 registration is open.

Polk County Conservation

Polk County Conservation offers a variety of summer camps for youth. Summer day camps are designed to encourage hands-on learning through outdoor explorations, activities, games, crafts, and more. Camps will be led by naturalists. Most indoor and outdoor programs are cancelled through June 30. This includes summer camps. 

Science Center of Iowa

SCI offers a number of camps that focus on nature and ecology. Campers in Kindergarten through 8th grade have the opportunity explore the land and water around SCI and the Des Moines area.  Kids will learn the importance of recycling, learn about the animals you can see – and some you can’t, older kids will go on field trips to Gray’s Lake to learn how to canoe among other things. 2020 registration is open.

U of I Recreational Services – Wildlife Camps at State Parks

Wildlife Camps is a day camp for students entering 3rd-7th grade. The registration deadline is two weeks before the camp starts.  Camp goals are to: awaken an awareness of the natural world and wildlife in our state parks; nurture an appreciation for wildlife and natural ecosystems and inspire action by developing a “land ethic”.  Camps offered near Des Moines include: Walnut Woods in West Des Moines, Ledges in Boone and Big Creek in Polk City. Summer 2020 Wildlife Camps have been canceled.

West Des Moines Parks and Recreation

West Des Moines Parks and Recreation offers camps and classes to give children opportunities to learn about Iowa’s natural resources, environment and outdoor recreation.  Offered throughout the summer to kids ages three and up Nature Friends, Nature Explorers, Camp Fish, Water Adventure Camp, Archery Classes and Explorers teach them about native insects and animals. All recreation programs are canceled through June 14. 

Warren County Conservation Board

Warren County Conservation Board Naturalists provide quality outdoor recreation, conservation and environmental education programs throughout the year.  They also offer Summer Nature Day Camps that allow children to explore and enjoy nature up close. The camps are a week-long and are for four to 15 year olds.  2020 Nature Day Camps are canceled. 

Does your favorite nature enthusiast have a favorite summer camp in Des Moines? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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