Camping season gets underway this weekend

CLEAR LAKE — Pack up the tent and sleeping bags, as Iowa’s state parks are hosting Camping Kickoff Weekend today through Sunday.

Todd Coffelt, the state parks director at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says everything is ready for Iowans to enjoy. “We’ve got all of the facilities hooked up, the water and utilities, and we want people to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” Coffelt says. “Our state parks system is nearing 100 years old so it’s an opportunity for people to take a look at it with a different lens.”

You can use either of two websites to make reservations for camping spots. “They can do a search on the DNR webpage,, to find a place to visit,” Coffelt says, “or they can go to, and that will be the direct line where they can set a reservation at their favorite park.”

Iowa has more than 4,700 state park campsites and 75% of them can be reserved in advance. Coffelt said there are two parks that have temporarily closed their camping facilities for renovation — Ledges and Marble Beach at Gull Point — but Iowans will notice plenty of improvements elsewhere.

“Pleasant Creek will have more water in it and it’s a park that’s been closed with our Lakes Restoration Program and people will now be able to get access there,” Coffelt says. “You’re going to see Lake MacBride is back up and moving, Lake Wapello is back open, and Waubonsie, down in southwest Iowa. We’ve made a lot of effort to get these parks up and running.”

More than 30 state parks are hosting special activities this weekend (May 4-6), including kayaking clinics, fun runs, night sky hikes, volunteer projects and more.

Among those special events include these from our area:

= Clear Lake State Park at the playground, Saturday at 3:30 — “Bringing Back the Trumpeters”, a program for people to learn more about trumpeter swans and Iowa’s restoration efforts to increase populations of the majestic native bird

= McIntosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Saturday at 2:00 at the Smokey the Bear statue at the camp area entrance — “Nature’s Bloomers”, a program to learn about the park’s natural resources with staff and enjoy a trail hike to look for blooming wildflowers

= Pilot Knob State Park in Winnebago County will have three events going on Saturday. A fun run will take place at 9:00 AM. At 10:00, the Friends of Pilot Knob have their annual volunteer day to spruce up the park. At 3:00, there will be a discussion about the Emerald Ash Borer.

= Beed’s Lake State Park near Hampton will have a kayaking primer, where people can stop and learn canoeing and kayaking basics from park staff. That will take place from 10:00 to 2:00 at the campground.

Click at this link to learn more about these and other events taking place as part of Camping Kickoff Weekend.




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