North Iowa’s six state-owned and state-managed parks offer wonderful opportunities to camp, swim, fish, hike, watch and photograph wildlife and numerous other activities.
While visitors are encouraged to call or email park staff with specific questions using the contact information below, reservations for state park campsites, shelters and other facilities can be made online at iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com or by calling 877-427-2757 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Reservation fees are $4 per reservation via the Internet, $6 per reservation via the reservation call center, and the fee applies for each campsite, cabin, lodge, or shelter that is reserved regardless of length of stay.
Cabins, lodges and shelters can be reserved up to 12 months in advance of the time of your stay. Camping reservations can be made up to three months in advance of your planned camping date.
Reservations are accepted for only half of the campsites at most parks, with the rest available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Located 3 miles northwest of Hampton, this park surrounds a 90-acre impoundment fed by Spring Creek. Fishing, swimming and boating (no-wake speed) are popular. A long causeway crosses the lake and a hiking trail surrounds it.
The dam, lodge, ranger’s house and other structures are of Civilian Conservation Corps vintage. The park’s beautiful limestone CCC dam is the most photographed dam in the Midwest. Access to the dam is on the east side of the lake
The park includes several picnic shelters as well as an updated stone-and-timber lodge. There is a 144-site campground (99 electric) featuring updated restroom and shower facilities.
The concessionaire offers live bait, prepared food and limited grocery items along with canoe, kayak and paddleboat rental.
A sandy beach for swimming is located on the south side of the lake, near the lodge and causeway. The beautiful lake, fed by Spring Creek, is a popular destination for anglers, year-round, and bass, catfish, and panfish are available.
Contact: 641-456-2047, Beeds_Lake@dnr.iowa.gov.
This 55-acre park on the southeast shore of beautiful 3,643-acre Clear Lake is best known for its 900-foot beach and adjacent picnic area with numerous tables and grills. There is also an open picnic shelter and a WPA-era lodge with modern updates.
This park features rolling ground with mature oak groves and several thickets that provide homes for various small animals, birds and deer. Woodford Island is a 3-acre island managed for wildlife habitat and is a great spot for fishing.
The park features more than 10 acres of picnic grounds with tables and grills. The shady picnic areas provide a great place for a family cookout. Playground equipment for small children is located in the picnic area adjacent to the campground.
There are 71 electric campsites (including seven with full sewer and water hookups) and 8 non-electric.
The park includes a sidewalk paralleling the beach, as well as an approximately half-mile mowed-grass trail through wooded areas.
Contact: 641-357-4212, Clear_Lake@dnr.iowa.gov.
On the northwest side of Clear Lake in the city of Ventura, McIntosh covers 60 acres. Concrete boat ramps, a courtesy dock, a modern fish-cleaning station and a large parking lot make this a popular spot with boaters and anglers.
The park has a small swimming beach, a playground and an open picnic shelter. A one-mile nature trail with interpretive signs winds through wooded areas and through Mallard Marsh on a walkway above the marsh that leads to a wildlife viewing blind where you can take photos of waterfowl, birds and a variety of wildlife species.
The park includes 45 electric and four non-electric campsites with a modern shower, restroom and playground. Also available are two yurts: round, wood-framed tents with clear domed ceilings.
The park is one of the major boating access points for Clear Lake and features the largest modern boat ramp on the late with an extensive paved area for vehicle and trailer parking.
McIntosh Woods State Park is a popular spot for picnickers. The grassy and shaded picnic areas are a fine place for a family cookout. An open picnic shelter has been built near the boat ramp and can be reserved online.
Contact: 641-829-3847, McIntosh_Woods@dnr.iowa.gov.
Located 3 miles east of Forest City and 1 mile south of Highway 9, this 700-acre wooded park is known for its 13.5 miles of trails (including 8 miles of horseback trails), natural diversity and year-round scenic beauty.
A large amphitheater, two open picnic shelters and the observation tower were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The entrance portals, stone shelter, three stone bridges, amphitheater and observation tower are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The amphitheater seats 1,000 and is a popular wedding spot. The 30-foot observation tower, at 1,450 feet above sea level, makes claim to being the second highest point in Iowa.
Pilot Knob is listed in the Iowa Wildlife Viewing Guide and is an exceptional area for bird watching or spying for deer. Wild turkey were introduced into the area in 1979 and have expanded rapidly.
Eight-acre Dead Man’s Lake includes a 4-acre floating sphagnum bog, the only one in the state. Many unusual plants inhabit the bog and the surrounding area, attracting a diversity of wildlife.
The 15-acre manmade lake is stocked with bluegills and bass. Boating is permitted, but no electric motors only.
The campground has 48 electric and 12 non-electric sites, a modern restroom and shower, shelters, a playground and a youth-only campground.
Contact: 641-581-4835, Pilot_Knob@dnr.iowa.gov.
Ambrose A. Call
This 138-acre park sits 1.5 miles southwest of Algona near the East Fork of the Des Moines River and consists primarily of hilly old-growth woodlands. Shade from the forest’s closed canopy reduces understory, creating favorable conditions for hiking and wildlife viewing. There are about two miles of maintained hiking trails.
Thirteen electric and three non-electric campsites are available only on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations). A log-cabin-style lodge built in 1928 can be reserved through the state reservation system. There is a modern vaulted restroom in the campground and a pit toilet near the lodge.
Other attractions include 2 miles of trails, an 18-hole disc golf course and an authentic 19th century log cabin that is popular for family reunions and wedding receptions.
The park is managed by Pilot Knob State Park. Contact: 641-581-4835, AA_Call@dnr.iowa.gov.
Rice Lake State Park
This 15-acre wooded park is located on the southeast lakeshore of 1,200-acre Rice Lake, southeast of Lake Mills.
The CCC-era stone shelter was renovated a few years ago and there is a relatively new pit toilet. The park is a popular destination for picnicking, fishing and wildlife viewing. There is no overnight camping.
Motorized boating with any size motor is allowed on Rice Lake, making it popular for skiing, personal watercraft and fishing. Fish include bass, bluegill, walleye, perch, northern pike, crappie and bullheads.