Wilson Island, named after former Governor George Wilson, came into existence as an island sandbar around 1900. Today, Wilson Island State Recreation Area encompasses 544 acres of dense cottonwood stands. Seclusion is one of the area's greatest assets and spacious shady campsites, hiking trails and picnic spots provide a welcome retreat.
Wildlife is abundant in the park and a visitor may see deer grazing in the park's fields or be awakened by a huge flock of snow geese flying low overhead in the fall. Bald eagles are often perched in the tall cottonwoods during the winter and mushroom hunters will find no better place in the spring.
On the way to Wilson Island, visitors will see the unique wave-like loess hills which overlook the great Missouri River flood plain. These rugged hills are found along the Missouri River Valley in Iowa and Missouri.
Early history tells us that Lewis and Clark camped on this reach of the Missouri River in 1804 on their historic trip to and from the Pacific Coast.
A picnic area with shelters is located along the shoreline of the Missouri river. Shelters may be reserved for a fee by contacting the park manager.
Camping is very popular at Wilson Island with 135 well-shaded, spacious campsites. A modern camp area offers showers, flush toilets, 63 electric camp sites, and two large youth group camping areas. Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis. Firewood may be purchased at the park office. A playground is located near the campground.
A non-modern cabin is available year-round. The cabin has electricity, heat and A/C, a microwave oven, a bunk bed, a futon, a table and benches. No water, or sanitary facilities are furnished. The cabin is located near the campground shower and toilet building.
The cabin can be reserved for a fee through the Internet at the park reservation system.
Approximately five miles of trails are used for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and mountain biking.
A half-mile trail along the shoreline of the Missouri River and boat ramp provide excellent access to the river. An Iowa or Nebraska fishing license is required for fishing the Missouri River and Wilson Island.
The entire area, except for the campgrounds and other developed sites, is open for public hunting. Deer hunting and duck hunting in the backwater area are the primary sports.
Immediately north of Wilson Island is the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is open to the public one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset year round.
The DeSoto Visitor Center, open year-round 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., displays artifacts of the sunken steamboat Bertrand and audio-visual programs depicting Missouri River and wildlife conservation history. For further information on the refuge, contact DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, 1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, Iowa 51555, telephone (712)642-4121.
Missouri Valley, Iowa is located 11 miles northeast of Wilson Island. The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area is located 25 miles south of the park.
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