Facilities and Activities
Waubonsie is a great place for a family picnic. A scenic open picnic shelter may be reserved online through the park reservation system.
There are 40 campsites, 24 with electrical hookups, modern shower and rest room facilities and a trailer dump station. The equestrian campground contains 32 campsites and non-modern rest room facilities. Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There are 7 miles of foot trails and 8 miles of equestrian trails winding along windswept ridges down into gorges and valleys. Waubonsie offers the hiker a wonderful experience. The scenery along the trails is incomparable. The horseback rider will likewise enjoy the trails and the opportunity to use the equestrian campground. The Sunset Ridge Interpretive Trail provides visitors a chance to learn about many of the park's important plants and trees, as well as enjoy some tremendous views. Waubonsie State Park is a site on the national Lewis and Clark Historical Trail.
In 2005 the former Wa-Shawtee Girl Scout Camp (642-acres) was purchased as an addition to Waubonsie State Park. This greatly expanded the types of recreational opportunities available in the park to include fishing, seasonal and year-round cabin accommodations, youth group camp and a year-round day-use rental lodge. A new road now connects Waubonsie and Wa-Shawtee. Eventually Wa-Shawtee will have two additional family cabins, a remodeled Nature Center and Dining Hall, new trails, picnicking areas, and improved shoreline fishing opportunities.
Most of the buildings that formerly served as staff living quarters in the Wa-Shawtee camp have been remodeled into rental modern family cabins and camping cabins. Two year-round family cabins are available that vary in size from two-bedroom (Mischanaka and three-bedroom (Shagbark). There is a studio family cabin (Kahiga) available through the normal recreation season. All have kitchens, bathrooms, heat and air-conditioning as well as stone fireplaces.
Five camping cabins are also available, two are year-round and are quite spacious. The 1400 square-foot (ADA accessible) Windy Knoll camping cabin sleeps 10, and the 800 square-foot Chinquapin camping cabin sleeps 4. Amenities include full heating and air conditioning, a kitchenette (microwave & refrigerator - no running water - water available outside), comfortable furniture, wood fireplaces, beautiful hardwood floors, outdoor fire rings and grills. Three other smaller camping cabins (Administration, Hide Away, and Cook's Cabin) are also available but only through the normal recreation season. They have air-conditioning but no heat. Restroom and shower facilities for all camping cabins are available in the Waubonsie campground; quaint outhouses also accompany each camping cabin. All of these cabins can be reserved online through the park reservation system. In the future, two more cabins are slated to be remodeled as modern family cabins with full restroom facilities.
The former Nature Center of the girl scout camp is available for group rentals year-round. This building will be renovated and updated in the future.
Visitors to Waubonsie can now enjoy access to Wa-Shawtee's peaceful little fishing pond, the seven-acre Lake Virginia. The lake which boasts a good stock of channel catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill is also a great opportunity for canoeists and kayakers. Onsite parking is available with boat ramp access. Regulations include an Electric Motor Only restriction.
Riverton Wildlife Area is 6 miles east of the park in Iowa and also provides opportunities to view wildlife.
Lewis and Clark Historical Trail - Waubonsie State Park is a site on this national historic trail.
Forney Lake is only 15 miles away on the scenic bluff road, and is nationally known for the thousands of geese that stop annually to feed and rest on their migrating route.
Waubonsie is located in the unique "Loess Hills," a landform found only along the Missouri River in Iowa and Missouri and in China. As glaciers melted 14,000 to 28,000 years ago, the Missouri River became a major channel for huge volumes of water and sediment during the summer. In winter, the volume of the meltwater was reduced, leaving the deposited sediments exposed to the wind. These sediments of silt, clay and very fine sand particles called "loess", were then carried by strong westerly winds and deposited when these winds encountered the steep slopes of the east valley wall.
There are several distinctive features of loess hills topography. Because of the fine texture of the soil, deep, steep-sided and very narrow ridge tops have been eroded in the hills. Small, step-like terraces called "cat steps" resulting from repeated slipping of the soil can be seen on many west-facing slopes. Since the soil drains rapidly, nearly vertical cuts can be made in the soil without erosion. The unique topography of the park resembles the "badlands" of the west and harbors plants like the yucca which are normally found in more arid climates.
Named for Chief Waubonsie of the Native American Pottawattamie tribe, the park is much the same today as it was when it was purchased in 1926. The changing seasons complement the beauty of this countryside. Spring brings the blossoms of dozens of varieties of flowers and shrubs. Summer beckons with cooling breezes on the high places and in shady glens. Nowhere in Iowa are there more brilliant splashes of color than at Waubonsie in the fall, and in the winter the bluffs and ridges are sometimes beautifully blanketed with snow.
Sidney is 6 miles north and is Iowa's largest continuous outdoor rodeo and is held during July. Hamburg is 9 miles south of the park. Nebraska City is 9 miles west across the Missouri River in Nebraska and is the home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day. His home is now a museum at Arbor Lodge State Park in Nebraska.
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