Camping Kickoff

Magazine Cover

Get your camping spot reserved now for the first weekend in May. 

We want you to join us for our Camping Kickoff on Saturday, May 6. Our campgrounds will feature special hikes, demonstrations, fishing clinics, volunteer opportunities and much more to celebrate the start of the camping season. Plus campers will also receive a free May/June issue of Iowa Outdoors

A full schedule of programs is below, so find a park, make a reservation and join us Saturday, May 6. We’ll see you there!

Kickoff Programs

Ambrose A. Call State Park
Metzger's Outdoors will help AA Call campers learn some disc golf basic so they can enjoy the course at the park.      
1:30 PM     Meet at the 1st Tee      

Black Hawk State Park
Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Help us with a little spring cleaning of our campground area. We appreciate the extra hands.
1:00 -- 3:00 PM     Meet at the 30 Acres Campground Area

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area
Learn about Brushy Creek Lake and the fish studies currently being conducted by the DNR and Iowa State University.           
10:00 AM     Meet at the Lake View Shelter by the beach 

Clear Lake State Park
Park and fisheries staff will host a Kids' Fishing Clinic for approximately one hour.
2:00 PM     Meet at the beach

Dolliver Memorial State Park
Scavenger Hunt Hike through the Woods. Everyone will be given a list of things to find along the trail and small prizes will be given to those who participate. Hopefully we'll see many signs of spring to gear up for the camping season.
9:00 AM     Meet at the Parking Lot by the Center Lodge next to the campground

Fort Defiance State Park
Take part in the Ft Defiance Extreme Trail Run sponsored by the Ft. Defiance Friends Group.
10:30 AM     Meet at the Parking Lot Area near the lodge

Gull Point State Park Complex
(See Ft Defiance activities)

Ledges State Park
Join park staff on Friday evening (May 5) to take a "Smokey Selfie"  The campfire program will include an opportunity to get a picture with Smokey Bear.
7:00 PM     Meet at the Campground Entrance   

Park Manager Andy Bartlett and Friends of the Ledges will host a volunteer work day to include projects around the park. Contact park staff (515-432-1852) to get signed up and obtain volunteer waivers.
9:00 -- 11:00 AM     Meet at the Oak Woods Shelter

"A Walk in the Park" Take a guided hike along the trails of Ledges State Park with park ranger Klint Peterson. Hike features stops at historic locations in the park with plenty of scenery along the way.
3:00 -- 5:00 PM    Meet at the Flood Pole Parking Lot (Lower Ledges)            

Lewis and Clark State Park
Step back to the days of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. On display at the park visitor center is a replica of the keel boat used by the explorers on their journey up the Missouri River. Join park ranger Jason Hyde, along with Butch and Lizard, to hear more about the replica keel boat and the explorers for who the park is named. 
11:00 AM     Meet at the Visitors Center

McIntosh Woods State Park
Join CLEAR Project and Cerro Gordo County Conservation staff for a wild hike to look for blooming wildflowers, migrating birds and talk about water quality projects on Clear Lake.
10:00 AM     Meet at the Campground Kiosk

Pilot Knob State Park
Let park ranger show you how to build a campfire. Join him for some campfire basics and s'mores to follow.
2:30 PM     Meat at the Youth Group Camp

Prairie Rose State Park
Take a night hike with our resident naturalist Christina Roelofs. The hike will include a search for glowing animal tracks.
8:30 PM     Meet at the Beach Parking Lot

Springbrook State Park
Join our campground hosts and DNR educator Anne Riodan for these special programs:
10:00 – 11:00 AM – Krafty Kids with the campground hosts Karen and Rose                                 
2:00 – 4:00 PM – Kayaking at the Lake, kayaks and life jackets provided, (children under 12 require adult to be present)                                                     
7:00 -- 8:00 PM – S'mores at the Campfire, meet at the Campground Gazebo                            
8:00 -- 9:00 PM – Night Hike with owl calling and "Who Goes There?" blacklight tracking, meet at the Campground Gazebo

Stone State Park
Join park ranger Kevin Pape for a wildflower hike. Learn more about what is blooming in the woods. The hike will last approximately one hour.
10:30 AM     Meet at the Savanna Parkway Cabin Gate

Backbone State Park
Join Backbone Lake Friends to celebrate the beauty and fun of the park with the first annual Backbone Trail Run. Approximately four miles, you will  experience a small portion of the Backbone Trail system.
9:00 AM     To register and for more information visit

Beed's Lake State Park
Learn canoeing and kayaking basics (canoes and kayaks provided) with park ranger Scott Doescher and Brody Bertram of Franklin County Conservation. Additionally, a free miniature golf course will be set in the campground area for public use.
9:00 AM -- 2:00 PM     Campground

Bellevue State Park
Help rejuvenate the Bellevue Butterfly Garden with park manager Andy Roach. This garden is in need of a little TLC.
10:00 AM -- Noon     Meet at the Butterfly Garden in the Nelsen Unit of the park.

George Wyth Memorial State Park
Butterflies, Pollinators . . . Oh My! Let park manager Lori Eberhard tell you all about these essential insects and how you can help bring them to your backyard.
1:00 PM    Meet at the Parking Lot before the park office.

Lake Macbride State Park
Park manager Ron Puettman with a little Dutch oven cooking and talk about "high adventure and how to prep for a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
2:00 PM     Meet at the Primitive Camp Y5 area

Maquoketa Caves State Park
Join park manager Scott Dykstra for a talk about Iowa's reptiles . . . They're not all as scary as you think.
6:00 PM     Meet in the campground

Palisades-Kepler State Park
Palisades-Kepler is a hiker's haven. Discover trees, plants, birds and animal tracks on a hike with Emilee Novak-Palisades. 
11:00 AM     Meet at the Campground Entrance

Pikes Peak State Park
Albert Lebeau of the National Parks Service, Effigy Mounds National Monument will present "Native American Myths & Legends" - storytelling, mounds and archeology. Enjoy a cozy fire, coffee and hot chocolate provided by the Friends of Pikes Peak while you listen.
7:00 PM     Meet at the Stone Shelter

Pine Lake State Park
Brush up on your campfire building skills with park ranger Andy Place. The program will include an opportunity to make and take your own fire starters.
6:00 PM     Meet at the Campground Check-In Gazebo

Rock Creek State Park
Take in a one hour paddling seminar with opportunity to try out a canoe or kayak at the concession area, free of charge. Life jackets provided.
Noon     Campground                                      
Help plant trees at the park.
3:00 PM     Campground and Concession areas

Brush up on your plant and bird identification, and learn a little more about the park and its natural areas on a guided nature hike.
6:00 PM     Meet at the Interpretive Trailhead 

Join Friend of Rock Creek Bob Meakins with his telescope for a little stargazing and astronomy discussion.                             
9:00 PM     Meet at the Shelter  

Union Grove State Park
Learn a little more about recent renovations at the park and other DNR updates with park manager Roger Thompson and conservation officer Brett Reece.                  
1:00 PM     Meet at the Campground Shower House

Volga River State Recreation Area
Meet, Greet and Morels -- Meet some of Volga River SRA's conservation partners, hear about their role in the area and some of the collaborative efforts between Volga River and groups like Fayette County Conservation, Echo Valley Archers and Pheasants Forever. Following the presentations, join park manager Jason Dykstra on a morel mushroom hike. Presentation is approximately 30 minutes and hike about one hour.
3:00 PM     Meet at the Lake Shelter

Wapsipinicon State Park
Park manager Dennis Murphy will present about the history of Wapsipinicon State park and its status as a National Historic Place. 
1:00 PM     Meet at the Boy Scout Lodge

Yellow River State Forest
Want to be a Friend of Yellow River State Forest?   Please plan to attend the Friends of Yellow River State Forest start-up meeting.              
2:00 PM     Meet at the Little Paint Campground Entrance; in case of rain, the Forest Headquarters Building, 729 State Forest Rd.

Learn a little more about Iowa animals by examining some furs and skulls with park ranger Rylan Retallick and Allamakee County Conservation staff.         
3:00 PM     Meet at the Little Paint Campground Entrance; in case of rain, the Forest Headquarters Building, 729 State Forest Rd.

Green Valley State Park
Help plant a new pollinator garden at Green Valley with park staff. 
10:00 AM -- Noon     Meet at the Parking Lot East of the Dam

Lake Anita State Park
Join park manager Josh Peach and Friends of Lake Anita State Park for a program about prairies and pollinators. Program will last approximately 45 minutes.
2:00 PM     Meet at the Park Office

Lake of Three Fires State Park
Join park staff and fisheries biologist Andy Jansen for a basic fishing how-to followed by youth fishing.
2:00 PM     Meet near the Beach Lodge

Waubonsie State Park
Watch woodcarver Mike Reige use his skills and creativity to transform a tree stump into a work of art.
11:00 AM     TBD near the park Campground

Wilson Island State Recreation Area
Curious about bats? Get the facts about bats from park technician Ryland Richard. Program will last approximately 45 minutes.
7:00 PM     Meet at Shelter #1


Elk Rock State Park
Join park ranger Chad Rowson to learn more about Iowa’s furbearers. Program duration is approximately 1 hour.
6:00 PM     Meet at the Equestrian Shelter

Fairport State Recreation Area
(See nearby Wildcat Den State Park programming)

Geode State Park
Caleb Waters, Geode Lake Restoration Program coordinator will talk about ongoing and future work on lake restoration and its impacts.
5:00 PM     Meet next to the playground shower building 

Honey Creek State Park
Learn all the buzz about pollinator gardens. Park manager Starla Atwell will help you build one to take home with you. 
7:00 AM     Meet at the north shower building.

Honey Creek Resort
Join the resort naturalists for these special programs:
9:00 – 10:00 AM – Birding Basics hike, starts at the Activities Building                                                        
11:00 – 11:30 AM – Nesting Supplies, meets in the Lodge Lobby                                                                
3:00 – 3:30 PM – Build a Recycled Birdfeeder, meets in the Activities Building basement                 
5:00 – 5:30 PM – Nature Tales, meets at the Activities Building fire ring                                                     
1:00 – 1:30 PM – Butterfly Magnets make and take, meets in the Activities Building basement    

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park
Join park manager Justin Pedretti on a Bird Watching Hike led by ornithologist Diane Porter. Hike is approximately 1.5 hours.
9:00 AM     Meet at the Ely Ford Picnic Area

Lake Darling State Park
Join our fisheries staff to learn how they use the shocking technique in fisheries research. Program is approximately 1 hour. 
1:00 PM     Meet at the campground boat ramp.

Lake Keomah State Park
Park ranger Chad Malone will help campers build bluebird houses to place in the park or take home with them. Building will last approximately 1 hour.
6:00 PM      Meet at the Beach Concession Building 

Lake Wapello State Park
Native American flutes with retired park manager Mike Godby.

2:00 PM     Meet in the Campground

Nine Eagles State Park
Animal tracks in the park
4:00 PM     Meet at the Youth Group Camp Shelter

Red Haw State Park
Fishing, hotdog roast, prizes and more at the Kids’ Fishing Outing. Nightcrawlers and some fishing poles will be provided. 
1:00 – 3:00 PM     Stone Shelter
Park manager Mike Schrader will lead a walk through the campground to talk about the new campground renovation.
6:00 PM     Meet at the Campground Host Site

Stephens State Forest
(See Red Haw State Park activities)

Walnut Woods State Park
A Morning with Purple Martins: A Sneak Preview of Purple Martin Lake   Park manager Tim Gedler will give visitors an overview on the new area just outside the park and a short interpretive program on purple martins. 
9:00 AM     Meet at Purple Martin Lake

Wildcat Den State Park
Join our Friends of the Mill for their season opening of the Mill and Melpine School. Working demonstrations of the Mill and tours of the Melpine School will take place at 1:30 PM and 3:00 PM.
12:30 -- 4:30 PM     Mill and Melpine School.  NOTE: These activities will also take place on Sunday, May 7 during the same time frames.


Make your online reservation for state park cabins, campsites, shelters and lodges:

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Before you head out...

Before heading to the campground, spend some time going through equipment to make sure it’s in working order.

Check tents for holes, make sure tent poles are not cracked, the lantern still works and new batteries are packed. RV owners should check breakers, make sure the tires are properly inflated, roof seams are sealed and propane tanks are filled. 

Check the first aid kit, the toolbox and cookware. 

It’s better to find problems at home rather than after arriving at the campsite. After all, last fall was a long time ago.


  • Be a good neighbor. Observe quiet hours and pick up after yourself.
  • Don’t burn trash – only firewood. 
  • Get firewood locally to avoid transporting pests (see below) 
  • Keep pets on a leash and don’t leave them unattended.
  • Don’t bring fireworks


  • Check the state parks’ alerts and closures webpage for updates prior to leaving. Weather often impacts trails and other park facilities.
  • Keep track of the weather and have a plan in case of severe weather
  • Plan to arrive as early in the day to set up the site.
  • Prepare ingredients for meals before leaving home for less time cooking and more time playing.
  • Bug spray, sun screen and a basic first-aid kit are must haves.


 Firewood should be obtained only within the county where it will be burned. It is important not move firewood from county to county or state to state to prevent the spread of forest pests. The entire State of Iowa is quarantined for emerald ash borer.

All firewood sold or acquired in Iowa must have a label with the county and state of harvest. The DNR will collect firewood from campers who do not have a label.