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Wilson Island State Recreation Area
Wilson Island State Recreation area is open for limited use. The campground, water system, some facilities and some roadways remain closed. One pit toilet is open in the east camp area, next to the available parking lot. The area is open for hiking, wildlife viewing, and in season hunting. Firearm hunting is prohibited with 200 yards of the office and residences. The boat ramps onto the chute and the river are available, but limited parking exists. For further questions, contact the park office at 712-642-2069. Updated 10/21/2020

Wilson Island State Recreation Area

32801 Campground Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555

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Facilities and Activities

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 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 through the park reservation system.

Camping is very popular at Wilson Island with a multitude of well-shaded, spacious campsites. A modern camp area offers showers, flush toilets, electric camp sites, and two large youth group camping areas. Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are still available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis. Firewood may be purchased in the campground. A playground is located in the campground.

Firewood Sales are available May 1 to September 30, 7 days a week, self-serve so there are no set hours of operation.  

Approximately five miles of trails are used for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

River Activities
A 3/4 mile trail along the shoreline of the Missouri River and boat ramp provide excellent access to the river. An Iowa fishing license is required for fishing the Missouri River. An Iowa license is required on the backwater chute.

The entire area, except for within 200 yards of the campgrounds and other developed sites, is open for public hunting. Deer hunting and duck hunting in the backwater area are the primary sports.

Desoto Wildlife Refuge
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, (712)388-4800.

Nearby Towns
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.

Nearby Lakes

DeSoto Bend Pond
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
Boyer River (Dunlap to Missouri River)
California Bend
St. John's Lake


Within park
Bicycling, Bird Watching, Boat Launch Ramp, Boating, Camping - Electric, Camping - Youth Group, Cross Country Skiing, Dock, Fishing, Dump Station, Firewood Sales, Fishing, Hiking, Hunting, Jogging/Running, Modern Campground, Picnic Area, Picnic Shelter, Playground, Restrooms, River, Showers, Snowmobiling, Wildflower Viewing, Wildlife Viewing

Less than a mile
More than a mile
ATM/Cash Machine, Church, Fuel, Vehicles, Grocery Store, Historic Sites, Interpretive Center, Retail, Bait & Tackle, Retail, Drinks, Retail, Ice, Retail, Snacks