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Overnight Camping Information

Make a Reservation

Together, Iowa’s state parks, recreation areas and forests have more than 4,400 campsites for overnight visitors. They range from hike-in primitive sites to full hook-ups (sewer, water and electricity). Seventy-five percent of these campsites can be reserved up to 3 months in advance. The remaining twenty-five percent of campsites are available for walk-in (first-come, first-served) camping. *Exceptions: Ambrose A Call, Clear Lake, Lake Ahquabi, Lake Manawa, Ledges, Lewis and Clark, Maquoketa Caves, Pikes Peak, Pleasant Creek, Walnut Woods, and Wilson Island campgrounds are 100% reservable.

Photos and information about each campsite can be found through the state park reservation system.

Reservations can be made 3 months in advance (count back 3 months from the arrival date to figure opening window). For arrivals beginning on May 29, 30, and 31, the opening window shall be March 1.

For arrivals beginning on July 31, the opening window shall be May 1. The last day to make a camping reservation, if paying by credit/debit card, is 2 days prior to arrival. *Exceptions: Lake Manawa, Maquoketa Caves and Walnut Woods have a same day window, cut-off time of 9 pm CST. Ambrose A Call, Clear Lake, Ledges, Lewis and Clark, Pleasant Creek, and Wilson Island have a same day window, cut-off time of 10:00 pm CST. Lake Ahquabi and Pikes Peak has a same day window, cut-off time of 11:59 pm CST.   

Because of unpredictable winter weather, between November 1 and March 31 ALL campsites become walk-in sites and advanced reservations are not available. *Exception: Clear Lake, Lake Ahquabi, Ledges, Maquoketa Caves and Pikes Peak State Parks accept reservations in November and March. Pleasant Creek accepts reservations in November.  Walnut Woods State Park accepts reservations year round.   

Check-in time for reservable campsites is 4:00 p.m. Check-out time is 3:00 p.m. Walk-in campers must register within 30 minutes of entering the campground. They must check-out or re-register by 3:00 p.m. on their last day.


No more than six persons shall occupy a campsite except: when families exceed six people, they are immediate family and cannot logically be split into two campsites

From May 1 to October 31, campers are required to stay a minimum of two nights (Friday and Saturday) for a weekend stay. From November 1 to April 30, there is no minimum stay required. Memorial Day holiday weekend, Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends will require a minimum 3-night stay. (The 3-night stay requirement for the Fourth of July is required only when July 4th is on a Monday).

Campers may camp up to 14 consecutive nights in a state park/recreation area.  Campers must then vacate the park (including removing the camping unit) for a minimum of 3 nights before camping in that park again.  Campers at Lake Manawa and Walnut Woods State Park may not camp more than 14 nights in any 30-day period.

All state park, recreation area and forest campgrounds incorporate a self-registration procedure. Instructions are posted at depositories located at campground entrances. Campers must register within one-half hour of entering the campground. Walk-in campers may occupy an unrented reservable campsite beginning at 10:00 a.m. and may register on a night-to-night basis only. This is due to the rolling reservation window for reservable campsites. Walk-in campers should check the arrival roster daily at the kiosk or check-in station for reservable campsite availability.

campsites at fort defiance and preparation canyon state parks are not available on the reservation system and are only available as walk-in sites year-round.


Overnight Camping - Equestrian

Make a Reservation

Campground amenities and campsite features vary from park to park. 75% of the equestrian campsites are available for advanced reservations. The remaining 25% of these campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Equestrian trail riding

The state park reservation system provides information on campsites and campground amenities available.

non-equestrian campers (campers without horses/mules) may camp in equestrian campgrounds, but they must pay the equestrian fee of $4.

the following parks have designated equestrian campgrounds:

  • brushy creek state recreation area - webster county 
  • elk rock state park - marion county 
  • lake of three fires state park - taylor county 
  • nine eagles state park - decatur county 
  • shimek state forest - van buren county 
  • stephens state forest - lucas county 
  • volga river state recreation area - fayette county 
  • waubonsie state park - fremont county 
  • yellow river state forest - allamakee county

for more information regarding trails and regulations, please see our general equestrian page.


Chaperoned, Organized Youth Group Campsites

Make a Reservation

A chaperoned, organized youth group is defined as "a group of persons 17 years of age and under which is sponsored by and accompanied by adult representatives of a formal organization including, but not limited to, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, churches, Young Men's and Women's Christian Associations. The nightly fee is $15 - $25.

Chaperoned organized youth groups DO NOT include family members of a formal organization.

We recommend you contact the park office if you have any questions about amenities available at the campsite and any restrictions regarding the number of tents allowed. For park locations and contact information, browse the online listings of our Iowa State Parks.


Maximum capacities vary by site and park:

Backbone - 40 people (all sites)
Beed's Lake - 25 people
Bellevue - 30 people
Black Hawk - 30 people
Brushy Creek - 25 people
Dolliver Memorial - 25 people
Elk Rock - 30 people
Geode - 100 people
George Wyth - 30 people
Green Valley - 50 people
Honey Creek - 20 people
Lacey-Keosauqua - 100 people
Lake Ahquabi - 120 people
Lake Anita - 50 people
Lake Darling - 50 people
Lake Macbride - 30 people
Lake Manawa - 50 people
Lake of Three Fires - 30 people
Lake Wapello - 40 people
Ledges - 40 people

Lewis and Clark - 50 people (both sites)
Maquoketa Caves - 40 people (all sites)
Nine Eagles - 50 people
Palisades-Kepler –  45 people
Pikes Peak - 50 people (both sites)
Pilot Knob - 50 people
Pine Lake - 50  people
Pleasant Creek - 40  people
Prairie Rose - 60 people
Rock Creek - 50 people (both sites)
Springbrook - 50 people 
Stephens Forest - 60 
Stone - 75 people
Viking Lake - 30 people
Volga River - 30 people
Walnut Woods - 50 people
Wildcat Den - 15 people
Wilson Island, Site YA - 50 people
Wilson Island, Site YB and YC - 75 people (both sites)
Yellow River Forest - 30 people (both sites) 

Examples of youth group areas


Group Camp

Make a Reservation

One of Iowa’s state parks offers a group camp, which is available for reservation through the individual park office. Reservations may be made starting the first business day after January 1, with organized youth groups having priority on reservations. Lake Keomah state park offers a dedicated group camping area adjacent to the dining/restroom building.

Lake Keomah State Park

(641-673- 6975) 

The dining/restroom building and adjacent camping space are available for reservation by organized groups. A rental fee for the building and applicable camping fees apply. A reservation deposit of $40 is required when making a reservation. A damage deposit of $50 is due upon arrival for the rental period. The total remaining rental fee plus tax is due when the rental period is completed.

The dining/restroom building may be rented for day-use only for a fee of $90 per day plus tax, only if the park’s day-use lodge is not available that day. In this situation, the entire rental fee plus tax is due when the reservation is made, and a$50 damage deposit is due upon arrival for the rental period.


Damage Deposit Refund Policy

Damage deposits will be refunded only after inspection by authorized personnel to ensure the facility and furnishings are in satisfactory condition.

If it is necessary for Department personnel to clean up the facility or repair any damage beyond ordinary wear and tear, a log of the time spent in such cleanup or repair shall be kept. The damage deposit refund will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the applicable hourly wage of the employees for the time necessary to clean the area or repair the damage and the cost of any furnishings.  

The deposit is not to be construed as a limit of liability for damage to state property. The Department may take legal action necessary to recover additional damage.  

Cancellation Policy
Individuals wishing to cancel a reservation must do so at least 30 calendar days prior to the rental date in order to receive a full refund of the reservation deposit or any rental fees paid in advance.

If it is necessary to cancel a reservation less than 30 days prior to arrival, a refund may be made under the following conditions:

  • Inclement weather prohibits arrival at or entrance to the state park/recreation area group camp area.
  • Personal emergency prevents arrival or requires departure prior to the end of the rental period. Personal emergency is defined to include a death, serious illness or accident involving immediate family. Rental fees may be refunded on a prorated basis in the case of early departure due to personal emergency.