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Portions of Wilson Island reopens to visitors, campground area remains closed

  • 10/20/2020 1:03:00 PM
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A portion of Wilson Island State Recreation Area was reopened to the public on Thursday, for hunting, hiking and for boaters to access the Missouri River and Backwater Chute, 19 months after floodwaters first inundated the public area, and then stayed for nine months.  

Wilson Island’s popular campground and associated camping facilities will remain closed as work continues to get it back open for the spring of 2021.

While the campground remains closed, the public can access the 500 plus acre recreation area for hunting, to view fall colors or go for a scenic drive. There’s roughly five miles of trails available for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. The public will notice a few signs that restrict vehicle access for public safety reasons.

“We are much looking forward to getting reopened, not just for camping,” said Michael Johnson, of Missouri Valley, president of Friends of Wilson Island since the group was formed in 2008. “We go hiking quite a bit, our friends hunt there. For the fishermen, Wilson Island has one of the busiest boat ramps when its open.”

The boat ramp is especially popular because there is no fee to use it and it’s on the non-channel side, which means it’s easier to get in and out of the water, Johnson said. Plus, it allows hunters to boat to Backwater Chute which gives duck hunters access to a public universally accessible hunting blind developed as an Eagle Scout project.

With Wilson Island being designated as a state recreation area rather than a state park, it means hunting is allowed on the entire area, except for within 200 yards from the campground or other developed sites.

With deer seasons underway and the late split of the Missouri River duck season opening on Oct. 24, the reopening of this recreation area should be welcomed by hunters. Next spring, the reopening good news will, weather permitting, shift to camping.

“Camping is an important component at Wilson Island and we’re working to get the redesigned campground reopened ahead of the 2021 camping season. The new campground will have fewer campsites and be redesigned to minimize the impact of future Missouri River flooding,” said Michelle Reinig, State Parks, Forests and Preserves southwest district supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.