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Iowa's natural resources plates include the state bird and flower, pheasant, eagle, buck and a Brook trout. Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
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Experience Iowa's natural beauty and all the fun our state parks offer. Make your online reservation for state park cabins, camping sites, shelters and lodges.
Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
Natural Resource Plates
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The end of summer is always a touch bittersweet for families. There’s excitement for a new school year, anticipation of ever-busier schedules, appreciation of the summer vacation itself and perhaps a longing for it not to end. Good news: it’s not over yet! Grab your little ones, your not-so-little ones, and some adventure gear while the whole family can head outside together for these fun activities.
Skip Rocks Skipping rocks is a great way to relax, and a fun thing to do while chatting. Feel free to make this activity into a friendly competition; trying to skip the farthest, get to the other bank, skip the oddest-shaped rock, etc.
Make a S’more Over a Campfire This sticky dessert can’t be beat. The process of finding a suitable roasting stick, maybe burning a marshmallow or two, and finally getting that golden goodness safely tucked between graham crackers and chocolate square makes for a satisfying snack for kids of all ages. Don’t like marshmallows? Try fire-roasted Starburst for a fruity twist or try one of our other 4 adventurous campfire recipes!
Swim in a Lake Taking a dip with the fish is a great way to cool off on muggy August days. Kids can build sand castles and look for shells on shore when they’re done making a splash. Make sure to stay in designated swimming areas, and consider bringing water shoes to protect your feet from debris. Get updates on beach conditions before you go.
Go Camping The quintessential outdoor activity, camping gives kids the opportunity to be fully immersed in nature. The first time can be a little overwhelming though, so bring some creature comforts from home (like blankets from their bed or a favorite stuffed animal) to help them get comfortable with the new environment. Remember, kids are more likely to enjoy the experience if their parents seem happy and comfortable outside too, so don’t forgo the fun yourself! Not a fan of tents? Rent a camping cabin or yurt at a state park with these facilities. Make a camping reservation
Look for Fossils and Geodes A very long time ago, Iowa was part of the ocean floor. Over time, sediment built up and created the limestone we now use for making concrete. This type of rock is excellent at preserving fossils, and there are multiple sites in Iowa where collectors can look for and keep their finds. Particularly good specimens have been found in the Mason City area, and visitors can learn more at the Floyd County Conservation Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve and Center. Geodes are more common near Keokuk, close to the intersection of the Des Moines and Missouri rivers.
Go on a Bike Ride Iowa is one of the nation’s leaders in biking options, with nearly 700 miles of paved bike trails. Specific mountain biking trails are also available, with more information and maps at iowadnr.gov. Cycling may be a great way to include older family members as well because it’s a great way to see the state and get exercise while taking it easy on your joints. The High Trestle Trail is a popular favorite, stretching 25 miles through five towns and featuring a 13-story-high trail bridge over the Des Moines River.
Visit State Preserves and Parks With 72 state parks and nearly 100 preserves, Iowa has a rich diversity of public lands available for exploration. Seven sites were developed and planned as recreation areas, and offer extensive options for all sorts of activities. Most state parks also have camping options, ranging from rustic to the occasional glamorous cabin options. Make sure your kids see more than just their home corner of the state before the summer runs out!