Iowa Campground Reviews

Here you will find reviews of campgrounds in which we have stayed in the state of Iowa.

For details on how we choose a campground and our review criteria, go to our Main Campground Reviews page.

The reviews you find here will be from most recent to oldest since the older the review, the less relevant it may be. The "Overall Rating" is on a scale of 1 - 10 with 10 being the best.

Also, you will notice that each listing shows a corresponding "Journal Site" number. This refers to when our stay occurred in our journey and the number on the Map Of Our Travels on our daily Journal. By going to our Journal for the dates indicated in the review, you may be able to find out more about the campground and the area - but no promises. :)

Direct Links To Iowa Reviews Below

Elinor Bedell State Park Campground, Spirit Lake, IA - September 2006

Pulpit Rock/Decorah City Campground, Decorah, IA - September 2006

Paradise Valley Campground, Garnavillo, IA - September 2006

Backbone State Park Campground, Dundee, IA - September 2006

Prairie Flower Recreation Area Campground, Saylorville Lake, Ankeny, IA - August 2006

Journal Site 42: Elinor Bedell State Park Campground - Overall Rating: 6.5

Dates: September 20, 2006 - September 25, 2006
Location: A couple miles south of US Hwy 71/State Hwy 9 on 260th Street southeast of Spirit Lake on East Okoboji Lake in northwest Iowa
GPS Coordinates: 43.4131N, 95.06764W
Our Site Number: 5
Reason Selected: We read about Spirit Lake in a Backpacking magazine and it sounded like a neat place to visit. I read that Elinor Bedell was the newest state park in Iowa and it is one of the few with full hook-ups. Even though the campground has only 8 sites, we decided to give it a shot.
Setting: This is what they call a "prairie" setting which means no real trees :). It is one of the few state park campgrounds we have seen that is at the entrance to the park and sits on a fairly busy road with no trees as buffers to keep down vehicle noise. But other than the road, the small state park behind the campground is still in a very natural state.
Guidebooks: No reliance.
Big Rig Friendly: Oh yeah. Eight HUGE pull-through sites. It doesn't get any friendlier. :)
Hook-ups: Full hook-ups (50/30 amps) - no dump station
Laundry: No laundry facilities
Price & Discounts: $17.00 May through September; $14 October through April; NOTE: You can buy a 7 day camping coupon at any state park for $91 ($13 a night)
Other Factors: Completely self service - pay on the honor system; Only eight sites - 4 reservable and 4 non-reservable; However, there is a camp host on one of the non-reservable sites, so there are only 3 walk-in sites; No bathhouse or dump station
OVERALL RATING: 6.5 (out of ten)
We liked this campground was near a lot of activities while seeming rural. The full hook-ups helped as well. It didn't have a lot of character, and the fact that it was right next to the road kept it from being a 7. We would stay there again.

Elinor Bedell State Park Campground

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Journal Site 41: Pulpit Rock/Decorah City Campground - Overall Rating: 7

Dates: September 15, 2006 - September 20, 2006
Location: Right off U.S. HWY 52 on the west side of Decorah in Northeast Iowa
GPS Coordinates: 43.29715N, 91.80728W
Our Site Number: 37
Reason Selected: We were looking for a campground in the vicinity of the Upper Iowa River which we heard was the best canoe trip in Iowa; This campground was referred to us by a couple we met at a dump station at another campground :)
Setting: Set in a pretty valley between two city parks; two campground sections are separated by a lovely trout stream; the only problem with the setting is that the campground is bordered on the west by the heavily traveled US 52
Guidebooks: No reliance.
Big Rig Friendly: It's just a little tight, but big rigs can manage fairly well by going slowly; several sites are large enough for big rigs and there are a few pull-through sites; asphalt roads with gravel sites
Hook-ups: Electric hook-ups only (some 50 amps, some 30 amps); there are opportunities to fill the fresh water tank throughout and there is a dump station in each campground section
Laundry: No laundry facilities, but there is a laundromat in Decorah a mile away
Price & Discounts: $15.00 for electric hook-up sites, $13.00 for no hook-ups; Discounts: $2 off for seniors Sunday - Thursday
Other Factors: Staff was friendly; This campground is completely first come, first served and it is almost impossible to get in on weekends; We highly recommend getting in early on Sunday afternoon or early in the week; The rules say the maximum stay is 5 days, but we witnessed folks staying longer; Not heavily wooded, but enough to make satellite reception iffy; We did watch several people catch trout in the stream running through the campground; At the time of our stay there was noisy construction going on improving the neighboring park
OVERALL RATING: 7 (out of ten)
This was a campground that had lots of charm; Linda was prepared to give it an 8, but I couldn't go that high because of the highway noise and lack of hook-ups; Decorah and the surrounding area were enticing and probably raised the score a half point or so

Pulpit Rock/Decorah City Campground

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Journal Site 40: Paradise Valley Campground - Overall Rating: 5

Dates: September 12, 2006 - September 15, 2006
Location: About 8 miles south of US HWY 18 and then just off Great River Road along the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa
GPS Coordinates: 42.93875N, 91.18849W
Our Site Number: 2 FHU
Reason Selected: We were looking for a campground as a base to explore the Upper Mississippi River area in northeast Iowa; We stumbled onto this one after another private campground did not work and Pikes Peak State Park Campground was not conducive to our large rig
Setting: Set in a pretty valley in a rural area near the Mississippi River; very quiet
Guidebooks: No reliance.
Big Rig Friendly: Maneuvering was fine on the gravel roads, but there are only 4 sites available that are not grass; It is a low lying area, so in damp times, I would not recommend parking a big rig on the grass
Hook-ups: Full hook-ups (50 amps) on four paved sites (make that three as one site is actually part of the owners' driveway and I would not use it); Not really sure about the grass sites - some had water & electric and some just had electric
Laundry: They have facilities on site - 2 washers, 2 dryers; But we forgot to check them out to rate them
Price & Discounts: $24.00 plus tax for full hook-up sites, $22.00 for electric & water; $20.00 for electric only; NO discounts whatsoever
Other Factors: The owners were nice, but they lived right behind the full hook-up sites and there was a lot of traffic in and out; There is a trout pond stocked with bluegill bass and trout; Rooftop satellite is a bit of a problem in the full hook-up sites - we had to pull all the way to the front of our site to get a signal; The road to the campground was right across the Great River Road from the Sny McGill access to the river and the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge
OVERALL RATING: 5 (out of ten)
This was another campground that just didn't "light our fire"; It was quiet and was a decent base for some exploring, but the full hook-ups sites were not the "sit outside and enjoy the surroundings" kind of sites; The grass sites might have been better, but it was damp, so that was out of the question; There simply were not other options for a rig our size.

No Website

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Journal Site 39: Backbone State Park - Overall Rating: 6.5

Dates: September 5, 2006 - September 12, 2006
Location: About 10 miles north of US HWY 20, which is a four lane divided highway, from either the Lamont or Manchester exits. The campground is at the south end of the park off country road W69 and cannot be accessed from the other park entrances, so be sure to aim for the south entrance.
GPS Coordinates: 42.60478N, 91.54510W
Our Site Number: 80
Reason Selected: We were looking for a state park or natural setting campground close to the Field Of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, IA that could be used as a home base for other east Iowa exploring.
Setting: A very nice, wooded campground. This is the oldest state park in Iowa and woods surround the campground. It is isolated and quiet.
Guidebooks: No reliance.
Big Rig Friendly: There are a few pull through sites, but they are not the most level and some have more grass than gravel. However, there are quite a few back-in sites that have plenty of room for big rigs to get in. Some low hanging limbs brush the roof and sides, but nothing to cause damage. The interior roads are all paved and there is adequate room to manuever
Hook-ups: Electric ONLY with a mixture of 50 & 30 amp sites. There is a dump station and fresh water spigots are scattered about for filling tanks.
Laundry: No facilities
Price & Discounts: $16.00 for electric sites in-season May 1 through September 30; $13 off-season Octover 1 - April 30; Camping coupons are available for purchase in seven night increments for $91 ($13 per night) for use at all Iowa state parks; no other discounts noted
Other Factors: This is a self check-in camground with 1/2 of the 50 electric campsites being first come, first served; There are two bathhouses with showers, but one is much nicer than the other; We saw deer in the campground every day; Satellite can be a problem in this very wooded campground, but there are a few sites for access; Depending on which way the wind blows, there are times when the odor from nearby hog farms wafts in - a bit unpleasant :) Iowa State Parks just started a reservation system in 2006, but we did not use it
OVERALL RATING: 6.5 (out of ten)
This campground was really pretty and quiet. The park was nice as well.

Backbone State Park

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Journal Site 38: Prairie Flower Recreation Area Campground - Overall Rating: 8

Dates: August 22, 2006 - September 5, 2006
Location: Ankeny, Iowa. 8 miles west of I-35 (exit 90)off HWY 415 on the east side of Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines in central Iowa
GPS Coordinates: 41.74121N, 93.69008W
Our Site Number: 110
Reason Selected: Best big rig site in a natural setting near the Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, IA where we were teaching at Life On Wheels Aug 24 - 27.
Setting: Eleven different camping loops that are all a little different. We stayed in the Coneflower loop which is the loop nearest Saylorville Lake and has the most lake view sites. The campground has mostly open sites with a few shaded sites, but almost every site has a tree and at least some shade at some time during the day. The south loops are further away from the fairly busy HWY 415 and traffic cannot be heard. The north loops are more for group camping and are closer to the HWY.
Guidebooks: None used
Big Rig Friendly: HUGE sites. Can definitely handle any size rig, though some loops have smaller sites than others. No pull-through sites that I can recall in the south, more desireable loops.
Hook-ups: 30 & 50 amp electric ONLY; two nice dump stations and there are lots of fresh water spigots scattered througout to fill tanks
Laundry: None
Price & Discounts: $20 per night; Golden Age & Golden Access Passports are accepted.
Other Factors: Contracted staff was very nice. Plenty of open sites for satellite. The batthouses were VERY clean for a public campground. Lots of room to manuever.
OVERALL RATING: 8 (out of ten)
We really enjoyed our two weeks at this campground. The sites were very large and there was great spacing between sites. We compare this campground to Taylorsville Lake State Park in Kentucky which we also gave an 8. Take away for no laundry facility and no water hook-ups, but add back for a great view of the lake, beautiful sunsets, and closer proximity to groceries, etc.

Saylorville Lake Camping

Prairie Flower Recreation Area Campground Reservations

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