Mountain & Trail News

    Iowa Campsites in High Demand for Memorial Day Weekend

    Campers looking to reserve a campsite at an Iowa state park with electricity for Memorial Day weekend are nearly out of luck. To date, Clear Lake State Park has one site, Marble Beach has two and Pilot Knob has eight.  To say campsites are scarce would be an understatement.

    “This goofy spring weather we’ve had has not been very inviting for campers to head to our parks.  As great as last spring was, this year has been almost the opposite which has made campers anxious to get out and sites for Memorial Day weekend that much more in demand,” said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of State Parks Bureau for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

    “Our parks have a lot to offer like wildlife viewing, fishing and the trails, which are great venues to get some exercise while enjoying the outdoors,” he said.

    Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been the kick off to summer with campgrounds filled to capacity. Campers without sites should arrive as early as possible and may want to have a back up park in case all the sites are taken.

    With many campers held at bay as March weather refused to relinquish its grip, the big holiday may be the first trip out for the season. Campers should plan to go through their equipment before hitting the park to prevent any surprises.

    It’s also good to review campground rules and etiquette, like getting firewood locally, watching the noise level after quiet hours and picking up after yourself.

    “It’s fun to sit around the campfire and shoot the breeze, but one loud campsite can ruin the experience for a lot of people,” he said.


    • Keep track of the weather and have a plan in case of severe weather
    • Plan to arrive as early in the day to set up the site, look for potential problems and avoid those areas
    • Prepare ingredients for meals before leaving home for less time cooking and more time playing
    • Bug spray, sun screen and a basic first-aid kit are must haves
    • Check the registration kiosk for activities in the area
    • Don’t burn trash
    • Don’t bring fireworks
    • Be a good neighbor. Observe quiet hours and pick up after yourself


    The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship requires all firewood sold or acquired in Iowa to have the county and state of harvest location on the label of packages and the delivery ticket for bulk firewood.  The rules were added to prevent the spread of invasive species.

    The rules only apply to firewood sold and acquired in Iowa.

    The rule also requires the Iowa DNR to collect firewood from campers that does not have a label.

    Park Updates

    The campground at Emerson Bay State Recreation Area remains closed to allow the newly seeded grass to get established in the camp area. The area will not be on the reservation system until it is ready to be opened. The boat ramp at Emerson Bay remains open to use.

    Lake Darling State Park is currently open for day use only. A major renovation project is underway and the park will close when the renovations begin. It is anticipated to be closed the summer of 2013 and will remain closed until renovation of the lake, parking lots, and roads are completed either late fall of 2013 or spring of 2014.

    Wilson Island State Recreation Area is open for day use only. Once construction begins, the DNR expects to close the park completely.

    Campground Two at Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area is undergoing renovations and will be closed until early to mid June.

    Logo courtesy Iowa Department of Natural Resources

    Planning your next Camping trip? Start your search at

    Share This Article