As temperatures slowly rise, grass turns green and flowers pop out of the soil, camping season is closing in.
With many different options for camping in southwest Iowa, here are three available outdoor locations for a short weekend vacation, or even just a night away from town.
Green Valley State Park is located north of Creston. The park includes a lake, campgrounds, cabins and other amenities.
“We get people from all over the state, and some from out of the state,” said Daniel Stull, natural resource technician I at Green Valley State Park with Department of Natural Resources. “Several people come in from Nebraska, a lot of people from Missouri. We have a lot of fishermen come here to Green Valley because it’s a central point.”
Camping is available throughout the year, but the park offers full hookup camping is April 15 to Oct. 15. Full hookup includes electricity and sewage.
Green Valley is the only campground in the area to offer full hookup.
“We’re having a new lift station put in at the park,” Stull said. “It’s in the process of being worked on. Hopefully everything will be in April 15.”
Lift stations are used to pump sewage to the lagoon at Green Valley. Without the station, toilets, showers and the dump station cannot be used.
Prices during peak season, starting May 1 and ending October 1, are $19 for full hookup, $16 for electric and $11 for tent camping. Off-season prices are $5 cheaper.
“It’s fully staffed, so we have people here almost all day, every day. We can provide a little more security that way,” Stull said. “We usually have people patrolling the park, even after closing.”
Other activities available at the park include trails, swimming, wildlife viewing, fishing and boating.
“We have a lake that you can actually put a boat on, and a beach you can go swimming at,” Stull said. “You’re further out in the country, so it’s a little more rustic and a little quieter out here.”
Half the camping sites are reservable, and sites can be reserved up to three months in advance online at www.iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com for an extra $4 fee, or by phone for a $6 fee at 1-877-427-2757. Cabins can be reserved online up to a year in advance.
McKinley Park in Creston has been expanded for camping and fun recently. The campground, at the south end of the park, is home to more than 30 sites, as well as a view of the lake and new playground equipment.
“We just put a new playground in, they just got it done,” said John Kawa, board member of McKinley Park Board. “We’re waiting to put the shavings around it. We added fire rings last year. ... We’ve just tried to update the best we could.”
RV camping is $12 a night, and camping with both a tent and RV is $14. For tent only spaces, the cost is $10 in an electric area, $8 in a non-electric area and $14 to camp in an RV space with a maximum of two tents.
“It’s the cheapest around,” Kawa said. “Compared to the other ones (campgrounds), I guess, we have a beautiful spot. It’s as pretty as other campgrounds.”
Camping opens May 1, and closes Oct. 31.
“You don’t have to drive anywhere. You can go to McKinley and see there’s a lot to do at McKinley Park,” Kawa said. “And, it’s not always packed like some of the state parks. Usually there’s some room out there.”
The park offers a disc golf course, a lake, walking trails, primitive walking trails and playground equipment. There are also shelter houses, and community events held in the park.
“We don’t have the facilities we would like to have, so that’s in our future plans to put a new shower house in, but someday it’ll be as good as any,” Kawa said. “That’s our goal. That’s what we’ve been working on the last nine years. But, the future is bright. It’s coming around. It just all takes time.”
Three Mile Lake
Another park available to locals and those from out of town is Three Mile Lake. The lake, located north of Afton, boasts 880 acres of lake for people to camp, fish, boat, picnic, swim and hike.
Camping at the lake is open year round. There are 80 lots between two campgrounds, and electricity is on year round.
“We have a year-round facility, and when we say year round, our shower house is heated, and we have heated showers and flush toilets year round,” said Doug Jones, director of Union County Conservation Board. “We have a heated fish-cleaning station, so when a lot of the parks shut their gates and drain their pipes, ours are open 365 days out of the year. Same thing with our cabins. We have nine cabin units at Three Mile Lake. They’re heated and air conditioned, and open year round.”
All camping sites are first come, first serve. No reservation system is available. Camping costs $17 per night in an electric spot, and tent camping is $10 per night per tent. No water or septic is available.
“We have electrical hookups that are 30 amp, which is common for a lot of campers,” Jones said. “And, we have also 50 amp for a lot of the newer, bigger campers.”
The two campgrounds sit up on a hill, with a view of Three Mile Lake.
“We do have a nice view of the lake from the campgrounds,” Jones said. “We have a beach and a volleyball court, an 880-acre lake, which would be the biggest lake in the county, and good fishing.”
Camping is full to bursting some weekends at Three Mile Lake. Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July weekends are full, weather permitting, and Jones said the campgrounds run borderline full on other weekends.
There are grass walking trails near the campgrounds and several fishing jetties, as well as a beach, shelter houses, two playgrounds and a horseshoe pit in each campground.