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Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 2:56 a.m. CDT

July 4 camping

Most of the campsites with electricity in Iowa’s state parks were reserved early for the July 4 holiday, but procrastinators still have a few options.

As of Tuesday morning, 43 campsites with electricity in eight state parks are available for reservation. Sites are available in Elinor Bedell, Elk Rock (equestrian), Honey Creek south campground, Lake Keomah, Lake Wapello, Pilot Knob, Red Haw and Walnut Woods state parks.

Campers choosing one of the non reservable sites should plan to arrive early.

Information on Iowa state parks is available at www.iowadnr.gov/parks. Reservations are available at iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com.

Campground etiquette

Be a good neighbor. Observe quiet hours and pick up after yourself.

Don’t burn trash – only firewood.

Keep pets on a leash and don’t leave them unattended.

Get firewood locally to avoid transporting pests.

Don’t bring fireworks.

Camping tips

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.


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.

Boating safety

Heading toward the peak of Iowa’s boating season; boaters and other on the water recreationists are urged to observe safety first, on or near their favorite lake or stream.

Traditionally, the 4th of July weekend is the busiest period on Iowa waters. Boating, paddling, fishing and swimming are even more popular with what are often the warmest temperatures of the year.  Before you set out, though, help make sure everybody stays safe.

“We urge boaters…including passengers…to remain alert to activity around them,” advises Susan Stocker, boating law administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. “Don’t overload your craft. The U.S. Coast Guard, along with manufacturers, determines the capacity of each boat and it is visible on virtually all boats.”

Operators can brush up on rules and regulations, by taking the DNR boating safety course. Iowa law requires any person 12-17 years old, who will operate a motorboat over ten horsepower or a personal watercraft, to successfully complete the education program.  It is available online at www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/Boating/BoaterEducation.aspx

Stocker reminds everyone on board that they need a properly fitted lifejacket. Safety officials also urge you to WEAR it.

“It is similar to seat belts on the road. You won’t have time to grab it and put it on, when facing an emergency situation,” she said.

Other lake or river enthusiasts--from paddlers and anglers to swimmers--can avoid problems, too, by wearing a lifejacket, especially during heavy periods of boat traffic.

“With the variety of activities out there, a life jacket provides added safety while you are enjoying yourself,” said Stocker.

The effects of sun, waves and wind over a day on the water are tiring; especially if alcohol is involved.

“Alcohol has a dehydration effect. It can impede judgment,” warns Stocker. “Last year, 65 percent of Iowa’s boating fatalities involved al cohol. Boating while intoxicated is against the law. A sober designated boat operator is vital on board.”

In Iowa, there are more than 235,000 registered boats. Many of them will be out over the coming weekends. With everyone aware, everyone stays safe on the water.

Boating Tips

• Take a boating safety course

• Don’t drink and operate a boat

• Always wear a lifejacket – it can’t work if it’s not on

• Have a throwable floatation device on board

• Review boating laws

• Remember, youth under age 13 are required to wear a lifejacket while the boat is underway

• Have patience and be courteous on the ramp and water

• Get a weather forecast before heading out

• Keep watch for other boaters, swimmers, skiers, debris or other obstacles in the water

• Have a fully charged, usable fire extinguisher

• Maintain your boat trailer [lights, wheel bearings, tires]

• Have a working horn or whistle.

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