Millions of years before the plains of Iowa were inhabited by the Sauk, Fox and Sioux peoples, much of the American Midwest was covered by a shallow inland sea. It was at this time that the area’s sandstone deposits began forming. Fast-forward to just 13,000 years ago, with the inland sea now long gone, Ice Age glacial meltwater raced across the dry plains, carving and scouring channels and canyons into the sandstone terrain. One of these canyons can be found in Iowa’s Ledges State Park. This 1,000-acre nature preserve and recreation area is located on a wide bend on the Des Moines River, and is just 40 miles north of the city of Des Moines. The park is subject to frequent flooding when the river breaches its banks, but is otherwise a popular year-round outdoor recreation destination. Visitors to Ledges can enjoy a variety of hiking, fishing and paddling opportunities, as well as explore a prehistoric river canyon that showcases nature’s ability to sculpt the landscape.
The campground at Ledges State Park features 94 tent and RV sites situated among deciduous woods not far from the Des Moines River. Campers can choose from full-hookup, partial-hookup, or primitive tent sites. Most sites are back-in; only a few are pull-through for larger vehicles. Tent sites are located in both in the main camp area, and in a secluded walk-in area. There is also a youth group site. All sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire pits and cooking grills, and all have access to water faucets, flush restrooms, showers, and trash receptacles; a dump station is located near the campground entrance. The campground also features a kids’ playground, outdoor amphitheater, and is within walking distance of trails and picnic areas. Some roads and/or facilities may not be open or available in the winter. Reservations are accepted, however the park saves about half of the sites for first-come, first-served campers; sites are $11–$19/night.
Comfortable and scenic park in Iowa with forested trails, gorge, and natural water features amidst the farm fields and rolling hills. Campground sites are well spaced and mostly level, many with shade and decent privacy. Mix of hookups for different needs; access to water and trash was easy. The bathrooms were a bit dated and unclean when we visited, but not terrible. Good cell coverage in the area and we could do work and school with our Verizon Hotspot. Beware of the raccoons! They were not aggressive from the standpoint of approaching us, but they were brash in approaching camper and supplies after dark, and they were a constant presence at the dumpster. Do not leave food out! Deer and other small game/wildlife seem abundant. Trails were poorly signed, but the park is relatively small and getting lost or wandering does not have bad consequences; you'll find where you wanted to go without too much trouble.
My favorite part about this camp is the variety of sites offered. We went with a hike in site to throw some adventure into our lives. For only $11 a tent sit this place is amazing. Trees everywhere with privacy if wanted or also a great social scene. Honestly this camp is for anyone. The trails around the park are also amazing. Just don’t leave a Cheeto bag out on accident when you fall asleep because raccoons can smell everything, and when they do, they own the place.
Ledges State Park
Ledges is an amazing place. It has so much to do. There are long trails to hike, creeks to play in.
You can bring your tent or RV and camp. The RV camps have water/sewer hookups. The primitive tent sites are usually pretty clean and can get pretty busy on the weekends.
There are lots of bridges that get flooded out and are fun to drive over. Most of the kids like to hang out near them and get splashed.
Its a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors and especially in the fall. Also if you go to Ames stop at Great Plains pizza company.
One of the best in the state!
The park is well maintained, clean bathrooms and showers in camping area.
Very nice trails. The campsite, we have a RV, was very clean, and like many other parks, we were not right on top of each other. They have water and sewer hook up at the site.
The views are beautiful of the sand ledges. Definetly plan on returning.
Growing up in Iowa maybe 50 miles from the Ledges was one the the best things for me. Campground is clean and well kept with both electric and primitive with a few hike in spots. It is a beautiful park with some good trails and a creek running through the bottoms of the "canyon". Loved going all the time when I was a kid and now 30 years later I have taken my family there several times making the drive from Kentucky just for some relaxation time.
We had a great time camping here with several family members. The trails were very nice and scenic for the little amount of work to hike them. The Des Moines river passes right through here and I’d love to make a float trip out of it some day.
Excellent hiking trails!
Nice place. Family has camped here a few times. Had immense fun playing in the river as a kid. Enjoyed the hikes too.
Ledges State Park is one of the most visited parks in Iowa. I loved coming to this park as a kid and I can't wait for it to re-open. It has been closed since January 2018, but it scheduled to re-open in January of 2019. Here is a link to a local story explaining the closure and flooding and the schedule to re-open the park.