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There are two campgrounds at this park (the first state park in Iowa): a primitive one and a “modern” one. The primitive one (Six Pine) only has a pit toilet and each site has a fire grate and a picnic table. The modern campground (South Lake) has 30 amp, 50 amp, and tent sites. The electric sites are very close together (too close for our liking) so we opted for a tent site. We were in a loop with about six sites, and while the site size was generous and spaced a decent distance apart, there was no delineation between sites and no specific place to park your vehicle (and you cannot park on the road). These sites were also decidedly bumpy and not level; it took us about 15 minutes of maneuvering our van around to find a reasonably level spot.
The restrooms were six separate rooms, each complete with toilet, sink, and shower; they were clean.
We drove around the park and saw the balanced rock (meh) and I walked the short distance to the mouth of the cave. There was good signage to find the cave but once there, no information about the cave and its safety (or not) was available so I opted not to explore its dark and wet interior! There are seven trails in the park; the East Lake trail was a treat to hike. It hugs the lake for about two miles and while you can veer off onto the Bluebird Trail, I enjoyed hiking out and back for a different view. You can also hike from the South Lake campground to the beach– about a mile but the trail does start and stop, and you have to walk on the road for a bit. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats but we did not take advantage of this. We also did not swim so I cannot speak to the quality of the lake (other reviewers took issue with this). There is also a CCC museum, but it was not open while we were there.
We stayed one night which was sufficient for us. It might have been nice to stay longer if we decided to rent kayaks or hike different trails.
This park is perfect for families or anyone looking for plenty of activities. They have boat rentals, amazing trails, a camp store onsite, a swimming beach and super clean bathrooms. Stayed at tent site #24 in the Southlake Campground, and it was fairly quiet even on a busy holiday weekend.
I tent camped at Six Pines Campground for 3 nights in August. The park has two campgrounds and this one is non electric with pit toilets and water. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring with a really nice grill. The sites are large and flat and the ones on the outside of the loop are well shaded. Two trails can be accessed from the tent campground - Six Pines trail and West Lake trail. There are two shower houses that you can use at the RV campground but it takes about 15-20 minutes to drive across the park to that campground. The park is very large with about 20 miles of trails. There is a spring fed creek and, if you stay away from the trout fishing area, you can play and wade in the creek. It has a sandy/rocky bottom and sandy banks. It felt wonderful on a hot day. There is a swim beach on the lake but it was closed due to E. coli in the water. There’s a small camp store too. At night in this campground there are no lights except in the registration kiosk so it’s perfect for star gazing. The Field of Dreams movie site is just 45 minutes away and makes for a fun side trip. There is a town about 10 minutes away with a couple restaurants and coffee shops. The Six Pines trail can be taken from the campground to the Backbone trail. The Backbone trail is along a rocky ridge. There are side trails down to the base of the cliffs and lots of rock climbing to do. Very fun to explore the side paths and climb up the rock walls.
We stayed here two nights. That was plenty, although it's not really the park's fault. The lake was super gross, with excessive floating moss (probably a weather issue) and EXCESSIVE goose poop everywhere. The beach was basically unusable, with goose bombs everywhere. It was better when we kayaked, but still gross.
So why the five stars? 1. The bathrooms were fantastic. 2. The camp site was really nice and plenty of room. 3. The hiking was superb. Felt like we were not in Iowa. 4. The driving through the park was also really great and I will go back this fall to look at leaves. 5. There is a cave you can explore on your own. We did. It's awesome. It's muddy. It's super cool. 6. There are some decent bouldering spots. 7. Cheap, huge bundles of firewood at park entrance. 8. Really friendly at the camp store. 9. Close to Strawberry Point. Go to town to Clayton's Pharmacy and get an old fashioned soda. Fantastic. 10. Close to Edgewood and the Edgewood Locker. Go visit and stock up on meat on the way home.
Great area. Several campgrounds in the preserve, from hook ups to primitive. Sites spaced nicely, with picnic tables and fire rings. Bathroom/showers are clean.
There is so much to do here. They have several maintained trails. They rent kayaks, canoes, Jon boats, even pontoon boats so you can go out on Lake George. They sell fishing tackle and bait at the office, along with powerade, soda, etc. Walmart, Lowes, food, gas, etc is all 5 miles down the road. I came in on a Monday and more than half of the 28 sites were available in white oak campground. It is very quiet, all you really here is nature.
Overall excellent value as it's $22/night and there is so much to do.
We have visited Loud Thunder many times as hikers and kayakers but this was our first time as campers. For our maiden voyage with our new camper we decided to stay close to home and Loud Thunder was the perfect place.
Because of COVID the trails were closed so while normally there are a lot of places to explore most of them were closed while we were there. The boat rentals and Lake George were open though so we decided to rent a small pontoon. This pontoon was very rickety and we did not end up staying out as long as we had planned.
The boat rentals are all on a first come first serve basis so it's the luck of the draw.
The camp site was very nice. Electricity and water hookups. We were in the back and really liked our spot. The campground its self was very quiet and we enjoyed our stay. I'm sure we will be back.
Registering for any site means stopping at the main ranger office. We waited while a line of people rented pontoon boats, canoes and kayaks. We found site 6 in Silva Campground to be nicely set apart.
Silva is wooded and has more seclusion than the other camps. River campground has campers right in a line with no shade around them. Silva was good for us.
Some sites are close together- perfect for a small group. Others are open and along the road. 6 was carved out of the woods- we felt immersed in the forest. One set of 4 vault toilets serves this campground. Water can be found in a couple locations. Our site had full sun during the day so our screen tent saved the day.
A variety of hiking trails are here. Some are used by bikes and horses too. Rock Island is a short drive away and we hiked on Sylvan Island there. Many people are here for fishing.
We didn’t like the large family gathering at the site across from us. They disappeared as soon as the rain came but there was a lot of activity going on. Some of the picnic areas would be perfect for these moments but they didn't move to them. We still enjoyed our stay.
Our site was at Indian Meadows and it is large enough to fit my big 8-person tent, a picnic table, my truck, and all our other stuff with room to spare. The sites are very close to each other. The sites at Riverview and Silva both seemed smaller. The Riverview sites had great shade and a breeze coming off of the Mississippi river but had very little privacy. Each site at Indian Meadows and Silva are surrounded by a wall of trees. Our site had a picnic table and a fire pit with a swing over grill. There was no trash can, though. My plan was to collect the garbage then walk it to the trash point, a dumpster up the road. Unfortunately, while we were at the shower house raccoons got into it. I was better prepared the second day. Just remember to bring trash bags and dispose of your trash often, the raccoons out there are brave. The Loud Thunder office is top-notch. They sell a few necessities like batteries, firewood, ice, and stuff for s’mores. Service was incredibly helpful and nice.
At the center of Loud Thunder is Lake George. Lake George is a boon for kayakers and anglers. For us, it was the highlight of the trip. Loud Thunder rents kayaks, john boats, pontoons, and mini-pontoons. I had never heard of a mini-pontoon prior to this trip; they are amazing and now I want one. For 30 dollars we navigated the lake for two hours. My son loved steering the boat. Even though we were in the sun there was a nice breeze. We could have easily spent another two hours on that lake.
There are also plenty of trails for horses, bikes, and hiking. The trail we went on started as a wide gravel path then narrowed to a single-track dirt path. It had one hard climb. The trail was very nice and led to some great views.
Read about my adventure at https://www.lost13.com/camping/2019/7/26/loud-thunder
Went when it was 110 degrees with humidity. Campsites right next to the pond and good tree cover made the experience fun anyway. Good bass and panfish fishing with quiet campgrounds that aren’t right next to each other. I consider it a little hidden gem