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If you like your hammock, or anything you can string between trees, this is the place. The campground is in a stand of tall lodgepole pines with no lower branches. This means there's little privacy, but lots of shade and trees everywhere.
There is a nice man-made lake for canoeing/kayaking or fishing. No power boats.
There is a row of hike-in tent site along the trail connecting the campground to the lake. At the lake, there is a General store and above that, a nice restaurant serving farm to table food and snacks.
There is also a historic Round barn museum on the grounds. Nice trails that are pretty easy to hike.
There is one cabin available to rent, which is quite secluded with a view of the lake. Nearby attractions are the Woodland Palace home and park, Historic Bishop Hill town and the Corner Coop Cupcakes & Ice Cream.
Maquoketa Cave State Park , Maquoketo, Iowa
We stopped here for two days on our “Westward Ho” road trip in mid August 2020. Temperatures 80’s in the day to 60’s overnight.
I am not highly familiar with Iowa, I will admit however I AM extremely amazed at this little unique Park in the middle of farmland Iowa. Most of the trip here was driving between fields of corn as far as the eye could see (we came through Illinois).
The town of the same first name is small but the necessities can be had. Found a small shop with local meat, honey and yummies. The drive to the park was pretty straight forward with signage along the way.
This is a very basic park, no lake, no added attractions just trails , picnicking and a small , quiet (well…. I had a family directly across with very talkative, argumentative, sometimes loud children, …luck of the draw ;) and well shaded, electric sites. I like the spacing, privacy and shade. There are several water hydrants throughout the campground to use. A shower house that I will be visiting soon. Firewood on site, with donation box.
You probably don’t want sites 1 or 2, they are directly across from the dump site. The plus is they are directly across from the playground , picnic area and trail access.
Trail access is a short walk across the shelter/ picnic area. As of right now Officially the caves are closed. I saw several hikers not being official though.
The trails have sign posts and the map in a VERY general way gives you some idea as to where you are at BUT there are trails criss crossing everywhere so make sure you have your map tracker on. The trails/scenery are AMAZING! LOVED IT! Needs some maintenance (ie, downed trees) but they may have limited staffing right now. I would suggest a visit even if you only have a few hours. Once they reopen the caves I will absolutely be back.
My family stayed on site 21 in our popup and had a great time. We LOVED the pencil tree forest. There are only a handful of campsites w electric in this circle of trees. Although these types of trees don't offer a lot of privacy I still enjoyed it. Our site was a short walk down to the lake which we used for fishing. There is a water pump and latrine in the circle. We did not go in the shower house so can't attest to the cleanliness.
Right off highway 80 we stopped in for the night on our way out West and wound up staying 2. Very clean park with lots of shade. Spaces are a bit close together but the grounds make up for it. There's a huge amount of green space surrounding the campsites and even a fishing pond on site. Our dogs loved the GIGANTIC dog area. Lots of grass to run off their energy. Full hook ups at a reasonable nightly rate.
The owners were very kind and made us feel welcome. Highly recommend.
The campground here was quiet during the week and small in general which we like! There are a few walk-in sites that are accessible by walking down a path about 150-200 ft. Wish it had been a little farther back away from the parking lot and other sites but i think we always wish that. Decent privacy with only a few other campsites back in that same area of wood so that was nice.
The caves were unexpectedly super cool! Neither my husband nor I had ever gone. We weren’t expecting much but wow! Lots to see in a small area. The hike didn’t take too long around and many of the caves were closed (probably due to COVID) but we kindve stuck our heads halfway in and WOw. We want to come back when they’re are more opened. I bet it’s super busy on weekends. Probably would avoid that. There was other hiking to do away from the caves but we didn’t venture too far as it was quite hot and we were running low on water. There’s a little stream that runs kindve out into the prairie lands on one side and we stopped to stick our feet in. Highly recommend that.
Over all, lovely few days out in the woods. We would visit again!
The first time I came through this area was on my bicycle as I rode from Chicago to the Mississippi and beyond. This time we drove here for a weekend getaway. We found ourselves alone - well except for the early morning fishermen. This canal corridor experience is a wonderful gift of history that you can explore under your own power.
There is a large open area for tent camping but no real space for rv's. We set up in the parking lot and nobody asked us to move. There is a camping area next to the parking and a smaller area across the canal. A pit toilet and water pump can be found. There were just a few picnic tables and campfire rings. It seems more suitable to a group or communal camping. However we found nobody else there. Having the entire space to ourselves was relaxing. The farm across the canal did get some visitors through the day and evening. Some walked away with bags of goods. The highway can be heard in the distance but the sound of water through the lock washes it away.
We hiked both directions along the canal. Imagine a flat trail with the canal on one side and farmland on the other. It would be hot in the middle of summer with a big sun but it was perfect on this cool day. We encountered nobody on the trail except for that farm dog we heard warning us to continue on our way.
I would highly recommend this if you are traveling through on your bike or need a quick, inexpensive stay for the night. There are some other campgrounds in the area that are more inviting if you are looking for a camping experience with more options.
We enjoyed our weekend at Thomson Causeway with our popup. We stayed at site 41. Although I would have liked the pad to be a little longer, it was still a nice site. Not a lot of privacy, but being right on the water was great. Definitely need bugspray, but my boys LOVED catching frogs along the rocks. Bathrooms are a short walk from this site and were clean. Water pump was also a short walk. We enjoyed bike riding around the campsite. There is a longer bike path that will take you to Clinton. We bought firewood right outside the park for $3 a pallet. We will definitely add Thomson to our list to return for our next trip. I made note that I would love to reserve site 60 or 69… great views of the Mississippi… I assume these are the most sought after sites.
I’m a bit biased on this one as Arnold Wulf is my great-grandfather, but I do have a lot of fond memories from this park.
Near Lost Nation, Oxford Junction, and Wyoming, IA this park is an unexpected find in rural, eastern Iowa. The camping areas have expanded. Plenty of hook-ups for RVs and such, but there are also some backcountry, hike-in sites off of the main trail. Most of the available camping is right off the road that goes through Eden Valley County Refuge, so that’s not the most ideal.
The swinging bridge and observation tower are the main structural attractions, but there are also several caves scattered about. Overall, very enjoyable and there aren’t a lot of places like this nearby. Worth a stop if you’re in the area.