Potential Central Iowa Campground

This is my first post so I sincerely hope I get some decent feedback. I’ll try to make this as brief as I can.

I recently purchased land and built a home. I’m currently trying to buy additional land that is adjacent to my place. The land is a relatively narrow strip but it’s deep. The back half of the land is currently inaccessible by vehicle. Just a secluded beautiful hayfield surrounded by timber and situated between two winding creeks.

I recently had a wild idea to set up a small, secluded, private campground deep off road. I would have to build a generator house (probably 40kw), drill a well, build a bridge across the creek, and a gravel road back to the area, but the atmosphere created back there would just be incredible. You’ve never seen as many stars as you can see from this area. This wouldn’t be a lake or a beach or in the mountains, but it would be private, quiet, and natural. I could build a simple playground, perhaps a small bathhouse, firepits, and if I get crazy, some sort of small community pavilion. I could even make some hike-in tent sites that are even more private.

My wife says there is no “draw”. It’s not on a lake or in the mountains. I’m about 25 minutes south of Des Moines, IA. Not exactly a “destination”. But this is a huge camping community here. Tons of campers, tons of camper dealerships, and a couple of decent campgrounds.

So what does this community think? I believe I could get 30 - 40 sites and still keep them separated enough to make it nice. If I count of $55 to $66 per night, the economics are not terrible. In my estimation, I’d be looking at $500,000 to get it going. But is there a market in this area for a campground whose main attraction is privacy and seclusion? Seclusion unlike most that I’ve seen in my years of camping.

I would love to hear feedback and for someone to poke holes in my assumptions.

Thank you all for your time. I look forward to your responses.

One possible draw would be a dark-sky environment for folks who are having a tough time finding one anymore. But at that price point, people are going to want to start seeing amenities, and amenities often mean light pollution, so there’s the conundrum. -Ari

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@Brian_P We live in central Iowa and generally travel much further away (but during 2020, we explored much more of our local surroundings!) Your campground sounds very nice although the price point is a bit higher than we are used to paying (we usually stay in state, national or Corps of Engineers campgrounds). That said, if you build it, we’d likely come and check it out (husband loves to tinker with star photography). Good luck and hopefully your dream will become a reality!

Thank you for your thoughtful responses.

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Why not leave it natural. Have nice space between sites. Charge a lot less. Offer privacy and security and dark skies.

I live an hour north of desmoines. We typically go to places with bike trails and fishing. But away from pavement. Overlanding and self sufficiency has become so big over the last two years that you could almost open it early and keep working on it once the bridge is made. Newport State Park in Wisconsin is a dark sky area and it is a huge draw. They have a large flat area with a shelter and tables and glow markers to guide you from parking (no flashlights) and QR scan to link to events and star charts.
You can likely also draw on the idea of Winterset and John wayne, Plus the Bridges of Madison County. Go for it. I agree about the pricing being a bit high vs state parks etc though. Maybe you could have a dove/pheasant field and draw hunters?

Hey Brian! I work for The Dyrt and we love places like this - it’s a lot of what many people are looking for. And who wouldn’t want those stars!

Please email us at suppport@thedyrt.com and we can put you in touch with a campground specialist that can help you with questions and set up. It’s free!

Happy camping and welcome to The Dyrt!