We've taken our canoe here once and really enjoyed the winding, quite, green waterways. This is a relatively obscure place with little amount of crowds on any weekend. We haven't camped here, but have seen that the tent areas are right next to the water. Super serene with great hiking trails and bird watching!
We went camping at Backbone for a friend's wedding that was taking place at the park's lodge. While most of the wedding guests stayed in town, we opted to camp, during October. It was gorgeous! We loved waking up in the morning and going for a walk along the many trails, seeing deer on the trail, and the lake. Great place to camp or host an event like a wedding!
The hike-in camp sites are the way to go! We spent a weekend out here a couple times every summer and love the primitive hike-in sites 1000x more than any other option. You have your own space, you can still add an additional tent on site for friends, and the noise is minimal.
Have a plan to secure your food! Unfortunately, raccoons are used to getting leftovers from campers and are highly domesticated in terms of coming in to the campgrounds. Make sure to leave the area how you found it or in better condition. And bring your hammock! Lots of great trees to lounge around in between.
Stayed there a few different weekends during the summer. It is easily accessible from Indianola and the best parts of the park are the well-kept trails and stargazing! Unfortunately, we felt like we were literally on top of surrounding campers. The campsites are all extremely packed in together, so you can really feel a part of other people's conversations and activities. However, if you're able to catch Lake Ahquabi on a good weekend when it isn't crowded, then it is amazing!
Lots of great fishing and canoe/paddle board rentals available too! We take our canoe there often and there is an awesome access point from the campgrounds with tons of shade, so if you have a one-seater (like us) the partner can wait in the shade.
We spent two separate weekends at this campground; one during October and the other during early May. Camping here during October was, by far, better. The foliage was turned to all hues of orange, yellow, green, and red. We stayed in lot 109, which was perfect because going through the really faint trail through the trees you can come to a ledge overlooking the Hudson River. We took our few beers and hung out there instead of our camping spot to watch the sunset.
The facilities are on par with most parks. They are dog friendly, so we took our dog with us on our camping trip in May (she loved it). There are a few cabins available to stay in. Only gripe would be that most of the camping spots are really close together and they don't sell logs for fire. They only have fire starter bricks, which get done what you need. They usually have plenty of cut down brush to use for the fires…but be wary of the rain season during April/May.
There are a lot of sweet stuff to see near the park. Close by is the Roosevelt Presidential Library and house, Vanderbilt House, and even further out is Woodstock and plenty of other cool parks.
Jester Park is our go-to camping destination in central Iowa! By far, this county park has a lot of fun activities and access points to the Saylorville waterway circuit. In addition to the water access ways, there is a sweet pond to fish in, several hiking trails, a brand new (opened August 2018) Nature Center, amphitheater, bison and bird viewing, and even cabins if you want to rent them (fully stocked, linens included!).
Our favorite spot to camp is 410 and 409. It's a secluded area within the 400s that is lined with trees on one side and a drop off into the Saylorville water circuit on the other (see photos). For $15/night/camping spot, you can enjoy the best view of stars and amazing sunsets. We go a couple times a year to camp and Jester has even been the place where we hold special events like birthdays/going away parties.