Pioneer Ridge Campgrounds in Iowa

The Pioneer Ridge Nature Area & Conservation Center is the main headquarters of the Conservation Board for Wapello County. Located just north of the Davis & Wapello County Line, the Nature area is the primary attraction of this area. The topography of this place is filled with mature oaks and open grass ridge tops. A conscious effort has been going on for many years to restore the oak savanna plant communities. It makes for the perfect places to visit when looking for Campgrounds in Iowa.

Pioneer Ridge Campgrounds in Iowa

The Pioneer Ridge Nature Center

With the establishment of the Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, the focus of this area has been mainly on educating the youth and the adults in issues of natural resource management and environment. The two-storied Nature Center has a full-time naturalist on board, full displays, and stocked ponds that have are open for public fishing.

Apart from this, there are fifteen miles of biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails and even a handicap accessible trail! This incredibly extensive trail system in place allows the visitors to explore this beautiful location by bike, foot, or horseback.

The nature center has a lot of great exhibits! Live animals, stuffed animals, and even bees. Educational opportunities abound in the building, even if you can’t connect with a naturalist for a lesson or two.

Camping Facilities

The Pioneer Ridge has excellent camping facilities that have managed to attract lots of campers – both first-timers and seasoned – to this beautiful location in Wapello County. It had two modern cabins – Burr Oak cabin and White Oak cabin – which were opened around 4 to 5 years back and became popular over the years.

These stylish cabins were very expensive to build, as each of them has a living room, a dining room, kitchen facilities, bedrooms, restrooms, and even a dedicated area for kids upstairs! These modern cabins are all-season cabins with cooling and geothermal heating facilities.

But the County Board had no option but to look for other alternatives as these cabins were always full during the weekends and, as a result, many were denied a chance to come here and enjoy the pristine surroundings. That was such a pity as the area is not only beautiful, but the rental rates for the cabins were very reasonable. I think it makes it one of the best Campgrounds in Iowa!

Campgrounds in Iowa

The board came up with an idea, and now they have brand new additions – two new camping cabins and as many as nine new electric RV sites. The new camping cabins are smaller than the previous modern cabins but have all the essential facilities for a comfortable stay – electricity, heating facility, air-conditioning, a couple of bunk beds, mini-fridge and a microwave.

These cabins do not have plumbing, but that is hardly a deterrent as each of them has a modern shower, and there is also a restroom on site. The camping cabins are surely cheaper and are good options for those who do not prefer to stay in a tent but don’t have RVs either. The primitive sites have a picnic table and fire ring only.

RV sites

Nine electric RV sites allow the visitors to hook up their RVs if they are looking for an overnight stay. If you prefer camping, then you can also pitch your tents and refrain from using the electric capabilities. It is important to note that the all-electric sites have a fire ring, gravel pad, and picnic table. I would use them for my pop-up camper!

Campgrounds in Iowa


The electric RV sites come for just twelve dollars per night, the camping cabins cost $31.50 per night, and the modern cabins are slightly more expensive at $52.50 per night (Monday to Wednesday) and $63 per night (Thursday to Sunday). The prices have been fixed, keeping in mind the affordability factor of both the residents and the visitors.


These campgrounds in Iowa have pretty much the same rules everywhere else we have visited. The campsites are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are no options for reservations.

A campsite is said to be occupied when payment has been completed and a registration slip has been posted on the campsite. Campers can stay for more than one night, but bookings are never extended beyond 14 days to give a chance to other campers.

–> Check out our Crazy Camping Girl Etsy store – new items are added weekly!

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Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park

Stretching 191 acres of rugged woodland, Fort Defiance State Park serves as a beautiful contrast against the gently rolled farmlands around it. With the availability of trails, picnics, and beautiful scenery, the Fort Defiance State Park is undeniably a great place to relax.

It has an abundance of vegetation which includes but not limited to plum, hawthorn, locust, and many oak species. In spring, slopes are sprinkled with trillium, violets, hepatica, and bloodroot. I was able to visit it with a group of fellow bloggers when we were exploring Estherville.

Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park
Fort Defiance State Park

There is so much to rave about here but to start with? The park is FREE. If I am getting my facts from our tour correct, the charter was set up so that there would never be an entrance fee. This is rare in my travels, and more than worth the price you don’t have to pay for the chance to visit and enjoy the perfection of the imperfections of nature. Our group had a tour from one of the caretakers of the grounds and we hiked an incredible trail as we learned about the area.

Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park

The primary shelter, The Fort Defiance Lodge is built to resemble an old military outpost. It is a great place to host meetings, wedding receptions, and reunions. You could envision the Civilian Conservation Corps of FDR getting the place in shape for the visitors.

You can see the old bobsled run (no longer available for sledding) down to the wooden footbridges that cross the streams. The park has an online reservation system which makes it easy for anyone to reserve the Fort Defiance lodge at any time. The open shelter is given on a first-come-first-serve basis with no additional charges.

Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park

Famous for cross country skiing, during winter, the Fort Defiance state park has trails that you can take to move around the park, through the hill, and out to the woods which make up the park.

On three trails, equestrian use is permitted. They do post signs requesting that horses do NOT use the wooden footbridges as it simply isn’t safe too. We noticed that a few riders opted to ignore the warning signs and had actually caused a problem with the stability of one of the bridges.  

Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park

Camping at Fort Defiance State Park

The Fort Defiance Park has a designated Camping area that embraces the authentic natural experience and puts away modernity as there are showers or flush toilets in the area. On eight sites there are electrical hookups.

Camping permits are made on the campground at the site through self-registration. There are fees for camping and those fees can also be paid on the site.

Embrace Nature at Fort Defiance State Park

The beautiful park, which is located at 3642 17th street Estherville, IA 51334, has a fantastic environment and serene atmosphere that will help you embrace nature’s warmth. You may be out in nature, but civilization isn’t unreachable.

Less than a mile away, there is a Boat Launch ramp, Boat, Dock, Church, Fish Cleaning Station, Hospital, Ice, Retail, Snack, Bait and Tackle, Drinks. You might want to keep an eye on the special events like a Fright Hike in October (1/2 mile hike through the haunted woods of Fort Defiance) and a Defiance Trail Run in May (A challenging 5K).

–> Check out our Crazy Camping Girl Etsy store – new items are added weekly!

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