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The Best Tent Camping Places in Iowa

by
author image Nan Kimberling
Nan Kimberling is a freelance writer and published poet writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "The Phoenix Nest," eHow, Travels and LIVESTRONG.COM. She specializes in travel industry, outdoor recreation, cooking, sports and science content. Kimberling studied comparative religions at Iowa State University.
The Best Tent Camping Places in Iowa
A young couple setting up a tent. Photo Credit XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

The state of Iowa is one of the American Heartland's best kept secrets when it comes to camping spots for those who enjoy tent camping. With thick wooded river valleys, canyons, bluffs and lakes situated in pockets of oak, cedar and elm nestled between multi-acre farmlands and fields, Iowa has just the right camping spot for any visiting camper near all of its most popular outdoor recreation spots.

Northwestern Iowa Tent Camping

The northwestern region of Iowa with its rolling hills running along the Missouri, Little Sioux and Big Sioux rivers offers lake and riverside camping spots. State parks within the area with public campgrounds include Lewis and Clark State Park south of Sioux City known for its swimming and boating on Blue Lake and Blackhawk State Park near Sac City with its excellent walleye, catfish, crappie and bass fishing on Arrowhead Lake. One of the most popular camping areas in the region is the Big Spirit Lake and Lake Okoboji recreation area at Spirit Lake near the Minnesota border with both public and private campgrounds such as Cutty's Resort near the two heavily visited lakes.

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Southeastern Iowa Tent Camping

The southeastern region of Iowa is dotted with large patchwork acreages of farmland and thick wooded river bottoms known throughout the Midwest for excellent fowl and deer hunting as well as prize winning crappie and catfish fishing in lakes such as Lake Rathbun north of Centerville in Honey Creek State Park. Tenting is available near the Rathbun Lake marina from April to November. Geode State Park west of Burlington is an excellent base for tent campers interested in geode spelunking, a Mississippi River area favorite visitor draw. Wildcat Den State Park located southwest of Davenport provides rustic, non-modern Mississippi River shore camping ideal for the tent enthusiast who wishes to enjoy one of its many hiking trails.

Northeastern Iowa Tent Camping

Northeastern Iowa's geography missed the glacial drift of the last ice age resulting in rugged terrain with exposed cliffs and hills. Many mounds and native American sites exist in this region such as Effigy Mounds near Marquette and they draw tent campers to campgrounds such as the modern facility located within Pikes Peak State Park. Water enthusiasts find excellent tent camping and recreational facilities at Clear Lake State Park near Mason City and some of the best mountain biking and hiking trails lined with waterfalls and buttes can be found within walking distance of the two campgrounds in Backbone State Park north of Manchester.

Southwestern Iowa Tent Camping

The fertile plains farmland of southwestern Iowa with its river system fed fields and woodlands support various state park facilities modeled around lake features which have resulted from irrigation damming. Lake Anita State Park near Atlantic and Lake of Three Fires State Park north of Bedford provide tent campers with lakeside campgrounds and boat access. Nine Eagles State Park between Lamoni and Leon on Highway 69 is known for excellent canoeing and camping facilities near the Missouri state border.

Central Iowa Tent Camping

Central Iowa offers many outdoor recreational opportunities for the tent camper amidst its many large city areas such as Des Moines, Ames, Waterloo and Marshalltown. Man made reservoirs and lakes, such as Red Rock Lake near Knoxville and Saylorville Reservoir Recreation Area northwest of Des Moines, are facilitated by the Army Corps of Engineers and offer several campgrounds near swimming, boating and fishing opportunities. Hickory Grove Lake Park in Story County near Colo maintains a small lakeside campground popular with local fishing enthusiasts and weekend RVer's. Ledges State Park is the most well known state park Iowa has to offer just west of Boone with a modern multi area wildlife abundant campground with the Des Moines River being the moulding force of the park's unique water features.

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