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Get Out and Explore Iowa’s County Parks!

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If you’re looking for amazing places to visit in Iowa, you’ll find lots of adventure at Iowa’s many county parks. From boating, swimming, hiking, exploring, biking, and more, so there are so many fun things to in Iowa! Here’s a sampling of the fun that awaits in Iowa!

sunset over the mississippi river

*This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa for the #99Parks program. All opinions are mine.*

Get Out and Explore Iowa’s County Parks!

We didn’t have to travel far from home to have fun outdoor experiences with our family. Sometimes, a getaway in your own backyard is just what you need. We were excited to explore two lovely Iowa parks earlier this summer. We experienced stunning views, beautiful cabins, a fun boat ride on the Mississippi River, and so much more. If you haven’t explored outside in Eastern Iowa, here are several adventures you shouldn’t miss! Grab this Family Fun Car Activity Kit and hit the road in Iowa!

sunset over rock creek marina

Rock Creek Marina & Campground in Clinton County

Rock Creek County Park outside Camanche (37 miles upriver from the Quad Cities) is great for families and kids of all ages. Home of the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center, Rock Creek Marina is a lovely destination on the backwaters of the Mississippi River.

Younger children will enjoy exploring the Eco Tourism Center where they can crawl through a mock beaver’s den, touch animal furs and live fish, and solve animal puzzles. The kitchen offers home baked goods and home cooked lunch specials! And they have lots of water rentals everyone will enjoy.

kayaks at rock creek marina

We loved exploring the Mississippi River backwaters while we were at Rock Creek Marina. We took at kayaks and paddle boats to explore the water. Rock Creek Marina also has hiking trails and plenty of great fishing spots too. Make sure to download this handy outdoor guide for kids to take along on your trip to Rock Creek Marina or any of Iowa’s county parks!

kids walking down the road at rock creek marina

One activity we were really surprised by was watching the bats on their evening flight to the river! Every evening, hundreds of bats wake up and head out for their nighttime breakfast, and they fly right over the road near the Rock Creek Marina campground. We had a lot of fun walking out to their flight path and watching them head for breakfast. So amazing and what a beautiful sunset!

blue heron eco river cruise

Blue Heron Eco Sunset River Cruise

The real highlight of our time at Rock Creek Marina was the Blue Heron Eco River Sunset Cruise on a 26-passenger pontoon boat. Free and open to the public, everyone should jump on board the Blue Heron to learn about the Mighty Mississippi, its wildlife, ecosystem, barges, and most importantly, watch the sunset over the Mississippi River! 

Blue Heron Eco Cruise at Rock Creek Marina

Led by informative and fun naturalists from Rock Creek Marina, this cruise happens every Thursday evening from May to  October, weather permitting. Cruises are free but reservations are required. Learn more here!

pin tail cabin rock bridge marina

Cabin Rentals at Rock Creek Marina

Not only does Rock Creek Marina offer camping, they also have cabins for rent. We stayed in the Pintail Cabin on our visit and appreciated the attention to detail that went into making this cabin ADA accessible. It has beds for four and a sleeper sofa for two more. 

pin tail cabin camanche

You will need to bring your own bedding, towels, and kitchen supplies as nothing in the kitchen is supplied other than appliances and a coffee maker. Rock Creek Marina also has smaller cabins and campsites for rent as well. Learn more about these Iowa cabin rentals here.

go fish marina bar and grill

Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill

If you’re looking for a place to eat while you’re at Rock Creek Marina, we recommend the Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill in Princeton, Iowa. At 10 minutes from Rock Creek Marina, we found it to be a great close choice. We enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Mississippi River while we ate. With a full service menu and fun drinks, you’ll all find something delicious to eat here!

sunset over scott county park pool

Scott County Park

Another one of Iowa’s amazing county parks is Scott County Park. Located nine miles north of Davenport, Iowa, at 1280 acres there’s plenty of fun places to explore here. It’s only about a 20 minute drive from Rock Creek Marina, so you can hit them both in one long weekend! 

We headed out to Scott County Park after spending a night at Rock Creek Marina. The weather was hot and the kids were looking forward to the Scott County Park Pool and ice cream at the Pioneer Village. Scott County Park also offers hiking and biking, nature trails, equestrian areas, and lots of lovely picnic spots as well.

scott county park pool slides

Scott County Park Pool

My kids really enjoyed the pool at Scott County Park. Featuring an Olympic size heated swimming pool, water slides, diving boards, and a spray pad, the pool was the perfect place to cool off after a long day of exploring. We found the best time to go to the pool was late evening. Fewer people, lovely sunsets, and good natured lifeguards made our time at the pool one of the highlights at Scott County Park.

walnut grove pioneer village collage

Dan Nagle Walnut Grove Pioneer Village

Step back in time at the Pioneer Village at Long Grove, just outside Scott County Park. Featuring log cabins, a historic church, and a small village, the Pioneer Village buildings all feature period furniture and accessories so you can see how people used to live. The dental and hospital clinics are always scary hits. If you time your visit right, you can see working demonstrations by blacksmiths and other craftspeople.

ice cream at the pioneer village

But the real draw to the village is the Walnut Grove Soda Fountain. Open on the weekends only, this old fashioned soda fountain / ice cream parlor is a must stop! The ice cream was cold, delicious, and very affordable – the perfect treat during really hot weather. Make sure to ask for the monthly ice cream special. I had the Train Wreck which included every topping they had and was surprisingly good! We also sampled the banana split and old fashioned sodas. Everything was delicious.

buffalo bill cody boyhood home and homestead

Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead

Another interesting and quick stop near Scott County Park is the Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead. Built in 1847 by Bill Cody’s father to be the farm for a senator, the Cody family ended up living here instead. This limestone home has been restored and is furnished in period pieces as it would have looked when the Cody family lived here. The adults enjoyed this walk-through more than the kids, but two live buffalo on the grounds were a real treat! 

bald eagle cabin scott county park

Bald Eagle Cabin

Scott County Park also offers several really nice cabins for rent in Iowa! We were thrilled to stay in a brand new, cozy cabin on our trip. The Bald Eagle Cabin is a very nicely appointed cabin with comfortable beds for 10! You’ll also need to bring your own bedding and towels to stay at the Scott County Park cabins, but this cabin was equipped with a fully stocked kitchen so you can leave your cooking supplies at home. Learn more about Scott County Park cabin options here.

family fun packs from travel iowa

Make sure to download the Family Fun Guide activity packs from Travel Iowa while you’re planning your trip to Iowa’s fun state parks! With lots of activities to get the kids moving outside, entertain them in the car, teach them about fishing, and Iowa trivia and wildlife information, there’s something for everyone in these packs! Parents, you’ll find the recipes and packing lists helpful too!

I’d love to hear which Iowa parks you’ve visited and what you loved most about them! Tell me about your Iowa favorite adventure! 

If you liked this post on fun things to do in Iowa, you will like these posts full of more amazing places to visit in Iowa!

Unwind in Charles City at the Red Cedar Lodge

America Gothic House in Eldon

Visit the I-80 Trucking Museum and Rest Stop

Pella Tulip Time – Holland in Iowa

 

 

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About Michelle

Michelle Marine is green living enthusiast and rural Iowa mom of four. An avid traveler, Michelle has lived on three different continents and has driven all four kids across the entire USA (by herself!). She loves sharing farm-to-table recipes, their family travel adventures, and gardening and homesteading tips on her popular lifestyle blog, SimplifyLiveLove.com.

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