Fireworks, art and more at Iowa's state parks over Fourth of July weekend

The beach is shown at Lake Macbride State Park in Solon on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The beach is shown at Lake Macbride State Park in Solon on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa state parks have more to offer than sunburn and mosquito bites over the long Fourth of July weekend.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be offering fireworks, art, music and even a bedtime story in Eastern Iowa state parks.

Pikes Peak State Park

Activities get underway July 3 with a 1 p.m. scavenger hunt at Pikes Peak State Park on the Mississippi River between Marquette and McGregor. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the history of the park. The park’s observation tower atop a 500-foot bluff offers vistas of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers as well as bridges connecting Iowa and Wisconsin.

At 8 p.m., Pikes Peak will offer a bedtime story — a reading of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” along with a discussion of the importance of trees in the ecosystem. Bring blankets or lawn chairs. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet in the picnic area.

Participants also can learn about the importance of bats and bugs in the ecosystem by joining a live viewing July 5 of bats emerging from a bat box. The program begins at 8 p.m. Visitors should meet at the kiosk and may want to bring lawn chairs or blankets. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Lake Macbride State Park

Celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks at Lake Macbride State Park near Solon in Johnson County.

The fireworks, sponsored by the Cottage Reserve Corporation, should start at 9 p.m. The fireworks can best be viewed from the beach area. Alcohol is prohibited inside the fenced-in designated beach area. Alcohol may not be possessed or consumed within the fenced area.

Lake Darling State Park

At Lake Darling State Park at Brighton, the DNR and the state Department of Cultural Affairs are teaming on 20 Artists, 20 Parks on July 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cottonwood Shelter.

Wood artist Rob Wallace will give a public demonstration and educational class on his wood turning work. The live demonstration includes shaping of wood into bowls, hollow vessels, vases and more.

Twenty Artists, 20 Parks is part of the yearlong centennial observance in the state park system. Iowa’s park system began 100 years ago when Backbone State Park was dedicated May 28, 1920, and has grown to encompass more than 70 parks and forests across the state. The observance highlights the importance of state parks to the quality of life in Iowa, including outdoor recreation, historic preservation, arts and culture, and natural resources.


“The 20 Artists, 20 Parks program highlights two important contributors to quality of life in Iowa — arts and the outdoors,” said Todd Coffelt, DNR State Parks Bureau chief. “By focusing on the unique natural and cultural aspects of our state parks, we are able to tell their story in a new and inspirational way.”

Through August, faculty and graduate student artists from three of Iowa State University’s colleges — Design, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences — will be matched with a state park, creating artwork that reflects their time as artists-in-residence.

Yellow River State Forest

On July 6, photographer Scott Boylen will offer a nature photography workshop at Yellow River State Forest near Harpers Ferry in Allamakee County.

The 6 p.m. class will cover the basics of getting the most out of your camera, as well as how to take better photos outdoors. Bring a camera or your phone and meet at the park headquarters.

To reserve camping space in any of the parks, visit

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