Pleasant Creek campground, shelters reopen after derecho

Peak camping season ends Wednesday, then rates go down

Camping at Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area near Palo - still marked Thursday by trees badly damaged in the derecho
Camping at Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area near Palo — still marked Thursday by trees badly damaged in the derecho — is open again as peak camping season nears its end. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area near Palo this week reopened its campground, cabins and shelters — just in time for the last weekend of peak camping season — but the lodge and beach still are closed because of damage from the Aug. 10 derecho.

“There are still some large tree debris piles on the beach area from the large damaged trees that had to be taken down,” Tom Basten, Iowa Department of Natural Resources district supervisor for southeast Iowa parks, said about Pleasant Creek. “The lodge had the side panels destroyed by the winds.”

The campground at Lake Macbride State Park, near Solon, remains closed because of downed trees and wind damage to electrical pedestals and the boat ramp, Basten said.

Palisades-Kepler State Park, near Mount Vernon, suffered major damage to the roof of the lodge, two cabin roofs and some siding, Basten said. These buildings have been sealed up to protect them until repairs can be made. The park will not reopen until fallen trees can be removed from trails.

Wapsipinicon State Park, near Anamosa, reopened after the storm for Labor Day weekend.

Iowa’s 66 campgrounds in 64 state parks were busy earlier this season as Iowans look for socially-distant recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The system had 6,400 more reservations through July 31 than it had for the whole 2019 season — and that’s even with a late start due to closures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Peak camping season ends Wednesday at most state parks, with campsites ranging in cost from $9 a night for a non-electric site in a non-modern campground to $16 a night for an electric site in a modern campground. Starting Oct. 1 at most state parks, rates go down to $6 and $11 respectively.

Campgrounds with an extended peak season to Oct. 15 are Backbone South Lake Campground, Lake Macbride North Campground, Ledges, Maquoketa Caves, Palisades-Kepler, Volga River, Lakeview and Walnut Woods.

The Iowa DNR’s total cost for derecho cleanup isn’t known yet, Basten said.


“Most cleanup has been completed by park and forestry staff from parks and forests in Eastern Iowa,” he said. “There has been some contracted work for hazard tree removal that involved boom trucks.”

Basten said the department is looking into whether some lumber companies might want to harvest fallen trees, with proceeds offsetting cleanup costs.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help pay for some costs, including tree cleanup, damaged campground pedestals, hydrants and boat docks, Basten said. The Iowa DNR also may seek some funds from the Iowa Executive Council.

“The DNR is following the process for getting approval and guidelines for both options,” he said.

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