Camping Linn County in Iowa
Camp Iowa: I’m talking with Jessica Rilling today. She’s the Community Outreach Manager for Linn County Conservation in Linn County, in Iowa. How’s it going today, Jessica?
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Jessica Rilling: Very well, thank you.
Camp Iowa: So, what types of camping do you guys have in that area? It’s my understanding that you have several different campgrounds in Linn County.
Jessica Rilling: We do. We do. We have three what I would consider modern campground that Linn County owns and manages that are located pretty close to the City of Cedar Rapids. And then a couple more primitive campground sites located a little bit farther away from Cedar Rapids, and then, actually within Linn County are two State Parks that also have camping available.
Camp Iowa: Okay. So, maybe start with the most modern ones, and then we’ll kind of work our way down to the primitive ones. So, there are three campgrounds that are modern campgrounds. I’m assuming they can take RVs.
Jessica Rilling: Yes, exactly. Probably the most modern would be our Squaw Creek Park Campground, and that’s located just off Highway 13, so it’s probably the easiest to find of the three modern campgrounds. It has a camp loop that is reservable, which is actually our only reservable modern campground also. So, for lots of reasons, that one is very popular. Concrete pads, 50amp electric, water, and sewer and each individual site in the day loop.
Camp Iowa: Nice. That’s the premo campground.
Jessica Rilling: It really is. It really is. And we get a lot of RVs, and it can accommodate the full size RVs, and I know a lot of people really appreciate its locations because it’s less than five miles from Cedar Rapids, Marion.
Camp Iowa: And where would somebody go to reserve a site?
Jessica Rilling: LinnCountyParks.com.
Camp Iowa: Okay.
Jessica Rilling: It’s what we use to facilitate reservations. So, the only campsites you’ll be able to reserve on there are these ones we’re talking about. The A Loop in Squaw Creek Park. And then we do also have cabins and some group camps that will show up on that reservation system.
Camp Iowa: Okay, and what are the names of the other two parks? The other two modern ones.
Jessica Rilling: Morgan Creek Park is the second one, and that’s on the west side of Cedar Rapids and it’s harder to find. But the Park Rangers there, if you ask them what they are most proud of for their campground, they will say that it’s very clean and it’s very quiet. It also accomodate RVs. It has 50amp electric and water, but not sewer. And mostly RV campers are what we see there. They do allow tents, just like all our campsites, but these modern campgrounds tend to be mostly full of RVs throughout the summer season.
Camp Iowa: Okay. And then is there a third campground then?
Jessica Rilling: There is. Pinicon Ridge Park, and that’s the farthest away from Cedar Rapids. It’s northeast of Cedar Rapids, off of Highway 13. So, it has good access. It’s just farther away from the metro. And that’s probably the campground that has the most sites actually, and several camping loops, and probably is the most popular for families. There’s a lot more tent camping that happens up there. There are group camps. It’s kind of split on either side of the Wapsipinicon River, so a lot of folks that enjoy paddling and fishing head up there. And there is electric and water at those sites, but again, not sewer. But a couple of the loops can accomodate full-size RVs without a problem.
Camp Iowa: Okay. What if I have a tent? I do not have an RV. Just got a tent. I just want to get away from it all. Where are you going to send me?
Jessica Rilling: Definitely Pinicon Ridge. That would be the most removed of the County campground sites. If you wanted to get a little bit farther away from it, I would probably have you take a look at one of the State Parks because they’re a little bit more as far as things go in Iowa – what I might call wild-feeling.
Camp Iowa: Okay, sure. Now, what are some of your favorite attractions in and around that area?
Jessica Rilling: Sure. Sure. So, again, Cedar Rapids – that’s the big community here, and like I said, the three kind of big modern campgrounds that Linn County owns and manages are all very close to that community. They have a big Downtown Cedar in Cedar Rapids. If people are into the arts, it’s amazing and has a lot of great productions. There’s a part of town right now that’s getting a lot of attention in the media, called the New Bohemia area, which is kind of an area that’s growing a lot with small business and local foods. They have a new market there. A new public market that has a lot of local food vendors. Kind of the arts community, I guess I would say, is kind of centered in that particular part of town, and it’s right near the Downtown of Cedar Rapids. A lot of great bars and restaurants. A lot of opportunities to see live music.
Camp Iowa: Very cool. So maybe I could go get some really interesting food and bring it back for my campfire and roast it up.
Jessica Rilling: Sure. Sure. You could definitely do that.
Camp Iowa: So, I have two more questions for you. So, there’s quite a bit offered there. There are quite a few different types of campgrounds. If you were going to spend just one hour somewhere in Linn County, doing something sort of outdoors-related, how would you spend your time, Jessica?
Jessica Rilling: Me, personally. So, I would say that I would go and spend an hour hiking and I would either do that in Pinocon Ridge Park, which is owned by Linn County Conservation, or I would do it in Palisades-Kepler Park, which is a State Park just south of Cedar Rapids and it’s got some really beautiful bluffs along the Cedar River and some nice hiking trails that feel a little bit more remote. Kind of follow the bluffs along the river.
Camp Iowa: Okay, perfect. And if you were going to spend just one night camping anywhere in Linn County, where are you going to go and camp?
Jessica Rilling: And this is me, right, and I don’t have a big RV?
Camp Iowa: You don’t have an RV and you don’t have seven kids either.
Jessica Rilling: Yeah, I would probably have my small tent and a Coleman Stove and a lantern and cooler.
Camp Iowa: There you go.
Jessica Rilling: That’s the kind of camping I’d be doing, and I would probably go to Palisades-Kepler actually – the State Park.
Camp Iowa: Okay. What do you like about that?
Jessica Rilling: Well, like I said, it’s got a lot of really big trees. It’s along the river. The hiking trails are longer and a little bit more remote feeling, which I like.
Camp Iowa: Okay, perfect.
Jessica Rilling: If you’re a person with a camper, you’re going to have some different priorities.
Camp Iowa: Sure.
Jessica Rilling: Or if you are looking for equestrian camping, which is something the Park Rangers tell me there’s some campgrounds that allow for camping with horses. It’s a little bit harder to find, and we didn’t talk about that, but we have an area Matsell Bridge Natural Area that has like over 20 sites kind of designated for equestrian camping. And they’re fairly primitive sites, but they have areas to tie the horses and trails that horses are allowed on. And I know a lot of people really appreciate that particular area. So, again, I don’t have a horse personally, but if I did, then that would probably be where I would be most interested in going.
Camp Iowa: It sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Jessica Rilling: It does. Yeah, I think so.
Camp Iowa: I’ve ridden them several times. I don’t think that they would work out on the 0.1 acre that I live on in town.
Jessica Rilling: Probably not.
Camp Iowa: It would be nice. It would be nice. Well, it sounds like there’s a lot of different things to do in Linn County, and thank you so much, Jessica, for making a little bit of sense of that today and giving us a good feel for the different areas, the different activities, and also the different types of camping that are available in Linn County. Thank you so much.
Jessica Rilling: Yeah, thanks Clint. Have a good one.