Camping Ringgold County Iowa
Camp Iowa: Talking with Kate Zimmerman today. She’s the executive director from the Ringgold County Conservation Board. How’s it going this morning, Kate?
Kate: I’m very well, thank you.
CI: So you guys are in Iowa, and there are three parks that have camping, which is what we want to talk with you about. Fife’s Grove, Poe Hollow, and Kokesh. Let’s start off talking a little bit about Fife’s Grove. Tell me about the camping there and what it’s like.
Kate: Sure. Fife’s Grove is actually my favorite park, so it’s good to start on that one. We just recently redid all the electrical units there, so they are all upgraded to 50 amp now, and there is also water hookups as well. We do have restrooms, but no modern shower house there. There are three shelter houses for picnicking, as well as a modern playground unit for the kids. It’s a very diverse habitat park also. It’s set up in an old oak savannah, so lots of old oak trees. They give it lots of character. We’ve got about eight electrical camping sites there and then an unlimited amount of tent camping is available there. A little bit smaller of a campground, but it’s definitely one of the favorites for the locals and even some of the repeat non-locals.
CI: Nice. What part of the county is Fife’s Grove campground in?
Kate: It’s very central in the country; it’s just north of Mount Ayr, about a mile, off of 169 or you can go through the middle of town to get to it, too. It’s pretty easy to locate it. You can find any of our areas on MyCountyParks.com, where it lists Ringgold County, and you can go find any of our areas and our addresses, and it’ll give you GPS coordinates and sites and how to get there.
CI: Let’s talk about Poe Hollow campground a little bit.
Kate: Poe Hollow is our biggest. Again, this is a small county, so when I say big, it’s relative. But there are about 15 available sites for electrical camping. We literally just finished putting in the 50 amp units there this summer, so those are all now upgraded as well, and we’ve put in new water hookups there. So there are water hookups and 50 amps. But again, there is no modern shower house, but there is a restroom available. This campground is our biggest. It also has shelter houses for camping and it has modern playground equipment. Lots of trails. It actually hooks onto another area of ours, which is the Ringgold Trailway, which is a two-mile asphalt trail. So there’s a lot of trail networking in that park, which is a favorite of visitors and locals there.
CI: It sounds like it would take a bike pretty well.
Kate: Oh yes. Yep.
CI: Cool. How about the Kokesh campground? Am I saying that right, Kokesh?
Kate: Yes, Kokesh is our little bitty park. It’s definitely a favorite for the locals. It’s kind of off the beaten path, and it is on a gravel road, so that is maybe a little bit of a downer for people that don’t want to be on gravel. But not very far; only about three quarters of a mile off the blacktop. Again, it is our smallest one. There’s only one shelter house there and only three electrical units there. But they are 50 amp; we did upgrade those two years ago. There’s three spots available, and again, unlimited tent camping for people. So if you’re looking for a nice little nook to kind of hide away in, that is a great place. The pond has just been redone, so there’s a brand new pond there with great fishing opportunities. There is some playground equipment there, but it’s not modern. It’s kind of more of an old-fashioned playground. Hopefully in the next year or two we’ll be able to upgrade that playground equipment.
CI: Any of these campgrounds – and since Ringgold County isn’t really large, as you were saying – if I was staying at one of these and I wanted to venture out for the afternoon, what sort of activities or what sort of attractions would I be able to see?
Kate: Ringgold County, especially in the spring, is known for the Greater Prairie Chicken. We are the only county in Iowa to have a reproducing population of the Greater Prairie Chicken, so that’s kind of one of our claims to fame down here.
CI: So they’re just wild chickens, you’re saying.
Kate: Yeah. They used to be here, but because of all the farming activity, their habitat has been destroyed. We just don’t see them a lot down here. They are not very good – they don’t like that patchwork habitat. They need large expanses of habitat. So they bred them in the ’80s, and then they’re actually reintroducing some in the last two years, and I think they’re going to come in and bring some more in this next coming year for genetic diversity and just trying to bring in some new birds and keep the population stable and everything.
We did have one make national news this year. She traveled – I mean, she was on her horse, because she went all over the place, and actually is settled right now in the southern part of Union County, which is just north of us. So we don’t know what she’s up to, but the rest of them have stayed pretty close to home or gone down – we have a little sister site just south of us in Missouri, and they kind of travel back and forth between there.
CI: That’s really interesting to me. I spend a lot of time in the woods, and I’ve never seen a wild chicken anywhere, so that’s pretty interesting. People don’t gather eggs, do they?
Kate: No, it’s illegal to hunt them as well as have any part of their reproduction, like the feathers or nests or eggs.
Kate: But we do get really good crowds. We do have an annual Prairie Chicken Day the first Saturday in April. We get a lot of viewers there. I’ll be out there, as well as the DNR Wildlife unit guys will be there to answer questions and talk about the management process of them and keeping the prairie chickens in Iowa.
CI: Fun. Two more questions for you. When you have a little bit of downtime on the weekend, what do you like to do in Ringgold County? What’s your go-to?
Kate: I guess the one great thing – well, not just the one, but one of the great things of living in a small community is you get to know people very quickly. Everybody’s very friendly. You can ask anybody anything. And there is always some event going on, so there is always something going on. Last weekend we just had our annual bike/hike event, so we set up stations on the trail and people get to walk the trail and see the fall leaves and all that kind of stuff, and get to learn things about other organizations in the community. So there’s always something going on, no matter what the weekend is.
I know in a couple weeks I’m doing a Turkey Trails program, so everybody can come learn about turkeys before Thanksgiving. Maybe they’re not going to want to eat one afterwards, or maybe they’ll want to eat one more, I don’t know. [laughs] But yes, there’s always something awesome going on and something to keep you busy.
CI: Out of Fife’s Grove campground, Poe Hollow campground, and Kokesh campground, which one is your favorite? Where would you stay and why?
Kate: I think I said this in the beginning; Fife’s Grove is definitely my ultimate favorite park. It’s, again, based in an old oak savannah, so there’s a beautiful – the whole thing is old oak trees, and it is just gorgeous, no matter what time of year you go to it. We just redid the pond there as well, so the pond is brand new and got some nice fishing jetties and fishing opportunities there. It’s very habitat diverse, so we’ve got the oak savannah, we’ve got the pond, and we’ve got a prairie and a wetland there as well. It’s great for wildlife viewing. That’s our most diverse area for wildlife and plant species. There’s lots of walk-in trails through the prairie and the wetland and the oak savannah. Lots of things to see and do there. And again, there’s a modern playground for the kids. It’s just a beautiful place to even just drive through. Really great.
CI: Thank you. That’s some great information for our visitors. Thank you so much. That’s about all I have for questions. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with us. That’s some good information, and we’ll go ahead and get that info out right away.
Kate: Okay. If you want to steal some pictures off of my website, MyCountyParks.com, you are more than welcome to.