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Treehouse Camping Iowa John 15 Vineyard

Treehouse Camping Iowa

Camp Iowa: We’re talking today with Dean Rogers from John 15 Vineyard, and I’m pretty excited about this interview today because – well, why don’t you go ahead and tell our listeners what you guys offer there?

Rogers: Okay. Well, we have a vineyard. We make everything with grapes but wine. We have a variety of products we make with grapes; that’s what started our business. We have a fishing pond, little place for kids to play, and we have a campground.

Camp Iowa: Do you have a regular campground in addition to the tree house camping that we’re going to talk about?

Rogers: No, but people can camp like a regular campground. There’s room. Our tree house camp will sleep eight, but we’ve had as many as 14 or 18 campers at one time, so they set up additional tents on the ground. That works quite well.

Camp Iowa: For the people that are listening who can’t see what we’re talking about, go ahead and describe this tree house camping structure that you built, why you built it, and how you guys are using it today.

Rogers: Well, it all started four years ago when my grandson and I built a tree house in a big old maple tree in our yard. Shortly thereafter, we had some visitors come out, and one of the comments was “Are you going to rent it out for overnight guests?” That’s something we had never thought about, but we do have 40 acres of wooded timber and creek and ravines and big old oak trees, so I thought, “Why not build a big tree house for overnight guests in the timber that they can camp in?” That’s where this all come about. Basically what it amounts to, it’s a platform, like a big deck, that’s completely suspended by two huge old oak trees. It’s about 14 feet wide and 40 feet long.

Camp Iowa: Big.

Rogers: Yeah. The one end of it’s 22 feet off the ground. The other end is only about 8 feet, but it makes it convenient that way just because of the lay of the land. That’s how it turned out. It comes with an eight-person tent. That comes with it. We have a big fire pit with a grate, Port-a-Potty, couple of picnic tables, and firewood. That all comes with your story. And when you camp here, you have exclusive use of the ground. There’s nobody else here.

Somewhere down the road, we’re looking at building maybe a couple more, but each one will have its own private piece of the timber so when you’re camping, you have your own exclusive campsite. That way, if you just like the solitude and want to be out, well, you can. That’s kind of where this is coming from, and we’ve had lots of people that just enjoy it. We’ve even had return customers this summer already.

Camp Iowa: Oh, fun. How big is the property there?

Rogers: Altogether, there’s 80 acres. The campground sits on 40 acres of timber, and next to that is either river or public access grounds, so you can hike or look around a lot of acres while you’re here.

Camp Iowa: That sounds like a lot of fun. So if someone comes to stay there, they can certainly explore all of the land there, and if they do want to head out for the afternoon, what kind of other things are in the area around there to check out?

Stocked fishing pond at John 15 Vineyards
Stocked fishing pond at John 15 Vineyards

Rogers: Of course, we have about an acre and a half pond also on the property that is stocked with fish. We allow people that are coming to camp to fish, no charge for that. If you’re an avid bicyclist, just 16 miles away is one end of the bike trail that runs 68 miles from here to Des Moines. It’s quite a popular sport. The Raccoon River is close. Now, right now it’s too low to canoe in, but we have people who like to canoe or kayak or paddleboat. The Bell Tower is in Jefferson. There’s quite a number of things to see in and around the area, besides just what we have here.

Camp Iowa: All right, that sounds like a lot of fun. Is it set up on a reservation system?

Rogers: Yes. In other words, we have people call and reserve for a night or a weekend or whatever, and we also do have a weekly rate, if somebody would like to spend a whole week. If you’re camping, we have a meeting and retreat center at our vineyard, and we do have one bathroom in there that we allow campers to shower, clean up if they’re going to stay several days. The only thing we ask when you camp is when you leave, you leave it as clean as you found it.

Camp Iowa: Sure thing.

Rogers: People seem to enjoy that, and we’ve had good response with it.

Camp Iowa: All right. That sounds like a lot of fun. The pictures just look great on the website here. When we write about it, we’ll definitely put some links back to your website, and we’ll put a couple links also to some of the other things in the area that you mentioned.

Rogers: Sure.

Camp Iowa: Sounds good.

Rogers: There’s a number of things to do, but I can’t tell you right offhand what they all are without thinking about it a little while. [laughs]

Camp Iowa: Sure. We’ll do a little research. We’ll figure out what’s all around there too, and we’ll put that stuff on the site. All right, thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with us, Dean. Much appreciated.

Rogers: You bet.

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