State parks open campsites, restrooms beginning Friday

Iowa campgrounds will fully open beginning Friday after weeks of closures and restricted use. Shown is Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Iowa state parks will open their cabins and campground restrooms and showers.

Kayla Lyon, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the state on Friday will ease coronavirus-related restrictions at the campgrounds, allowing the full range of RVs, campers, pop-ups and tents. Some facilities such as playgrounds will remain closed.

Lyon said Iowans have been flocking to parks.

“Folks are utilizing our state parks like never before,” Lyon said via video from a cabin at Pine Lake State Park near Eldora. “As you make plans for the Memorial Day weekend, I encourage you to get out an explore.” She appeared during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ daily news conference.

The first holiday weekend of the season will give Iowans a chance to kick off summer outdoors, even if the state park system’s centennial kickoff event at Backbone State Park this weekend had to be postponed, Lyon said. Backbone, the first park in the state system, marks 100 years of operations next week. 

Lyon said park-goers should be careful and observe the smaller list of restrictions still in place. “Unfortunately, we’ve had to spend a lot of time talking about the things you can’t do in a state park instead of the things you can. So as we continue to open park amenities, we have a new sense of gratitude that arises for all the things we intended to celebrate. 

“Even though our centennial looks different that what we had initially planned, we have seen the last few weeks that Iowans have an overwhelming connection to our state parks and how they contribute to their physical and mental well-being,” Lyon added.

Lyon noted at park visitors will be expected to stay 6 feet apart and to follow other restrictions still in place:

  • All campers and tents will be allowed at the campgrounds after weeks of restrictions. Beaches and trails will remain open, but youth group camp areas, shelters, playgrounds and museums will remain closed. Beaches will be monitored regularly, Lyon said.
  • No visitors to campsites. Only the registered guests are allowed, with a limit of six per site unless an immediate family is larger.
  • Cabin renters will need to bring their own pots and pans and other kitchen supplies. 
  • Check-in times are an hour later than usual, 5 p.m., and checkout is two hours earlier, 9 a.m., to allow for cleaning time.

Check for closure information at each park. The online reservation system is available for arrivals no earlier than Sunday. 

Gatherings of more than 10 people still are not allowed.