Polk County Conservation


tent and campsite overlooking a lake

Four Conservation Board campgrounds within a half-hour of downtown Des Moines offer plenty of overnight camping choices. Advance reservations are available on a select number of reservable campsites; most of the sites are offered as first-come, first-served.

First-come, first-served campers should set up camp on their site before registering. Campground showerhouses are open mid-April through mid-October during which time the camping rates are $20 for electric sites and $15 for non-electric. Campgrounds are closed from December 1 - March 31 (except to walk-in tent camping, which is allowed year-round).

Online reservations can be made up to one year in advance for reservable campsites in each of these parks. The online reservation rate for electric is $23, non-electric is $18, and youth group sites is $15. Reservations for campsites can be made at www.mycountyparks.com. Online reservations are available for camping between April 15 and October 15. Reservations must be made at least five days prior to stay. Maximum length of stay is 14 days.

  • Special discounts are available to senior adults (62 and older) both weekdays and weekends (non-holidays). Rates include electric sites at $15 and non-electric at $10. This discount applies only to the first-come, first-serve sites and does not apply to online reservations.
  • Discount 7-day rate camping booklets are available to the general public by calling 515-323-5300 or by inquiring in person at the Administration Office. These discounts do not apply to online reservations.
  • A camper with an additional tent or a tent with a second tent is an extra $5 fee.
  • Firewood is available for purchase at each of the following parks. 

Jester Park features 197 campsites spread across wooded hills and along the shore of Saylorville Lake. These include 80 electric sites (17 of these allow advance reservation), 111 primitive sites (9 of these allow advance reservation), four primitive walk-in sites, and two reservable youth areas. Of the primitive sites, 20 are compatible with equestrian users within the park, and layovers can be arranged with Jester Park Stables. The operation hours at the Jester Park Registration booth are as follows: Sunday 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday  CLOSED; Wednesday 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.; Thursday 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 2 p.m. - 10 p.m. Campers must self-register during non-operation hours.

Maps: Campground #1, Campground #2, Campground #3, Campground #4, Campground #5 (Youth Group Camp Area), Campground #6

Yellow Banks Park features 12 primitive camping sites on a beautiful bluff overlooking the Des Moines River, as well as 48 electric sites at two nearby camping areas. The park also offers five unique backpacking campsites located off a 3/4 mile trail complete with a firepit and picnic table at each site. Registration is available on a first come, first served basis by cash or check.

Maps: Campground, #1, Campground #2, Youth & Water Trail Campgrounds, Backpacker Campground, Tent Campground

Thomas Mitchell Park's campground rests in a scenic bend of Camp Creek at the foot of a tall, wooded ridge. This popular area offers 23 electric sites and 19 primitive sites. Children's playground, hiking trails, fishing pond, and reconstructed prairie are nearby.

Maps: Campground, Youth Campground

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt's campground offers 12 electric sites and 28 primitive sites overlooking the scenic oxbows of the old Skunk River. Nearby canoe and hiking trails offer plenty of opportunities to explore this special place. Canoe rentals are available by advance reservation with the ranger (515-967-2596).

Maps: Youth & Tent Campground, Electric & Tent Campground, Water Trail Campground

Park Packs are nature-themed backpacks designed to help families, scout groups, home schoolers, and other groups explore the wonders of nature around them. Each pack comes with a field guide and a variety of activities and fun facts to assist in the discovery of the specific nature topic.

Park Packs brochure

Rules and Regulations Summary

Out of State Firewood is Prohibited

Contact Us

Administration Office
11407 NW Jester Park Drive
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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