Polk County Conservation

14. Jester Park

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12130 NW 128th St
Granger, IA 50109

Jester Park Master Plan

Jester Park has been one of central Iowa’s favorite outdoor playgrounds since 1958. This 1,675-acre park on the western shore of Saylorville Lake offers camping, picnicking, and golfing in a quiet country setting just a half-hour from downtown Des Moines.

This Polk County Conservation Board park stretches from the Hwy 17 bridge north of Granger to the Mile-Long Bridge that crosses Saylorville Lake to Polk City.

No other location in central Iowa offers such a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Jester Park is easily reached by taking exit 127 off I-80 and I-35 and traveling 6.5 miles west on Hwy 141.

Summer hours are from 6:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.; winter hours are from sunrise to sunset.

Jester Park Nature Center

The Jester Park Nature Center is one of Iowa's leading nature centers - a gateway to experience Iowa's natural environment. It welcomes those who come to learn and play, and tell the story of the land they are about to enjoy. We want all to enjoy the outdoors more. Understand it better. Care for it more deeply. Share in our common need to preserve what we have been given. Visit the Jester Park Nature Center's Website here

Summer hours: 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Fort Des Moines closes at sunset.

Winter hours: sunrise to sunset

- See more at: http://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Polk/FAQ.aspx#sthash.lcGEgYah.dpuf

Summer hours: 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Fort Des Moines closes at sunset.

Winter hours: sunrise to sunset

- See more at: http://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Polk/FAQ.aspx#sthash.lcGEgYah.dpuf

Summer hours: 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Fort Des Moines closes at sunset.

Winter hours: sunrise to sunset

- See more at: http://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Polk/FAQ.aspx#sthash.lcGEgYah.dpu

Friends of Jester Park Membership Program

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Friends of Jester Park, is a collaborative program of Polk County Conservation and the Great Outdoors Foundation that provides more opportunities for outdoor fun and nature adventures! 

  • Exclusive Members-Only Events & Programs
  • Members-Only Birthday Parties
  • Equipment Rental Discounts
  • Yearly Gift of Local Nature-Inspired Art
  • Discounts on Reservable Campsites & Designated Fee-Based Programs (At ALL Polk County Conservation Parks)
  • And more! 
  • View the full benefits list here

Your membership support provides supplemental funds needed for operations to keep Jester Park beautiful and enhance conservation and outdoor recreation programming. More information can be found here.

*All membership fees are tax-deductible in accordance with Iowa laws.

Camping and Cabins

Jester offers more than 168 campsites along the lakeshore and across the wooded hills overlooking Saylorville Lake. There are 80 electric sites, 82 non-electric sites (including 20 equestrian campsites), four walk-in primitive sites, and 2 youth areas. Two campground showerhouses are open mid-April through the end of October (weather permitting). Camping rates can be found here

Campers should set up at their campsite before registering at the campground registration booth located one mile from the park entrance. In the absence of a registration attendant, campers must self-register during park and non-operation hours.

Firewood is available near the registration booth. Reservations for some campsites can be made on-line at www.mycountyparks.com. Online reservations are available for camping between April 15 and October 15. For prices click here

  • Special discounts are available to senior adults (62 and older) both weekdays and weekends (non-holidays). This discount 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.

Maps: Campground #1, Campground #2, Campground #3, Campground #4, Campground #5 (Youth Group Camp Area), Campground #6 (for the remainder of the 2017 camping season, only sites #601-608 will be open)

Four modern rental cabins are also available at Jester Park. Each cabin has a two-story walkout floor plan. One cabin has two bedrooms and sleeps 8 people. The three remaining cabins have one bedroom and sleep 6 people.

Amenities include a full kitchen, two modern 3/4 bathrooms with shower (one ground level, one in basement), charcoal grill, front porch, back deck overlooking the timber, and a communal fire pit.

Click here for reservation information.


Your first glimpse of the park from NW 121st Street is of the Jester Park Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course judged by the Des Moines Business Record in 1997 to be Greater Des Moines’ “best public golf course.” Excellent playing conditions and challenging holes have helped make Jester Park a popular course for state tournaments. Tee times may be made in advance by calling 999-2903. Jester Park also offers a 9-hole par 3 course especially popular with beginning golfers, as well as a modern Golf Learning and Practice Facility with driving range and practice greens.

Equestrian Activities

Before entering the park from NW Jester Park Drive you’ll spot the turnoff for the Jester Park Equestrian Center. The Equestrian Center's mission is to be a community resource fostering education, outdoor recreation, and wellness with horses. The center is open year-round, offering a plethora of different events and programs such as guided trail rides, wagon rides, sleigh rides, and equine-assisted therapy services.

The Equestrian Center can be reached by turning off NW Beaver Drive/NW 107th Street onto NW 114th Avenue about 1-1/2 miles southeast of the park entrance. The 5 mile Lakeshore Trail is open to horseback riding, with access providing at staging areas at the Equestrian Center and at Camp Area # 6 located 3-1/2 miles from the entrance to the park. Layovers are available at the Center.

Click here for a downloadable map of the Equestrian Trails.

Click here to see the Equestrian Center Calendar of Events.

Jester Park Lodge


For Lodge information and to make reservations, contact Food with Flair at (515) 277-​7775 or visit their website at www.jesterparklodge.org.

Bison & Elk Herds

At the end of the 3-mile-long park drive you'll be rewarded with a vision of the wildlife that were abundant in Iowa more than 200 years ago. The bison and elk herds that live in this wildlife animal enclosure have been popular attractions at Jester Park for almost four decades. In 2012, renovations were made to the area and the Elk and Bison Educational Plaza was opened to the public. Improvements include an accessible observation deck, educational displays, spotting scopes, high quality art components, an inviting viewing and picnic area. An electric fence surrounds the animal exhibit. Please use caution and stay away from exhibit fencing.

Watch this video to see how elk antlers are grown and shed every year.


There are five picnic shelters within the park. Several offer views of the lake and others are located in private, wooded settings.

Shelter #3 near the children’s playground is the most popular shelter, with Shelter # 5 near scenic Discovery Pond being the second-most popular. Shelters can be reserved in advance by clicking here

Reservations for shelters can be made on-line up to one year in advance but must be made at least 5 days prior to event.


For those who want to launch their own boats onto the upper reaches of Saylorville Lake, Jester Park offers two boat ramps. One is located off Jester Park Drive near the main campground, with the other located at the Lincoln Access beside the Mile-Long Bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns boaters to use caution upstream from the Mile-Long Bridge.

"No Motorized Vessel Zone" is located north of the Mile Long Bridge during April 1 to August 31. This "No Motorized Vessel Zone" effects the boat ramp located near the main camping area at Jester Park. During periods of flood storage, restriction may be lifted. Please contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at Saylorville Lake for details. Call 515-276-4656 or visit their website here


The children’s playground in the main picnic area 1-1/2 miles from the park entrance includes separate play areas for pre-schoolers and for older children. Nearby restrooms are open mid-April through mid-October.

Jester Park Natural Playscape
Located between the Bison enclosure and the end of the hiking trail.


Jester offers more than 8 miles of trails to explore, including the 5 mile Lakeshore Trail from the Mile-Long Bridge to Camp Area #6. The Stagecoach Trail brings one to an especially scenic view of the lake, while the Hickory Ridge Trail follows a small stream through a wooded ravine. 

#1 Basswood Trail
Length: .3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
#2 Camper’s Loop Trail
Length: .3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
#3 Stagecoach Trail
Length: .2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
#4 Red Cedar Trail
Length: .4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
#5 Fox Run Trail
Length: .4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
#6 Hickory Ridge Trail
Length: .7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
#7 Lakeshore Trail
Length: 5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate


The 5-mile Lakeshore Trail is open for snowmobiling when snow conditions permit and offers a beautiful ride alongside Saylorville Lake. For an update on trail conditions, call the park ranger at 323-5366.

Nature Programs

Polk County Conservation naturalists offer many year-round nature programs at Jester Park. Call 323-5300 and request a Nature News or click on calendar to learn about upcoming programs at Jester and other parks in Polk County.

Contact Us

Administration Office
12130 NW 128th St
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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