Polk County Conservation has four campgrounds within a half-hour of downtown Des Moines.
- First-come, first-served campers should set up camp on their site before registering.
- Campground showerhouses are open mid-April through mid-October.
- 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).
- 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. The 7-day rate for electric sites is $120; non-electric is $90. These discounts do not apply to online reservations. This discount booklet is available for non-consecutive stays under 7 days.
- A camper with an additional tent or a tent with a second tent is an extra $5 fee per night.
- Firewood is available for purchase a all parks.
- Campground cooking recipes can be found here to try out on your next camping trip!
Online reservations can be made up to one year in advance for reservable campsites in each of these parks.
- Online reservation rate for electric is $23, non-electric is $18, and youth group sites are $20.
- 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.
Jester Park features 168 campsites spread across wooded hills and along the shore of Saylorville Lake.
- 80 electric sites (10 of these allow advance reservation)
- 82 non-electric sites (9 of these allow advance reservation)
- 4 primitive walk-in sites
- 2 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.
Jester Park registration booth hours (campers must self-register during non-operation hours):
- 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.
Campground #1 | Campground #2 | Campground #3 |Campground #4 |Campground #5 (Youth Group Camp Area) | Campground #6
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.
Yellow Banks Park
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, two group sites (accommodate up to 20 people) and a youth camping area.
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.
Campground, #1 | Campground #2 | Youth & Group Campgrounds | Backpacker Campground | Tent Campground
Thomas Mitchell Park
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.
Campground | Youth Campground
A modern 3-bedroom cabin (capacity of 6) provides opportunities for families to enjoy Thomas Mitchell Park who are unable or less inclined to camp. The cabin features a small covered front porch and a large wooden deck with adjacent shaded lawn.
Amenities inside include a gas fireplace, full kitchen, restroom with shower, and modern household furnishings. It is a 3-bedroom cabin with linens provided, outside BBQ grill, and fire-pit gathering area.
Reserve the cabin here.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
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.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt has canoes for rent between May 1 - October 1.
- Cost is $8 per hour and paddles and life jackets are provided.
- Rentals are 7 days a week from 9AM - 7PM (last rentals go out by 6 PM).
- Reservations can be made in advance (for groups of 10+) by calling 515-249-5925. All other rentals are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Youth & Tent Campground | Electric & Tent 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.
They are available for pick up at the Jester Park Nature Center.
Park Packs brochure