Pinicon Ridge Park is located on Highway 13 next to Central City, Iowa. It is a very popular park in Linn County, known for its natural beauty and many things to do. The park straddles the Wapsipinicon River and has 965 acres. There are many activities in the area and we recommend you take a trip here for one of your summer getaways.
The main campground, Flying Squirrel, can be accessed from the north entrance. It has 109 beautiful, shaded, large sites in 3 loops. 69 sites have water & electric (30 & 50 amp), 16 are electric only, and 24 have no hookups. Nearly all will easily fit a large camper and 2 vehicles, and most are pull-thru. If you are lucky you may even get one on the riverbank! There are concrete boat tie downs located along the bank for anyone to use.
The shower house is centrally located in Loop B and is always extremely clean. Unlike Iowa’s state parks, these showers are not push button and are quite roomy. The shower house is maintained by the campground host located in Loop A. The host also sells firewood, ice and camping coupons. The coupons come in books of 14, 40 & 80 days (1 ticket per day), are good for 2 years in any Linn County campground and offer savings up to 25%.
Between Loop A & B there is a pedestrian bridge over the river that allows access to the other side of the park. This is part of a short bike trail that goes into Central City (approx. 2 miles). There is also a new playground located here, along with an open shelter and horseshoe pits. The campground has a couple of themed weekends, Christmas in July and October Spooktacular, in which decorations are encouraged. For the Spooktacular, costumes are welcome and there is trick-or-treating.
In the Plains campground there are 36 grassy sites, 19 with electric. Water is available to all sites. This campground allows campers and tents to set up in more of a group situation. This is also where the 4 beautiful cabins are located. The cabins can be reserved from April 15-October 15.
As you leave the campground, there are 3 dump stations. These are well maintained and you almost never have to wait. The only problem with this campground is its popularity. It is first come/first serve, reservations are not accepted due to occasional river flooding. It is a good idea to arrive as early as you can. While we were camping there, the campground filled up completely by Thursday afternoon. You must have a camping unit (which can be a tent) on the site within one hour of registering and you can’t hold a site for someone else.
The south entrance of the park has access to group camping, lodges and day-use activities. The group camping is not suitable for campers due to the twisty gravel road, but 7 grassy sites are available to groups larger than 6 people. These can be reserved online.
Near the entrance is a small wildlife display with elk and deer. Farther in the park there is a watercraft concession (which can be reached from the campground by crossing the pedestrian bridge) that rents canoes, kayaks and paddleboats from May-August. You can paddle in the backwater or there is access to the river. They also offer canoe shuttles for 2, 4 & 6 hours. At the concession you can also rent lifejackets, horseshoes or a volleyball (a sand volleyball court is nearby), or buy snacks. Just past the concession area is a concrete boat ramp for fishing boats.
Head up Woodpecker Hill to the lodges and shelters. Horseshoe Falls & Woodpecker lodges are available year-round and are enclosed with heat and air conditioning. 2 other open-air shelters are also available during the park season, and all four can be reserved. Also in this area is a 65 foot observation tower. This is one the highest points in Linn County and provides a beautiful overlook of the park.
Central City has a convenient gas station, grocery store, Laundromat and a bait store. There are a few places to eat, including a Subway. A Dollar General with a Redbox is also right on the highway. The park is only 12 miles north of Marion on Highway 13, where a WalMart and other shopping are available.
Information about the park can be viewed at
Questions or reservations can also be made by calling (319) 892-6450. The Pinicon Ridge Park office is staffed year-round and can be reached at (319) 438-6616.
Review by Allyssa R.