Dolliver State Park: Campground Review
In the past, I have taken you on a tour of some of our more popular campgrounds, including Cutty’s in Des Moines, and Ledges State Park near Boone, Iowa. Both parks are wonderful for mingling, camping, and making new friends over a fire. I love taking my three hobbits to busy parks like that because they always exhaust themselves playing and then sleep soooooo well at the end of the day. The last time we visited Cutty’s my 3 year old made a “new best friend” for the weekend, so that was super special. However, some weekends, we actually crave some peace and quiet, and long to commune with nature, which can be difficult in some of the bigger campgrounds. It’s like “Mission Impossible.” So, this past weekend we decided to experiment with a tiny campground to see how that felt. I am happy to report, it was as fun as anything else, in much different ways.
We trekked off the beaten path to Northwest Iowa, just South of Fort Dodge, to Dolliver Memorial State Park on the recommendation of a dear friend. We saw quite a bit of cornfield between here and there as we zigzagged along some back county roads, and followed the Des Moines River upstream. It was easy to find, and the roads were mostly level up to both the North and South Entrances, but when we got inside the park, we were really grateful to have some trailer brakes and sway bars as we eased down the winding park road into the valley that houses Dolliver.
Dolliver Memorial State Park is nestled inside a bluff facing the Des Moines River about 12 miles South of Fort Dodge. There is a little creek that crosses over the road that our kids enjoyed cooling off in, and also feeds the Des Moines River. We made the mistake of leaving our Kayaks back home, but hope to return to Dolliver, soon, to Kayak the short 3 miles of the Des Moines River from Dolliver to Leigh (just South of the park). Due to the bluff, cell phone reception was not stable. I laughed, however, at the sight of a pay phone…it may be the last one standing in Iowa. But, this feature certainly lent itself to the wilderness feel. Even though we were only 15 mins from town, we felt like we were in a whole different universe. It was so peaceful, even the butterflies decided to stop by and pay us a visit.
Now, when I say tiny, I am not joking. Dolliver Memorial State Park has only Nineteen (19) electric only campsites available, eighteen (18) of which are back in sites, and one pull through. They have three (3) tent only sites, as well, a playground, good river fishing with a boat ramp, hiking trails, plenty of shade and nature to explore, a couple primitive restrooms and one modern restroom, and a nice dump station. Dolliver also has a “Group Camp” set up available, for large groups, like weddings, family reunions, or church groups with a main dining hall, and a group of a dozen or so cabins for sleeping, arranged around a large open grassy field for group games.
Because the park is “mini-sized,” all the hiking trails connect the three main areas of the park, so you can walk from the Group Camp area to the Campground area and then on up into the bluffs, or follow it back out by the river. Additionally, as a State Park, sites and cabins are reservable via the Iowa State Park website, which lists the length of each site and available dates for your convenience.
While hiking we found that if you follow the trails far enough you get to view the unspoken and reserved beauty of Iowa’s rich Native American History. There are a few burial mounds and a great bison legend about Boneyard Hollow to be experienced. The hush of the park was nearly audible as we arrived. It was quaint, quiet and cozy and just what we were looking for.
Dolliver State Park
2757 Dolliver Park Avenue
Otho, IA 50569
Review by Sashya C.