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Camping at Yellow River State Forest

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Yellow River State Forest is located in northeastern Iowa, in the United States. The forest is in Allamakee County, in close proximity to the Mississippi River. It features rugged terrain with bluffs, deep valleys, and the meandering Yellow River flowing through it.

Camping Facilities

Yellow River State Forest offers a variety of camping facilities, from primitive campsites to those with more amenities. Campers can choose from:

  • Backcountry Campsites: For those looking for a secluded experience with basic facilities.
  • Equestrian Campground: Specifically designed to accommodate campers with horses, featuring amenities such as hitching posts and horse trails.
  • Family Campgrounds: Paint Creek Unit is a family campground with electric sites, modern restroom facilities, showers, and a dump station.
  • Group Campgrounds: Available for organizations and large groups, accommodating numerous people with picnic areas and fire rings.

Camping Reservations and Fees

  • While some campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, reservations for family campground sites can be made through the Iowa State Parks reservation system.
  • Fees for camping vary depending on the type of campsite and amenities. Typically, backcountry sites are the least expensive, while family campground sites with electrical hookups will cost more.


  • Hiking: There are numerous trails winding through the landscape, suited for a range of hiking abilities.
  • Fishing: Opportunities abound within the forest's streams and river.
  • Hunting: Designated areas are available for hunting in-season, following Iowa's hunting regulations.
  • Horseback Riding: Equestrian trails are provided for riders, with a campground to accommodate guests with horses.
  • Bird Watching: The diverse habitat makes it an excellent place for bird watching.

Wildlife and Environment

Yellow River State Forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, and numerous bird species. The area is heavily forested with a mix of deciduous trees and evergreens, and the landscape can be quite rugged, which should be considered when planning outdoor activities.

Seasons and Weather

  • Camping is available year-round, but access to certain amenities like water and restrooms may be limited during the winter months.
  • Weather in Iowa can vary greatly depending on the season, so campers should be prepared for hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters.

Rules and Regulations

  • Firewood: To prevent the spread of invasive species, bringing in outside firewood is often discouraged or prohibited. Firewood is typically available for purchase locally or within the forest itself.
  • Pets: Pets are generally allowed in the forest but must be kept on a leash and under control at all times.
  • Leave No Trace: Visitors are expected to follow Leave No Trace principles, keeping the natural habitat undisturbed for wildlife and future visitors.
  • Quiet Hours: Typically enforced to ensure all guests have a peaceful experience.


  • Some campgrounds may have accessible sites and facilities, but the rugged terrain and backcountry areas may present challenges for those with mobility issues.
  • Check the latest information from forest management to understand the level of accessibility before planning a trip.

Contact and Emergency Information

For the latest updates and more detailed information, it's always best to contact the forest's management directly. In case of emergency, visitors should dial 911. Additionally, it's advisable to know the location of the nearest hospital or urgent care facility when camping in a remote area like Yellow River State Forest.

Map of Campgrounds in Yellow River State Forest
Campgrounds in Yellow River State Forest
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