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Camping at Backbone State Park

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General Overview

Backbone State Park is Iowa's oldest state park, named for the rugged cliff line of the Maquoketa River, referred to as the "Devil's Backbone." It's located in Delaware County in the northeastern part of Iowa. This park is a fantastic destination for nature lovers, offering a variety of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, and rock climbing.

Camping Information

Campground Options:

  • Backbone State Park has both electric and non-electric campsites, accommodating both RVs and tent campers.
  • There are two primary campgrounds: South Lake Campground and Six Pines Campground.


  • Campsites can be reserved online through the Iowa State Parks reservation system.
  • Some campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but reservations are recommended, especially during peak season.

Facilities & Amenities:

  • Modern restrooms and shower buildings are available in the park.
  • Each campsite typically features a fire ring and a picnic table.
  • A playground is available in the park for children.


  • Overnight camping fees vary based on the type of site (electric vs. non-electric) and the time of year.
  • Always check the current fee schedule before planning your trip, as prices are subject to change.

Outdoor Activities

Backbone State Park offers a wide array of activities for campers and day visitors, including:

  • Hiking: The park boasts over 21 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes. The trails traverse picturesque areas showcasing the park's unique geology.

  • Fishing: Anglers can enjoy fishing in the clear waters of the Maquoketa River for trout and other species. A valid Iowa fishing license is required.

  • Rock Climbing: The park is a popular spot for rock climbing and rappelling, particularly around the "Devil's Backbone."

  • Boating and Swimming: While there is no lifeguard on duty, the park has a beach where swimming is allowed. Boating is also popular on the lake, although certain restrictions may apply.

  • Picnicking: There are multiple picnicking areas available throughout the park, which include tables and grills.

  • Nature Observations: The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife and bird species, making it a great spot for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Rules and Regulations

  • Pet Policy: Pets are generally allowed in the park and campgrounds but must be kept on a leash and supervised at all times.

  • Quiet Hours: To ensure an enjoyable experience for all campers, quiet hours are typically enforced from 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

  • Alcohol Policy: Alcohol is generally prohibited in all Iowa state parks, including Backbone State Park. Check for specific regulations at the time of your visit.

  • Firewood: To prevent the spread of invasive species, it is recommended to obtain firewood locally within the park or nearby.

  • Waste Disposal: Campers are expected to keep their campsites clean and utilize appropriate waste disposal stations for trash and recycling.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

  • Weather: Iowa generally has a humid continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. It's important to check the weather forecast before your camping trip and to prepare for rapidly changing conditions.

  • Peak Season: The peak season for camping in Backbone State Park is during the warmer months from May through September. Spring and fall can also be delightful times to visit with fewer crowds and mild temperatures.

Make sure to check the current conditions and any potential alerts or closures before your visit. Regulations and facilities may change, so it's always best to have updated information for a safe and enjoyable trip.

Map of Campgrounds in Backbone State Park
Campgrounds in Backbone State Park
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