Lake Manawa State Park opens new campground | Recreation


Rachel George and Joe Shearer The Daily Nonpareil

Iowa’s new Lake Manawa State Park Campground has opened, and it’s already a hit with visitors from near and far.

The 40-site campground, which has been open since late June, offers modern amenities including fully connected campsites, a shower, and a paved walking path connecting the campground to the beach and Dreamland Playground. . It also has a closed entrance to access the campsite.

The old campground was closed in 2015 and was rebuilt as a picnic area with a large pavilion in 2017, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“It was dated and in need of a lot of upgrading,” said DNR Southwest District Supervisor Michelle Reining. “We closed the old one and then the new one in the new location had been in the works ever since.”

The new campground is located in a more centralized location, closer to the playground and swimming beach.

A registration building at the gate of the campground provides online and telephone reservation information for those who come to the park looking for a site. Campers will be given a four digit access code to open the gate and enter the campsite.

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The 40 campsites are available for online reservations; walk-in sites will not be an option.

“Lake Manawa is the third state park in Iowa to offer 100 percent reservable campsites,” said Sherry Arntzen, chief of the DNR’s Office of Parks, Forests, and Preserves. “Campers have been pleased with the flexibility and convenience it provides and we are excited to provide this functionality and for campers to enjoy this beautiful new campground.”

With 100% bookable sites, availability is known in real time. Campers can research and reserve sites online before leaving home, on the way to the park or at the campground.

Reservations can be made from April 15 to Oct. 15 until 9 p.m. on the day of arrival online at or by calling the Reservations Call Center at 877-427-2757 weekdays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The call center is closed on Sundays.

“Having the reservations 100% bookable and same day actually gives our customers more flexibility,” Reining said. “Lake Manawa is located right between two highways. Travelers walking down the road may pull out their phone and see, “Oh, yes, Lake Manawa has a campground available. They can then reserve it and know that they have a campsite.

The process also makes it easier for campers to reserve a site three months in advance or check if sites are available on a whim.

Customers will no longer need to fill out paper walk-in registration forms or pay by cash or check; all reservations will require payment by credit card online or over the phone. Customers can still pay by check if the reservation is made through the call center and made at least 21 days in advance.

Construction of the campground began in the fall of 2020. It officially opened on June 1.

Reining said feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They like nice, big and wide sites; the concrete pads and the access to the playground and the beach right there,” she said. “The only negative I’ve heard is that there are no trees. This is part of all new construction, unfortunately. We will be planting trees in the near future.

On Saturday afternoon, the Manawa campgrounds were full of RVs and campers, with a handful of tents scattered throughout. Local and foreign visitors expressed their appreciation for the new facilities.

Council Bluffs’ Denny Nelson spent the weekend at the new campground with his grandchildren and dogs. He said it was the first time he had checked it out and it wouldn’t be the last.

“I’m already looking for another weekend to come here,” he said.

He said he was impressed with the amenities, especially the RV hookups and the spacious concrete slabs for each campsite. He said having a sewer connection at each site was a game-changer for campers staying in RVs, without having to queue at a sewage disposal site at the park exit.

Nelson and his grandchildren enjoyed biking along trails and walking their dogs along the waterfront. He said he really wanted to have a place by the lake for his RV next time.

Cincinnati, Ohio-area Chatsworth Jacobs and his family spent the last few days at Lake Manawa as they returned from a road trip to Yellowstone National Park and the village of Colter Bay in Wyoming. Having stayed at several state parks across the country, Jacobs said it was one of the best experiences he’s had, noting the modern amenities and nearby beach and playground for kids. . They had a spot right by the water and it complimented the sites space.

“It’s a great campground,” he said. “We will look to stay here whenever we travel west again.”

James Thomas, a Council Bluffs resident who just spent the last week at the new campground, provided a review in the Council Bluffs Facebook discussion group.

“The campground was full not only of RVs, but there were several tent campers,” he said. “The campsites are huge, you’re not crammed on top of each other.”

The amateur photographer said wildlife was everywhere.

“Sitting under the canopy relaxed in the shade, you could hear the barred owls calling to each other in the morning and evening,” Thomas said. “A short walk on a trail and you would see them. Every afternoon, I observed an eagle, a vulture and a kestrel flying or roosting in the trees. The trees were full of songbirds.

Out-of-State User Permit Required for Lake Manawa and Waubonsie State Parks

The Iowa Legislature extended the out-of-state user permit requirement for Lake Manawa and Waubonsie State Parks through December 31, 2025. The law also changes the expiration date of annual permits for one year from the date of purchase, at the end of the calendar year.

Annual permits purchased from January 1 to June 30, 2022 will be honored until 2023 and will expire one year from the date of purchase. Annual permits purchased from July 1 will be valid until the end of 2022.

The daily permit for foreign visitors costs $5 and an annual permit costs $40. Daily passes can be purchased at pay stations throughout the park. Those with a camping reservation do not need the out-of-state use permit.

More information can be found at


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