Many websites online claim there are 4 National Park Sites in the Hawkeye State.
The truth is that there are only 2 National Parks in Iowa; Effigy Mounds National Monument and Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.
National Parks in Iowa
You may ask why is everyone claiming there are 4 National Parks in Iowa then.
That's a great question and the answer is that there are two additional affiliated areas.
Affiliated Areas are parks that are not owned by the federal government, thus they are not National Parks at all.
Affiliated Areas do receive financial and/or administrative support from the National Parks Service and tell important history of the United States.
Examples of this in Iowa include the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.
Are there any National Parks in Iowa?
The next question is are there any National Parks in Iowa? The short answer is that there are no designated National Parks in Iowa however there are 2 National Park Sites in Iowa.
This is because the National Park Service reserves this name for parks with a variety of resources and encompasses a large enough area (either land and/or water) to provide adequate protection of the resource being protected.
Make sure to read more about the National Parks land classification system to gain a good understanding of the naming of parks.
Top Things to do - Begin at the Visitor Center, Hiking Trails, and Ranger Programs
Lodging - Effigy Mounds National Monument does not have on-site lodging. However, there are lodging options in nearby towns such as Harper's Ferry, Prairie du Chien, Marquette, McGregor, and Lansing.
Camping- There are no camping options within the National Monument
Park Address - 151 Hwy 76
Harpers Ferry, IA 52146
Effigy Mounds NM is located in northeastern Iowa approximately 65 miles north of Dubuque and 222 miles from Des Moines, Iowa. The park is open year-round offering the opportunity to walk trails near Indian Mounds.
You can see the 200+ American Indian mounds that are located in the gorgeous Upper Mississippi River Valley near Harpers Ferry, Iowa. From around 1,400 to 850 years ago Native Americans living in this area built hundreds of effigy mounds in the shape of birds, lizards, bison, and commonly bears.
Mounds were built in other places across the United States but only in the upper Midwest did they build these effigy mounds. The park is located along a gorgeous stretch of the Upper Mississippi River. There are more than 200 burial and ceremonial mounds within the park including conical and linear mounds.
31 of the mounds are effigy mounds which is one of the largest concentrations of such earthworks in existence. The monument is recognized as a Native American Sacred Site.
Don't miss the park video which helps describe the people who built the earth mounds. If you are visiting in the summer check out the ranger programs for guided walks and information.
Top Things to do - Get Started at the Visitor Center, Picnic Where the President Picnicked, Be A Junior Ranger, Walk the Nature Trails, Visit Downtown West Branch, Take a Self-guided Tour, Explore Herbert Hoover's Hometown, Tour the Presidential Library & Museum
Lodging - Herbert Hoover National Historic Site does not have on-site lodging. However, you can find lodging options in West Branch, nearby Iowa City, Coralville, Tipton, and Cedar Rapids, including hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts.
Camping- There are no campgrounds within the Historic Site
Park Address - 110 Parkside Drive
West Branch 52358
Herbert Hoover was the 31st President of the United States and was the first US President born west of the Mississippi River. President Hoover and his wife Lou Henry helped plan what is now the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. They were intent on providing an understanding of the life and work of our 31st president. He was inaugurated in 1929.
The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site includes a visitor center, a short film about President Hoover's childhood in West Branch, Iowa, the restored two-room cottage where President Hoover was born, A blacksmith shop that represents the work that President Hoover's father did, and an 1853 one-room schoolhouse. Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover's gravesites are also located at this site.
You can enjoy a self-guided tour of the grounds and an 81-acre tallgrass prairie. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are located nearby and have additional exhibits about his life and work. You can learn more about the work that was completed during his presidency of the United States along with what life was like growing up in Iowa and moving to Oregon.
Affiliates Areas in Iowa
Top Things to do - explore (kayak) the Water Trails, visit Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, Lake Manawa State Park, Lewis and Clark State Park, Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Western Historic Trails Center, Lewis and Clark Trail Cycle Route, explore Mondamin, Iowa, visit Mills County Historical Museum, Sioux City Public Museum, Sergeant Floyd River Museum & Welcome Center, DeSoto and Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuges, Remnant of Sergeant Floyd’s casket at Sioux City Public Museum
Lodging - For lodging, you can explore options in nearby cities such as Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
Camping- There are campgrounds along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Iowa, including Lewis and Clark State Park. Private campgrounds and RV parks are also available in the region.
Park Address - The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Iowa does not have a specific address.
Lewis and Clark State Park (Visitor Center)
21914 Park Loop
Onawa, IA 51040
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center
601 Riverfront Drive
Omaha, NE 68102
Lewis and Clark NHT is approximately 4,900 miles long and crosses sixteen states following the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail includes the following locations in Iowa:
Lake Manawa State Park - Site of Lewis & Clark’s White Catfish camp at the Western Historic Trails Center.
Onawa, Iowa - Lewis & Clark Visitors Center – Keelboat display and re-enactment area.
Sioux City, Iowa - Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
Top Things to do - Activities include auto-touring, visiting interpretive sites, hiking, camping, biking, horseback riding, and visiting museums and interpretive centers.
Lodging - There are no National Park Lodges along this route
Camping - I am not aware of any designated National Park Campsites along this route.
Park Address -
National Trails Office Regions 6/7/8
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM. 87505
Commonly called the Mormon Pioneer Trail begins at Nauvoo, Illinois traveling almost 1400 miles through five states (Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah) ending around Salt Lake City, Utah.
Navoo was where a large population of Mormons had settled and was initially welcomed.
Their relations soon soured due to religious differences, especially when the press published about plural marriages.
The Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, was arrested then a mob broke him and his brother ot of jail and murdered them.
Brigham Young stepped in as Smith's successor and planned an evacuation in the Spring of 1846 of approximately 15,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as they were no longer safe. On March 1, 1846, some 5000 Mormon wagons heades west towards present-day Salt Lake City on what is today known as the Mormon Trail.
List of National Parks in Iowa
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA)
- Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail (IL, IA, NE, UT, WY)
There are 2 National Parks in Iowa that receive an estimated 196K visitors each year. These visitors produce over $15 million dollars in economic benefits from tourism.
Iowa National Parks include 1 National Heritage Area, 2 National Trails managed by the National Park Service, 2,372 National Register of Historic Places Listing, and 26 National Historic Landmarks.
National Parks in Iowa also includes 7 National Natural Landmarks, 487 places recorded by the Heritage documentation program, and 179,225 objects in the Iowa National Park Museum collections.
If you have dreamed of working in the National Parks make sure and check out our article on How to Become a Park Ranger. Working in the parks is one of the most amazing jobs you can find. There is just something special about waking up and knowing you are going to work in a beautiful park.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
For a fun adventure, check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built-in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
National Parks in the Neighboring States