Homer's Travels: Hiking Iowa: Wilson Island State Park

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hiking Iowa: Wilson Island State Park

My latest hike took me to Wilson Island State Park.  The park borders the Missouri River and DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.  The highlights of this park are the Missouri River, a marshy chute, and large stands of cottonwood and dogwood.  Preparing for this hike I printed out a trail map and planned my path.  The limited length of most of the trails meant that I would have to combine some or all of the park's trails.

When I arrived I stopped at the kiosk to confirm my printed map with the one on display.  Confirming that they matched, I looked for trailheads.  Remarkably there was no parking near the two trailheads near the entrance.  After driving deeper into the park following the map and not finding trailhead parking, I found a place to park at a boat ramp that was near one of the trails.

I got my gear ready and walked over to check out the short dock next to the boat ramp.  As I approached a dozen or more frogs scrambled into the water.  I walked out on the dock and inspected the chute.  Unlike Boyer Chute, this chute has not been reconnected to the Missouri River.  This makes the chute look more like a boggy marsh dominated by water plants and lily pads.

I started north on the Chute trail, the longest trail in the park.  Like it's name suggests, this trail follows the western edge of the chute.  The trail is a wide grassy trail through tall trees and shorter bushes and dogwood. Some of the smaller trees were starting to change into fall colors.

The trail curves to the west and comes out close to the kiosk and park office.  I crossed the road and found the trailhead to the Mushroom trail.  This trail parallels the road and is flanked by more tall trees on both sides.  I came across the carcass of a small mole laying in the middle of the trail.  I poked it with my walking staff.  The Wife thinks that's so 10 year old.  She might be right.

The Mushroom trail exits into the campgrounds.  There were several RVs/Campers in the grounds but I didn't see anyone around.  I walked along the road to another boat ramp on the Missouri river.

From here I started on the Riverside trail.  The trail is flanked by trees and meadows on one side and the Missouri river on the other.  This part of the hike was a little noisy as there was an open gravel pit on the other side of the river.  The sound of large dump trucks and machinery drowned out most of the sound of nature.

I reached a small parking area and waved at a fisherman loading his fishing gear into his pickup.  I left the trail here and followed a road north until I reach a connector trail that lead to the Dogwood trail.  I followed this trail back to the campground.  There were numbered posts along this trail.  Unfortunately I didn't have a key. At the campground there was a box near the trailhead but it was empty.  This always seems to be the case.  Parks always seem to have trouble keeping trail maps and guides stocked.

I walked a short distance and followed another connector trail to the White-Tail trail.  I followed this loop around through trees and brush filled meadows until it reached the road.

Across the road the trail became the Chute trail once again and I followed it back south before turning north again along the chute before reaching the boat ramp and my car.

The hike was relatively flat and provided an easy but attractive series of trails.  The trails might be very interesting when the dogwood is blooming in the spring.

Pictures can be found here .  Total distance was 5.46 miles with an elevation change of 388 feet.


  1. So are you and The Wife going to go camping in the campground at some point?

  2. GH: Me ... The Wife ... Camping ... BWAA HA HA HA HA!