Elk Rock State Park, Knoxville, Iowa

It’s almost the off season, end of September, and so the park does have a little different atmosphere, fall leaves, some rain, and empty during the week and almost full on the weekend. This large state park has a “regular” or non-equestrian campground area and an equestrian area. Elk Rock State Park is on Red Rock Lake and is 40 miles southeast of Des Moines, Iowa. There is a popular raceway in nearby Knoxville. 10 miles east is the historic Dutch village of Pella. I haven’t been able to find out where the name “Elk Rock” came from.

The campsites are a little close for my liking and for other state parks I’ve experienced but there aren’t many other campers most of the week so it doesn’t seem crowded. There are three non-equestrian camping circles in a set up I thought was a little unusual. One ring of campsites is 30 amp only, then down the road is a second ring of pull-thru sites that is 50 amp only and finally, at the end of the road is the dry camping sites in a large ring. In order to use other facilities such as the marina or day use picnic area, you would have to drive from the campground. The equestrian campground seemed more crowded during the week than the one I’m in when I drove by.

Space #64

There is a dump station on the way out which includes a drinking water hose to fill up your water tank. The campgrounds don’t have any sewer or water facilities at the sites. There is a bathroom and shower house within walking distance of the 30 amp campground, a little farther if you’re in one of the other two circles.

For a link to the equestrian campground, go here.

I had spot #64 which was one of the more level sites although I needed to add about 5″ on one wheel and I still leaned a little bit but decided not to worry about it. Some of the other sites are quite steep in slope. The reservation website gives a good description of each site, including slope.

The boat ramp is just down the road and there is plenty of parking to stop off and do some bird watching or hiking. The birdlife is really abundant. I walked the dogs for about 30 minutes and in that time I saw 4 wild turkeys, half a dozen turkey vultures, a pelican, an egret, and three or four herons. I also saw some unidentified ducks and various other smaller birds. Five miles back down the highway is the town of Knoxville with the fairgrounds and raceway. There is also a very nice dog park that used to be a baseball field. It was convenient to stop in town for gas and a burger and not be too far from the campground.

Red Rock Lake
At the boat ramp
Knoxville dog park, a former ball field.

The little historic town of Pella is a 25 minute trip and I happened to be here for their annual fall festival. There is a square of 22 historic buildings including an authentic Dutch windmill that can be toured. Many of the shops and restaurants embrace the Dutch theme. I toured the 5 story windmill, which features a Dutch village in miniature on the 2nd floor, as well as a trip to In’t Veld Meat Market & Deli and Vander Ploeg Bakery.

Pella windmill
Klokkenspel (clock) with performances throughout the day.

On Sunday, we drove up the road about 5 miles to Cordova Park, which features a very high observation tower. You can climb the tower and get a great view for about 50 cents, I think, but I had the dogs with me so we didn’t. There is a lakeside trail called Karr Trail that we took, and even though it had rained heavily the night before, the trail was dry and passable. There were wooden bridges across wet spots and ravines.

Cordova Observation Tower
Karr hiking trail follows Red Rock Lake.

The state park has a multitude of equestrian trails throughout but as it was a very wet week, we skipped hiking those, although I’m sure in the summer, it would be lots of fun for walkers, dogs, bikes, or horses.

My Verizon service was almost nonexistent in the state park so if you have Verizon, don’t rely on it for GPS getting there or for wifi service while at the park. My GPS actually quit about 2 miles from the park but I was able to spot the sign to turn in time.

Is there a lake through those trees?

4 thoughts on “Elk Rock State Park, Knoxville, Iowa

Add yours

  1. Your posts about places you stay are very comprehensive. Although I’m in another part of the country (mid Atlantic area) and don’t expect to go where you’ve been, the descriptions are very good.


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