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Passport to the state parks

Incentives offered to ‘check in’ at Iowa's 62 parks this summer

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Angie Fitzpatrick, of Sioux Falls, and her sons, Gabriel Bruns, 11, and Rogan Bruns, 8, spend the afternoon fishing at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area on Sunday.

The Iowa Tourism Office and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are teaming up to encourage Iowans and visitors to visit the dozens of Iowa state parks located across the state.

The Iowa State Park Passport aims to give consumers a “fun and engaging way to track their visits to state parks.”

Park visitors can download their free passport at www.traveliowa.com/passport or by texting PARKS to 515-531-5995. Visitors who “check in” at the 62 participating Iowa state parks with their passports this summer will be eligible for prizes and giveaways.

“2021 has been designated the Year of the Road Trip, and Iowa is ready to be at the center of it all,” said Amy Zeigler, state tourism manager for the Iowa Tourism Office. “Our state parks provide the perfect opportunity to hop in the car or on the bike and embark on the road to adventure.”

In Webster County, parkgoers can visit Dolliver Memorial State Park or Brushy Creek State Recreation Area to check in with their passports.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Ava Eaton, 7, of Fort Dodge, waits for a fish to nibble on her line while fishing with her dad, Kenny Eaton, at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area on Sunday afternoon.

Dolliver Memorial State Park, named after Jonathan P. Dolliver, a Fort Dodge man who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1889 to 1900 and in the U.S. Senate from 1900 to 1910, is located southeast of Otho, between Otho and Lehigh. It was established as a state park in 1925.

At Dolliver, there are 22 campsites, two lodges, two cabins, a group camp with 10 cabins and a dining hall, picnic areas, five miles of trails and a boat ramp on the Des Moines River, which runs alongside the park.

There are also plenty of historic sites within the park. A box canyon known as Boneyard Hollow features rocky streams and beautiful cliff formations. Legends say the canyon is the spot where Native Americans from the Woodland Culture drove bison and deer off the cliffs to hunt them. Deer and bison bones can still be found in the canyon today.

Near the southeast end of the park, Native American burial and ceremonial mounds from the Woodland Culture remain. Out of respect, park visitors who spot the burial mounds should help preserve them by not treading on the mounds or disturbing them.

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located east of Dolliver and sits on about 6,500 acres with a 690-acre lake and three campgrounds. The site is a popular fishing spot, with 21 miles of shoreline, boating and a fishing pier. In Brushy Creek Lake, anglers can expect to catch bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye and muskellunge.

-Messenger file photo
Cliffs tower over the creek next to the playground and picnic areas in Dolliver Memorial Park.

For cyclists and equestrians, there are more than 45 miles of multi-use trails, including a 12-mile gravel trail around the lake. The equestrian campgrounds include a horse-wash area and hitch rails.

Visitors can also swim at the designated beach area, which has four beach cabanas for swimmers.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Iowa state park system and according to the DNR and Iowa Tourism Office, there were nearly 30,000 check-ins at parks across the state in 2020.

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