Sunday, April 4, 2021

2 State Parks in Muscatine

 Our weekend plans changed abruptly thanks to Covid and we had some disappointed minis on our hands. Thinking quickly, we whipped up a couple of road trip plans for our Saturday. All involved visits to State Parks, but we didn't decide definitively until Saturday morning. It was a question of do we head East or North. We chose East, heading to the town of Muscatine, Iowa. There, we visited two state parks in one afternoon: Wildcat Den State Park and Fairport Recreation Area.

We didn't get an early start to our day at all. We slept in, ordered breakfast, ran a couple of errands, and finally left Des Moines around 11 a.m. We had a couple of potty breaks and a stop for lunch. We finally made it to Wildcat Den State Park around 2:15 p.m. We were taken aback by how busy the Park was. Half of the reason we started our State Park Tour was due to how busy our favorite parks and hiking spots had become (due to the pandemic). Thankfully the trails weren't crowded and we had a wonderful afternoon of hiking, rock climbing, and exploring.

We did the Den Trail, which is 4 miles all around the park. It leads to all of the must see spots. The trail and side trails are well marked, the trails are well kept, and when All Trails informs you the trails are ranked as moderate--believe it! There was a lot of climbing, uneven terrain, steep descents, and stairs to climb. My one complaint about the park is the lack of amenities. There were exactly two toilets in the entire park that were open. The only other bathrooms we could find were by the Mill and they weren't open for the season yet. I'm not complaining about the bathrooms being closed for the season (that's pretty typical still for this time of year here), but that there weren't more pit toilets available. For as busy as the park was, and I'm sure it gets much busier, the option of only two toilets up by the camp grounds isn't sufficeint in my opinion.

The mill wasn't open yet for the season. I would have spent more time here, but there was a potty emergency that required us to get back on the trail....and since there were no bathrooms around for miles, we had to pick a spot in the woods.

Devil's Punch Bowl area was our favorite. There were many opportunities to safely go off trail for rock climbing and creek playing.

The boys gave up climbing because it was "too steep." Then they watched their little sister easily climb up herself and they had to go give it a try too. Meanwhile, I had to keep the dog from following them up into the cave in the cliff.

Five minutes away from Wildcat Den State Park is Fairport Recreation Area. I knew ahead of time this was a campground and Mississippi River access (also a big fishing area). We stopped by quickly, the dog went for a swim in the river, and we walked along the banks for a bit. There was a small playground, but someone had their tent set up IN the playground area, so we skipped that. This area would be great if you had a boat and wanted to spend a day on the river fishing, then come back and camp. 

As our road trip came to an end, we listened to the tournament games (via the Paramount+ app on our phones) and drove home as the sun set. We were going to stop for Casey's Pizza, but the wait was going to be 40 minutes. Our car snacks held up over until we got home to eat a late (very late) dinner.

We loved Wildcat Den State Park, however I do feel as though it can get overly crowded quickly. Especially the Mill area, which is in the eastern part of the park and separated from everything else. We had spoken about doing this park a few weeks ago when there was still snow on the ground and I'm soooo glad we didn't! I think many of the areas would have been impassable or extremely difficult and dangerous. A fellow hiker said the ice and snow in the canyon had just melted within the last week and a half, so it seems we waited until just the right time!