Located along the shores of the Mississippi River in Iowa, Bellevue State Park offers some of the finest natural wonders in the state. Rich in local history and replete with geological interest, the park draws academics as well as naturalists to the park to study the dolomite outcroppings and stunning limestone bluffs. This 788-acre park is separated into two tracts: the Dyas and the Nelson Unit, with camping allowed only in the Dyas tract. Whether you’re visiting for the day or staying for a week, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy at Bellevue State Park.
This park is well-known for its spectacular and diverse hiking trails, one of which overlooks the Mississippi River. When you visit the park, stand atop the 250-foot high limestone bluff, which gives guests a panoramic view of America’s most famous river. Campers can head over to the South Bluff Nature Center to learn more about animals you are likely to see in the area, as well as more about the area’s native trees and plants.
You’ll see more than just natural beauty whenever you take an RV visit to Bellevue State Park. Archaeological sites nearby will give you a taste of the state’s history dating back to the 1300s. Indian Mounds and the Pulpit Rock give you a window into another world, allowing you to travel back in time and learn more about America’s native cultures. There are so many natural wonders to explore and history to discover when you take that RV road trip to Iowa's Bellevue State Park.
Bellevue State Park is located on the shores of the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. It is just 21 miles from Dubuque, so you can reach the park in around half an hour. If you are coming from Iowa City, you can reach the park in a little under two hours if you take IA-1 and US-151. The park is around a three-hour drive from Chicago, and can also easily be reached from Madison, Wisconsin.
Once you reach the park, there are easy-to-navigate roads, so you should have no issues finding your campsite. The campgrounds are located at a site south of the main areas of the park. You’ll have easy access to the river as well as to the Nature Center and the park’s main trails.
You’ll find 46 sites at the Bellevue Campground located in the Dyas Unit for RVs, trailers, and tents. Located just south of most of the park’s main attractions, the campground offers 30- and 50-amp electric service in 30 of the sites. One host site has full hookups. Five more sites have no hookups at all, making them more suitable for tent camping. Restrooms and showers are centrally located, and a dump station is available for your use. All of the campsites are within walking distance of the Mississippi River and many have shade.
There are facilities located in the campground and roads that provide easy access to all of the campsites. Water is available but is sometimes shut off during the winter.
The campground tends to be busiest during the summer. If you are planning a visit then, you should book well in advance. The sites have different max lengths, but some sites can accommodate a trailer or RV up to 66 feet long. All of the sites allow pets.
A quarter of the campsites at the Bellevue Campground are reserved for campers on a first-come, first-served basis.
With three covered shelters and two playgrounds, you'll want to pack a lunch and enjoy the scenery on an afternoon picnic in the park. Bellevue State Park's beautiful limestone bluffs and lush plant life make an excellent backdrop for a family luncheon. Take a walk on Indian Mounds Trail and rest up with a snack in the provided shelter or throw a blanket on the ground under a large shade tree. On the Nelson side of the park, you can picnic with a view of the Mississippi River and feed the ducks. Choose the Dyas side of the park for more rugged views of the landscape during your picnic in the park.
Anglers won't want to miss fishing the famous Mississippi River. About two miles from the Dyas Campground, in the Nelson Unit of the park, you'll have easy access to crappie, largemouth bass, trout, and more, but you'll want to check local regulations on catch and release and taking your limit of certain species. You'll also need an Iowa fishing license, but this allows you two rods in the water if you can handle it. Certain types of bait are not allowed, so you'll want to get all this information from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources before heading to the river.
Open seasonally, the South Bluff Nature Center will give you the chance to see some of the state’s local animals face-to-face. Take an interpretive hike with a park ranger to learn about the local ecosystem. You’ll also find a variety of native flora and fauna that will give you an appreciation of the region’s natural wonders. While you are there, make sure to check out the Aquarium Display and learn about local aquatic species.
Head to the nearby Butterfly Garden to see a mix of perennial and annual flowers and dozens of different butterfly species. Over 50 different species call the garden home from spring to fall.
Make sure you time your RV visit so that you don’t miss out on the Nature Center, as it is closed during the winter, except for occasional Saturdays throughout the year.
No matter what kind of hike you’re looking for, you’ll find something for you at Bellevue State Park. Take a relaxing walk that will lead you through the Butterfly Garden, where you can see a beautiful mix of flowers and many different species of butterflies.
Feeling a bit more adventurous? Try one of the seven trails the park has to offer. Take a hike on the Quarry Trail and see a lime kiln at the end of the trail. You’ll also have access to the Indian Mounds that dot the area. One of the park’s best views can be reached by hiking up to the top of a limestone bluff overlooking the world-famous Mississippi River. The hike can be strenuous, but you’ll be glad you made the effort when you’re 250 feet above the Mississippi
If you're into native botany, you won't want to miss the Nature Trail where you will see diverse plant life including prairie grasses and wildflowers. If you'd rather see some waterfowl on your journey through the park, take the Duck Trail for a nearly two-mile hike, but don't forget to bring your binoculars. You may even spot a bald eagle.
If you are looking for a great area for seasonal hunting and RV camping, you’ll find it at Bellevue State Park. The Nelson Unit of the park has a 220-acre public access area for hunting. This land is planted with tall grass to attract a steady population of deer, turkey, and pheasants. You’ll find excellent sightlines and plenty of varied terrains to make your hunts interesting.
Autumn is not only hunting season, but it is a beautiful time to visit the park. Make sure to snap some pictures of the changing leaves before you head home with your tagged prey. Go online to find out about hunting licenses and other requirements as well as season dates before you schedule your RV hunting trip.
No matter what time of year, you’ll find perfect trails for your jogs or runs throughout Bellevue State Park. Take a run through the Indian Mounds that can be found in the park, or run up the Quarry Trail for a serious workout that will have you out of breath.
Dogs are allowed on all of the park’s trails if you want a companion on your runs. Whether you want an early spring run to shake off the winter’s cold, or a jog through the warm colors of autumn, you’ll find the perfect trail at Bellevue State Park.
Test your archery skills at any time of year during your RV stay at Bellevue State Park. Located in the Nelson Unit of the park, and just a quick walk from the campsites, you’ll find ranges where you can practice your bowmanship. It’s a great activity for the whole family. Compete with your family to see who is the most accurate. Once you’re done, you can stretch your legs on one of the many easy to access trails, or head to a picnic area to have lunch and relax.
Butterflies aren’t the only flying wildlife you can catch a glimpse of around Bellevue State Park. Come any time of the year to see the different birds visiting the park. In mid-autumn, you'll see several bird species migrating south for the winter. You can also see several varieties of waterfowl attracted by the Mississippi River. Bald eagles are known to frequent the area as well. Bird watching is an excellent activity to combine with hiking on the many trails of Bellevue State Park.
Grab your binoculars out of the campervan and hike up to the limestone bluff to get a view of the different birds of the park from up high. There are dozens of different species for you to see. The types of birds you find will always change throughout the year, so you’ll be able to see something new every time you come back to the park.