Lake Darling State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Lake Darling State Park is a fantastic park with more than 1,400 acres to explore and enjoy including a 302-acre lake full of fish. Just a few miles from Brighton in Washington County, Iowa, this great park has over 18 miles of shoreline including Honey Creek as well as the fully stocked Lake Darling. The park was dedicated in 1950 and named after Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. Jay was an editorial cartoonist and conservationist who helped support the conservation of state parks. With 80 campsites that have both pull-thru and back-in spots ranging from 40 to 130 feet in length, you should have no problem finding the right spot no matter how large your RV.

The park is located in southeastern Iowa where the summers are hot, the winters are cold, and you can find a plethora of activities no matter what the season. From swimming and boating in the summer to snowmobiling and ice fishing in the winter, you can spend every season at Lake Darling State Park. You will also find a concession stand on the beach in the summer, playgrounds for the kids, modern restrooms, and hot showers. You can try your luck at some fishing for dinner or spend your day exploring the natural beauty of the Iowa woods. There are six different trails, and one of them has a historic graveyard where you can take some selfies to share on Facebook.

RV Rentals in Lake Darling State Park

Transportation in Lake Darling State Park

Driving

Lake Darling State Park is in Southeastern Iowa five minutes from Brighton to the east, 20 minutes from Washington to the northeast and Fairfield to the southwest, and 40 minutes from Mount Pleasant to the southeast. Some of the roads after you get off highway one have some treacherous turns so take your time, especially if you are driving a big rig or pulling a trailer. Also, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the road, especially at night or early morning. Have your camera ready to get some pics of the wild critters as you pass by.

The park roads are well-kept and easy to maneuver, but if you are in a large motorhome, you will have to take it slow and watch for low-hanging branches. As far as campsites, there are many to choose from and several of them are 100 to 130 feet long, so you do not have to worry about not being able to fit your rig in your site. They also have overflow parking available if parking is limited due to crowding. The best way to get around while you are camping is to park the RV at your campsite and walk or ride a bike through the park.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Lake Darling State Park

Campsites in Lake Darling State Park

Reservations camping

Lake Darling Campsites

Located along the south fork of Lake Darling, this park has one of the best campgrounds in the state. There are 80 campsites, 15 featuring full hook-ups (sewer/water/electric), 50 with standard electric, and 15 non-electric sites with a modern shower and restroom facilities. All sites have fire rings and picnic tables, and can accommodate up to six people. Your dogs are welcome but must be on a lead of six feet or less. You will find both pull-thru and back-in spots ranging from 40 feet to 130 feet in length, so you should not have any trouble parking your RV no matter how big it is. The campground also has a playground as well as a conveniently located dump station. Within a few feet of the lake, you can easily walk to the beach or dock to enjoy a day on the water before walking back for a BBQ and some campfire stories before bed.

First-come first-served

First-Come, First-Served

There are some campsites that are first-come, first-served and will be the discretion of the campsite host or park ranger.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Lake Darling State Park

In-Season

Boating

Lake Darling has more than 300 acres for you to enjoy with three large boat ramps. With that much space, you have enough room to enjoy many water sports such as water skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding. The maximum depth is 24 feet so you will not have to worry whether you have a huge pontoon boat or a small kayak. If you don’t have your own boat, Friends of the Lake Darling Boat Rental can rent you one. Grab some munchies from the concession stand and don’t forget your life jackets. Leave the rig behind and get out on the water for a while before dinner.

Fishing

Be sure to pack your fishing gear in the rig before you head out because Lake Darling is known to have some lunker catfish and trophy-sized bass. Whether you are using a jig or crankbait for bass or some cut bait for catfish, you will likely catch something from Lake Darling. There are also some huge crappie, carp, bluegills, and bream just waiting for you to toss out your line. No matter whether you are fishing from shore or in a boat, the lake is reported to have some big ones.

Family Picnic

Has it been forever since you had a family get-together? You can reserve one of the two scenic picnic shelters at Lake Darling for a reunion or picnic to get reacquainted. The 2,665-square foot Cottonwood Shelter holds up to 150 people and looks right over the lake. It also includes a boat ramp, several tables, two BBQ grills, and a pit toilet. The 591-square foot Beach Shelter holds up to 30 people, has four tables, one grill, and modern toilets with running water. Both shelters have electricity, and they are both ADA accessible. Pack your motorhome with family and head for the lake.

Off-Season

Bird Watching

Are you a bird watcher or do you just like taking pictures of different birds in their natural habitat? Lake Darling State Park has over 200 species of feathered critters. From the huge bald eagle to the tiny rufous hummingbird, you can spot just about any kind of bird if you are quiet and have a good camera or binoculars. There are eight types of wrens, 11 different woodpecker species, 13 species of finches, more than 20 types of raptors, and 26 different sparrows. Make sure you pack the camera in the rig before you head to the park so you can share the pics on Facebook.

Snowmobiling

During the off-season, Lake Darling State Park can be a solitude lovers' dream, and since you have the motorhome, you can stay warm and toasty. But if you want to get out on the snow and see the sights, be sure to hook up the trailer and bring your snowmobiles because they have six snowmobile trails. Yes, you can snowmobile on any of the six trails in the park but watch out for hikers because they share the trail with you.

Hiking

If you like to hike, Lake Darling is a great choice because they have six trails to choose from. The 10.2-mile Main Trail meanders around the entire lake, and the Lakeshore Loop is a nice short one mile through the woods to the historic cemetery. This trail leads to the East Loop, which is two miles long, and the half-mile Prairie Trail is a grassland and wildflower wonder. The one-mile Rubio Trail meanders along the creek, and for those who want to fish, the Fishing Loop is just for you and is ADA accessible. As soon as you park your RV, you can get out and stretch your legs on one or more of these awesome trails.

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