Rolling, forested hills dip gently into stream-crossed valleys. A quiet river, with limestone bluffs occasionally jutting out above its shores, winds and babbles its way through the woods. A deer stops to take a drink from the water, while a pileated woodpecker sails from treetop to treetop overhead ... Would you believe you’re in Iowa?
At over 5,500 acres, Volga River State Recreation Area is a large, sylvan island set in one of the most agriculturally-intensive regions of the country. But visitors will quickly forget about uniform fields of corn and soy once they pass through the park’s wooded bounds. Whether hiking, riding, paddling or snowmobiling, guests can explore the rich forests, prairies, streams and lakes which the park has to offer via its extensive trail network. Anglers will find both Frog Hollow Lake and the Volga River to be both rich and scenic fishing grounds. Naturalists will be drawn to the area’s diverse plant life; wildlife is plentiful too, with deer, red fox, muskrat, mink, beaver, bullfrogs, pickerel frogs, milk snakes, fox snakes, map turtles and much more populating the park’s woods, prairies and waterways.
Two campgrounds, one of them equestrian, are available to RV campers traveling to Volga River State Recreation Area. Electricity and full-hookup sites are available; about a quarter of sites are first-come-first-served, but the rest are reservable.
Though there are a couple of access points to the park, most visitors will find the quickest route is to travel through the west entrance via Ivy Road, which itself connects to IA – 150 via a short stretch on 175th street. Ivy Road heads to the center of the park and hits a fork; I avenue and the Lakeview Campground are off to the north, and Hill Road and the equestrian Volga River Campground are off to the south. Roads are paved, straight and (this is Iowa after all!) very flat, so drivers should have no troubles getting around. If you need to stock up, basic supplies, food, ATMs, restaurants and more are available nearby in the town of Fayette, which is just off of IA – 150, southwest of the park.
The campgrounds themselves are spacious and parking is straightforward. Even larger rigs shouldn’t have too much difficulty maneuvering into their spot. Many of the parks trailheads and picnic areas, as well as a couple of boat launches, are located very close to the campgrounds.
The Lakeview Campground, as its name suggests, sits in full view of beautiful Frog Hollow Lake. Sites are partially shaded and are set within a grassy field. The campground consists of one spur and one loop. In all, there are 41 RV-suitable sites. Thirty-four of these are full hookup, while the rest just have electric. A modern restroom, with showers, is available during on-season, and vault toilets are available year-round. A dumping station is located right at the entrance to the campground.
The campground offers quick and easy access to the picnic areas, day use shelters, piers, boat launch and trailheads near and on Fog Hollow Lake. Thick woods, open prairies, and scenic overlooks are all just a short hike away.
Thirty of the sites at Lakeview are reservable, while the remaining eleven are first-come-first-served. This is the more popular of the park’s two campsites, and reservations are encouraged, especially during summer.
Set in a woods-lined field, the Volga River Equestrian Campground offers a scenic, convenient launching place from which to explore the surrounding park on horseback. Several trailheads, all of which are equestrian-friendly, can be found just up the road. And the quiet, meandering Volga river is just a few steps away, so visitors can head down and relax along the gently rippling water after a long day of riding.
34 sites with electric are available for horse campers (there’s also a smaller tent-loop attached to the end of the campground). Facilities include hitching posts, picnic tables and two vault toilets. Sites are laid out on a straightforward loop with no sharp angles or turns; most sites are back in, but a few are pull-through. Two manure bunkers are present, and park staff ask that riders kindly pick up after their horses.
Six sites are first-come-first served, while the rest are reservable.
Ample fish stocks are one of the Volga River’s biggest draws. Anglers looking for some quiet lakeside fishing can cast their lines in Frog Hollow Lake, which is populated with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and more. Those looking for even greater solitude can take a walk or a paddle down the Volga itself; the slowly meandering river is lined by cliffs and forests and provides a marvelous setting in which anglers can catch smallmouth bass, rock bass, white suckers and more.
Four access points are provided to canoers and kayakers who want to explore the Volga River by boat. The river’s gently flowing waters let paddlers relax and take in the sights and sounds of the verdant landscape that surrounds them. Watch turtles plop into the water from the bank or observe herons stalking the shallows for their next meal. Kayakers, canoers, or any boaters who are operating at “non-wake” speeds can also explore placid Frog Hollow Lake, which is right next to the lake view campground.
One of Volga River’s two campgrounds is dedicated to equestrians, who will find plenty to do here. All of the Recreation Area’s trails are multi-use, allowing for equestrian travel, and trail riding is one of the more popular activities at the park. Northeastern Iowa is sometimes referred to as “Little Switzerland” because of its verdant fields, picturesque bluffs and gently rolling woodlands; trail riders can take all of these features in as they crisscross the park on horseback.
Riders should note that trails may be closed sometimes during late winter or spring due to excessively muddy conditions.
Winter does not preclude fun or exploration at Volga River - recreation just takes a different form. Several of the park’s trails are groomed for snowmobile use during the winter months, meaning visitors can sail across gently undulating hills, across frosted prairies and underneath the snow-covered bows of stately hardwoods. The area averages about three feet of snow per year, which means conditions are normally suitable; however, visitors should obtain a conditions report from the park ranger to learn about any temporary trail closings or warnings.
Volga River State Recreation Area is open to public hunting during the fall and early winter seasons. White-tailed deer, which are numerous, are perhaps the most popular game species. But hunters can also set their sights on wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock. The park’s diverse topography, vegetation and waterways make for a scenic terrain in which to hunt or just enjoy a peaceful late-fall morning. Make sure you are familiar with all local and state regulations and seasons before heading out.
Most people do not associate Iowa with fall foliage; indeed, for most of the state, fall is more associated with the beginning of the harvest season than with the changing of leaves. However, the thick woodlands along the Volga river put on a display to be reckoned with every autumn. Red oak, boxelder, green ash, basswood and more flush with vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. Autumn along the Volga also offers milder weather and a respite from summer bugs.