1993 Chevy Dutchmen
1993 Chevy Dutchmen
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With peaceful hiking trails, abundant native wildlife, and wonderful views of the Mississippi, Bellevue State Park is one of eastern Iowa's best camping destinations. Located just to the south of Bellevue, this 788-acre park actually comprises two separate areas.
The first area is the Nelson Unit, which is found just to the south of Bellevue. Home to a nature center, butterfly sanctuary, and hunting area, it offers plenty to entertain and excite visitors.
The second area of the park, the Dyas Unit, lies a couple of miles further south. It offers excellent hiking trails, beautiful river views, and a modern campground, so it's a wonderful spot to explore in a rental RV.
If you're planning to camp with an RV at Bellevue State Park, keep reading to find out what to do and where to stay during your visit.
The outdoor experiences on offer at Bellevue State Park vary depending on which park unit you visit. If you're heading in from the north, the Nelson Unit will be your first port of call.
You'll probably want to start your visit by checking out the South Bluff Nature Center. It's packed with a variety of displays about the flora, fauna, and geology of the local area. The center is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Just a short walk away, you'll find the Butterfly Garden. This lovely garden features more than 100 plots, each of which is designed to offer food and habitat for a variety of butterflies. Kids in particular will enjoy a stroll through here, and you'll want to make sure you snap a few photos of some of the 60-odd species of butterflies you'll see along the way. If you want a more strenuous hike, you can tackle the Quarry Trail, which leads to a historic lime kiln.
The last major feature of the Nelson Unit is a 220-acre public hunting area. Located on the western edge of the park, this area is home to pheasant, turkey, and deer.
When you're ready to start exploring the Dyas Unit, make sure you've got your hiking boots ready. There are four miles of foot trails here that wind their way through this area of the park, leading to various overlooks and past a scenic stream. The short Deer Trail is an easy walk the whole family can tackle — keep your eyes on the sky for a chance of spotting a bald eagle.
If you want to stay a few nights in Bellevue State Park, rent an RV in Bellevue and then find yourself a site at the park's campground. While camping is not available in the Nelson Unit, the Dyas Unit features a comfortable modern campground with 30 electric and five non-electric sites. Nine walk-in sites are also available for tent campers.
Most RV-friendly sites are back-in only, but there are a few pull-through sites available as well. Site length varies, so check the fine print closely before reserving your spot. The largest site at Bellevue State Park can accommodate motorhome rentals up to 66 feet long.
In terms of facilities, modern restrooms and showers are provided and are generally well-maintained. An RV dump station is also provided, and most sites are available for reservations ahead of time. However, 25% of all campsites in Bellevue State Park are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Finally, if you're bringing your dog to Bellevue State Park, the good news is that pets are more than welcome in the campground. Just make sure you keep your pet on a leash and clean up after them at all times.
While there's plenty to enjoy within this vast park, you'll also find a host of great attractions nearby once your Bellevue State Park camping trip has run its course. If you'd like to immerse yourself in another excellent Iowa state park, make the half-hour drive southwest to Maquoketa Caves State Park. Home to spectacular caves and excellent hiking trails, the park is well worth checking out.
If you're traveling with kids, the Hurstville Interpretive Center in nearby Maquoketa offers a wonderful hands-on learning experience for younger nature and history lovers.
And if you'd rather head for a major center, Dubuque is just over 20 miles to the north. While you're there, make sure you check out the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
There's no shortage of memorable experiences on offer when you rent a camper near Bellevue State Park, so make sure you leave plenty of time in your itinerary for day trips and detours.