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Iowa, the land of cornfields and caucuses, but is there anything of interest to travelers camping with an RV? You bet there is. Iowa is one of the most underrated travel destinations, and there’s a whole lot more than just cornfields to look at. Central Iowa, where the capital of Des Moines is located, has the National Balloon Museum in Indianola (which holds some amazing balloon races), the Pella Tulip Festival in Pella, and Ames, the home of Iowa State University. So there is definitely no shortage of attractions in the area, but what about RV campgrounds?
One option is McKinley Park Campground, a little over an hour's drive to the southwest of Des Moines and not far from Green Valley State Park and Twelve Mile Lake. McKinley Park Campground is a great option when renting an RV, as the park sits on the edge of Creston, giving campers access to all sorts of urban amenities while camping in a beautiful, natural setting.
However, unlike some of the other RV camping sites in the area, McKinley Park Campground is somewhat barebones. McKinley Park Campground’s sites have water and electrical hookups, and there is a dump station nearby where you can empty your tanks. You can also empty them at one of the truck stops on Interstate 35 if you’re traveling between Des Moines and points south. There are also bathroom facilities on-site. While you enjoy this rustic environment, you can still have access to some modern amenities in the nearby town of McKinley.
For outdoor fun, McKinley Park Campground has Lake McKinley, which isn’t particularly large at 50 acres but has a good stock of largemouth bass and yellow bullhead to keep anglers entertained. There’s also the 8.5-mile gravel Park-to-Park Trail that goes from McKinley Park to Green Valley State Park. This is a great trail to hit on two wheels; if you need to rent a bike, the closest shops will be in Des Moines.
Speaking of Green Valley State Park, this is a spot you’ll certainly want to hit up when you get a campervan rental to use at McKinley Park. It’s much larger than McKinley Lake, which makes it popular with water skiers, wakeboarders, and other powerboat users, but you’ll still find some excellent coves to explore with a kayak (rentals are available from a few shops along Interstate 80 to the north). There are some excellent swimming beaches too, and a nature trail running along the shoreline. Twelve Mile Lake and Three Mile Reservoir to the east of Creston are also good options and have similar facilities to Green Valley.
If you’ve got a bike, one of the best trails in Iowa is just an hour's drive or so to the west. The Wabash Trace Nature Trail runs from the Missouri state line all the way to Council Bluffs, a distance of 63 miles. Much of the trail was formed from old railroad right of ways, so it’s quite flat and easy for riders who aren’t used to hours in the saddle.
The little town of Creston will be your primary hangout when getting an RV rental near McKinley Park Campground. You’ll find a nice selection of restaurants along its main street, offering mostly American classics like burgers and fries with the occasional Mexican or Chinese eatery thrown in for variety. Shopping is fairly limited, with just a couple of clothing shops and discount stores to browse through; you’ll need to visit Des Moines to find anything resembling a mall.
Not too far away though is the town of Corning, which has a few attractions worth checking out when you book an RV in Union County, Iowa. There’s the French Icarian Village, a living museum focused on the Icarian socialist-utopian community and the ideals that they’ve brought to this corner of Iowa. There’s a restored schoolhouse and communal dining hall to wander around in, along with the Icarian cemetery, all built in the mid-18th-century when the Icarians migrated from France in the hopes of creating a more perfect society in Midwest America.
Corning is also the birthplace of famous late-night host Johnny Carson, and there’s a small museum housed in his childhood home. A visit won’t take long, the museum isn’t very big, but after seeing his bedroom and the sidewalks he played on as a child, it’s hard to imagine how he went from this small-town Midwestern upbringing to the bright lights of a TV studio in New York.
If you’re a race fan, you’ll want to check the schedule at Adam’s County Speedway on Corning’s east side. The half-mile oval dirt track is considered a NASCAR Home Track, serving as a qualifier for larger races within the series. Prices are low compared to what you’d find at well-known stock car races though, making this a family and budget-friendly attraction when you’re camping at McKinley Park Campground.