The more State Parks you visit in Iowa, the more you discover that Iowa's landscape is anything but redundant. Pleasant Creek State Park doesn't feel like any State Park we've ever visited.
The park is stretched out over miles and miles so unless you really like hiking you're going to need your car or bike to get to the beach and playground. We struggled with this when it came to bathroom time for the kiddos, we were roughly a quarter mile from the nearest pit toilet. All that space does come with some perks though. Our site felt very remote, like we truly had the place to ourselves, despite the fact we were camping with a bunch of close friends. Each site in the non-electrical area is surrounded by wild prairie plants. You literally can't see the people camping right next to you. It was very nice. The sites are also very generous in size, so you've got plenty of room to play your favorite lawn game.
Being surrounded by all that prairie our #1 wildlife visitor was the red winged blackbird. We woke up to them singing in the morning, entertained them for lunch, and watched them bed down for the night. We're pretty confident that they are nesting in all those prairie plants between sites so we're sure they'll be a fixture to your camping experience too.
Once again we ran into firewood issues in the park. It appears that there is normally some for sale, but that shelter was empty. We ended up driving just south of the park to find a firewood shack that operates under the honesty system. Build your own bundle, leave $5 in the box. And, so, once again is was important to have cash of various denominations on hand, unless you meant to buy $20 in firewood. Pleasant Creek is a very well-maintained park. The beach was the best one we've seen and the playground was in top condition. DNR officials regularly drove by to check on us, too.
On our way to Pleasant Creek we stopped in Traer to catch two Iowa curiosities. The winding staircase was built by a local newspaper editor who wanted more space in his office, so he put the staircase outside! It's cute, and hard to miss. It's also the inspiration behind Traer's city slogan "Wind Up in Traer." While on main street we recommend you stop by the stained glass shop next door. That man has beautiful things for sale.
Just up the street, past the library's Brontosaurus mural and the antique shop whose hours are "by appointment or chance" you'll come to the Traer Salt and Pepper Shaker Gallery. It's been designated an Iowa Great Place and this is a gem you don't want to miss. Traer's own Ruth Rasmussen has been collecting salt and pepper shakers her whole life, and at 91 that's a lot of life to build a collection. At one point she was the Guiness World Record holder for the largest collection, which now tops 16,000 different sets of shakers. The museum is just that, rows and rows of shakers organized by type and style. Shelves of owls, shelves of Christmas themed ones, shelves of chickens. Shakers that bobble, shakers that turn. Huggers and kissers. Minis and nesters. Naughty shakers and international ones. Our tour guide had to be the sweetest old lady in Traer and she made sure our kids saw all the fun ones. This museum was a surprise stop for us, but we're so glad we did. Our trip was spicier for it.
- The Salt and Pepper Gallery is only open during the afternoon in the spring and summer so make sure you schedule your trip accordingly.
- The Gallery is $3 per adult and $1 per child 5-12.
- If you like to bike and have the room, bring your bikes to Pleasant Creek to get from place to place.
- Once again, don't forget to pack some cash for firewood.
As always check out pics from the trip here: Crunchy Camping Mom Pics