Beed's Lake State Park is a young explorer's dream. And by young explorer I mean anyone under a hundred.
The park is teeming with wildlife. On a recent visit, in one day, we awoke a geese on the ridge. In the afternoon, a hummingbird joined us for lunch, and an oriole sang to us over our campfire supper. There were clam shells and crayfish claws to find in the lake shallows, and little frogs to chase on the shoreline. The park is obviously quite popular, but we never felt surrounded by people. It felt like we had everything to ourselves. There are miles of hiking trails, a beach, and scenic views every way you look. This was the first park we've visited, where our campsite literally took our breath away.
The signature feature of the park is the Stair Step Spillway. If you're the kind of person who sleeps with a fan for the white noise, you'll love camping next to these soothing natural sounds. The lake itself is clear enough that you could spend a great deal of time watching fish swimming near the spillway. The area really is one of the most beautiful places I have found in Iowa. In the evening, as the sun set over the lake and we listened to the water, I couldn't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Someone repeatedly remarked, "This is the best camping spot ever!" I couldn't disagree.
Beed's Lake State Park also houses a playground for the kiddos and a beautiful shelter house, which you can rent for events and occasions. The literature tells you that you can rent boats there, as well, though we personally couldn't locate them. And fear not explorers, there's more to north-central Iowa than Beed's...
Did you know that Iowa houses a fossil hot bed? I didn't either, so don't feel bad. About forty minutes from Beed's along the leisurely back roads of Iowa you'll come to the small town of Rockford, Home of Devonian Fossils. Back in the day, Rockford was also home to Rockford Brick and Tile Company. It was the heyday of clay mining and many a farmer owes their drainage tiles to Rockford. But all things come to an end, and the Brick and Tile ceased operation in the 1970's. It was around then that it was discovered that the mine was a treasure trove of fossils. Literally anywhere you walk, you can sit down and pick up countless fossils of coral, shells, and prehistoric plants. It's amazing. The best part, is that you can take home a reasonable amount of fossils for your own collection! And did I mention it's free? I think the kids would have stayed there all day if we'd have let them. We skipped hiking out to the now defunct kilns, however, because the weather was questionable. Still, I would love to get back to Rockford in the future, to hike around. The Iowa prairie is slowly reclaiming the Brick and Tile land and it's a sight to see. The scenery is Iowa at its best!
The official name for the fossil park is the Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve and Center. The park is obviously the star, but the center is not to be missed. Floyd County has done a really great job with this little building of educational wonder. We hung around until it opened, and we were so glad we did. Inside, the kids learned all about fossils, the history of the Brick and Tile company, and Iowa prairie ecology. The very sweet guide running the show let us know as we came in, "I won't tell you not to run, not to touch things, or not to play. Have fun." That we did!
In conclusion, I'd like to give you a few pointers for when you plan your own trip to the north.
- As best we could tell the closest firewood for purchase is at the gas station in Hampton, so just plan on going into town before you get too settled into your site.
- Remember that the bathhouse near the spillway is no longer operational.
- According to the Friends of Beed's Lake website, the concessions and boat rental hut are closed for 2015.
- Wear mud appropriate clothes to the fossil park and pack extra shoes to change into after you're done hunting.
- You cannot easily buy diapers in Rockford, Greene, or Allison, so pack enough to last the day.
- Finally, make sure you've got your camera because there are Kodak moments everywhere up there.
- Have fun!
Want to see our Kodak moments? Check 'em out at Crunchy Camping Pics. For video of Rockford's Fossil Prairie area, click below.