Don’t Wait for Memorial Day Weekend

Date posted - April 13, 2016

Iowa DNRDon’t wait until the first big holiday of the season to get out and enjoy an Iowa State Park. There are some really cool things to see and do happening right now, before the end of April! Here are five to inspire a trip outdoors, sooner rather than later.

The redbuds are on their way to a peak show at Red Haw State Park. Park manager Mike Schrader is predicting prime viewing in about a week to 10 days, around April 23-24.

“This is really a sight to behold,” says Schrader. Before the leaves open on this small native tree, purple-pinkish blooms cover the charcoal-colored branches. Redbuds can be found throughout much of southern Iowa, but this small state park, just outside of Chariton, has a concentration worth seeing. The trees encircle the park’s lake creating a stunning photo op.

Breakfast with the Birds series begins April 20, 7:30 a.m. at Prairie Rose State Park. This is the first of a six-week series which will conclude on May 25. A light breakfast will be served, followed by a short guided hike to do some birding. “We hope to see some of our resident birds along with some migrants this time of year,” says naturalist Christina Roeloffs. “And, of course, we will learn about different bird habitats and nesting habits.”

The event will begin at the park office. For more information call 712-773-2701.

Celebrate Earth Day, or rather Earth Evening by paddling under the light of a full moon. Both Prairie Rose State Park and Brushy Creek State Recreation Area are holding events April 22. Canoes with lights will be provided on a first come, first serve basis, and lights will be required on any vessels brought to the event. Prairie Rose participants should plan to meet at 8:30 p.m. on the east side of the lake off M47 and Brushy Creek participants will meet at 8 p.m. at the south boat ramp. For more information on the Prairie Rose event call the number above; for the Brushy Creek event call 515-543-8298.

Get a taste of spring at the Fifth Annual Pancakes in the Park, April 23 at Maquoketa Caves State Park. Did you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to cook down to one gallon of syrup? Park ranger Scott Dykstra knows. He and the park’s friends group gear up for this event in mid-February when they begin tapping the maple trees. Enjoy pancakes and real maple syrup as well as a variety of programs and activities from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the main shelter house. All proceeds from the breakfast go to Friends of Maquoketa Caves. For more information call 563-652-5833.

Stay in the comfort of one of the many Iowa state park cabins while you explore spring wildflowers, hunt for morel mushrooms, take in the bird migrations or wet that line on a nearby lake or stream. Currently 12 state parks have cabins available to rent for two-night minimums. Between April 15 and May 1, seven more parks will open their cabins for the season, creating plenty of overnight opportunities during one of the best times to visit Iowa parks. For more information on cabin availability and rates visit

And some outdoor-related programming worth checking out on Iowa Public Television this month:

Darling is Back! The Restoration of Lake Darling

This documentary tells the story of the lake’s restoration and the dedicated group of people who came together to preserve this state park named for the famed cartoonist and conservationist, Jay N. “Ding” Darling. April 17, 1:30 p.m. on IPTV.1 (Rebroadcasting April 25, 10 p.m. and April 28, 6:30 p.m.)

Iowa Outdoors

Enjoy springtime wildflowers through the lens of Tom Rosburg, travel alongside an elite team of storm chasers and spend the night outdoors for a military-style workout regimen. April 17, 2016, 1 p.m. on IPTV.1 (Rebroadcasting May 1, 12:30 a.m. on IPTV.1)

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