Imagine Northeast Iowa

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Get Back To Nature - Visit Yellow River State Forest
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Get Back To Nature - Visit Yellow River State Forest

For those who love the great outdoors and yearn to be really close to nature, a visit to the Yellow River State Forest is a must. The Forest is located in Allamakee County, Northeast Iowa and its recreation facilities and headquarters are located between Waterville and Harpers Ferry on county highway B25.

The outdoor recreationist is spoilt for choice of things to do here. The Forest’s Paint Creek Units have campgrounds for hikers and equestrians; there are trout streams, marsh fishing areas, trails suitable for hiking, snow mobiles and horse riding. There are beautiful scenic view points which can be reached on foot, by car or on horseback.


The whole forest is open to hikers its backpacking trails were voted the best in Iowa by “Outside” magazine back in 1996. The trails are open all year round and vary in degree of difficulty from easy to moderate so there’s something to suit all abilities. The Paint Creek Unit has more than 25 miles of maintained and clearly marked trails together with two camping areas which are only accessible on foot allowing you a real taste of living out in the wilds.

Water from springs can be used for bathing but you should take supplies of drinking water with you which are available from the headquarters areas. Camp fires are allowed in the Forest but use your common sense and practice fire safety. Make sure your fire is absolutely out before you leave your camp site and never light a camp fire during excessively dry or windy conditions.

Geological history

Yellow River Forest is sited in a region called the Paleozoic Plateau which includes northwestern Illinois, southwestern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota and covers virtually all of Allamakee. The main feature of the landscape is limestone and sandstone bedrock, rather than deposits of glacial drift which covers the majority of Iowa.

It was long believed that the area was “driftless” and had never been glaciated. There are however a few areas of glacial drift which is estimated to be half a million years old at least and it’s this activity which gives the landscape its rugged and deeply carved features of bluffs, rocky outcrops and plunging slopes.

Peace and quiet

Motor vehicles are only allowed to run on the roads feeding the forest. ATVs are not permitted anywhere in the park including roads and trails and there are designated routes for snowmobile.

Weekends when the weather is good are the busiest times for activity in the Forest but even then there’s plenty of room to get away from the crowds. Weekdays are the best times to come if you really want to get away from it all and it’s likely that you’ll encounter nothing but the resident wildlife during your stay.

For more information about the Forest and the delights awaiting you, check out the website


  1. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    Sounds like a heavenly place. I wish I could get to the forest and the mountains more often. Voted.
    1. alison page
      alison page
      Thank you kindly. I live out in the countryside and I wouldn't swop it for the world.
      1. Eve Sherrill York
        Eve Sherrill York
        I live in a lovely capitol city of Idaho but I am close to country and mountains. I have three ranges of mountain around me. It's a lovely area to call home.

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