Pammel Park

Pammel Park was originally one of the first State Parks in Iowa (dedicated in 1928). It has been managed by the Madison County Conservation Board since 1989. The park is noted for its natural woodland beauty highlighted by its signature limestone ridge known as the “backbone”. It is home to numerous botanical treasurers that include a lush diversity of woodland vegetation from wildflowers and native plants to the best quality Walnut stands in central Iowa. Some of the oldest recorded Oak trees anywhere in the State grow from the craggy surfaces of the “backbone”. All this natural beauty is graced with the meandering flow of Middle River. This 350 acre park, with carefully planned development, is quickly becoming the destination park of the Madison County park system.


Pammel Park is located 4 miles southwest of Winterset. From Winterset travel west on State Highway 92 for 1 mile, turn south on County Highway P68 for 3 miles.

911 Address: 1900 Pammel Park Road, Winterset, IA 50273
GPS Coordinates (UTM @ park entrance): X:410250 Y:4572325, UTM Zone 15

Facilities & Features in Pammel Park

  • Backbone Shelter
  • Pammel Lodge
  • Picnic Grounds
  • Modern Bathrooms
  • Play Equipment
  • Trails
  • Middle River Ford
  • Harmon Tunnel
  • Nature Center
  • Modern Campgrounds
  • Yurt Cabins
  • Dump Station

Camping in Pammel Park

Pammel Park campgrounds have 36 designated modern sites providing electrical and water hookups. There are also 5 tent-only sites. Modern bathrooms and showers are also provided along with play equipment. Dump station provided.

Camping reservations are available online.

Reservations can be made up to 1 year in advance.

Yurt Cabins in Pammel Park

There are two 24’ diameter Yurt style cabins. Yurt cabins are soft-sided structures that are commonly found in the western United States and are of a unique design to provide comfort in a more versatile setting. The Yurt cabins sleep 8 people and are air-conditioned & heated. Each cabin has a small kitchenette that includes an electric stove/oven, microware, refrigerator, counter space and cabinets. Other furnishings include two sets of bunk beds (double-bed on bottom, single-bed on top), a sleeper sofa and a kitchen table and chairs. An exterior deck is attached to each cabin, along with a hooded BBQ grill, ground-fire ring and water hydrant. Cabin renters must use the bathrooms in campgrounds.

Yurt Cabins must be reserved in advance.

All reservations must be made online.

Shelter Rentals in Pammel Park

The Pammel Park Lodge is available for reservations throughout the year. Reservations must be made in advance. Call the conservation board office at 515-462-3536 for additional information.

Backbone Shelter: Constructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and built with native timbers and limestone, this small shelter is located in the backbone picnic grounds near the trail head of the Backbone Trail. Available on a first-come/first-serve basis. No utilities available.

Picnic Grounds: Three mini shelters are available at the Pammel Park Ford for day use, each with one picnic table. Picnic tables are also available near the Pammel Park Lodge and inside the Backbone Shelter.

Environmental Education/Nature Center: Acquired during a park expansion, this former rural chapel has been transformed into a nature center where many environmental education programs are conducted by the Board’s naturalist throughout the year. A new conservation center will soon be constructed a short distance from the existing facility and will house the growing education program.


Camping/Cabins in Pammel Park

Shelter Houses

Shelters in Pammel Park


Historic Features in Pammel Park

Lots to enjoy in Pammel Park!

Trails: Nearly 5 miles of trails wind through Pammel’s woodlands exploring the many diverse ecosystems created by the river, geology and plant life. Three separate trail systems are located in the park. The Backbone Trail has a trail head on the east side of the tunnel as well as atop the backbone near the Backbone Shelter. The Lodge Trail has trail heads near the bathrooms and play equipment. The Interpretive Trail begins on the north side of the park road directly across from the Lodge.

Canoeing/Tube Floats: Canoe/Kayak access is available on the west side of the Middle River Ford. Middle River forms a “horse shoe” downstream of the ford before arriving at the next water trail access located on the east side of the Harmon Tunnel. Visit the Water Trail activities page for more information on paddling Middle River.

Fishing in Middle River: Catfish (Channel, Blue and Flathead) is excellent, especially below the ford following heavy flows.