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9 Nifty Facts About Waubonsie State Park

Tucked away in a remote part of southwestern Iowa, Waubonsie State Park is dream for those wanting to enjoy nature away from crowds. Visitors can enjoy shaded woodlands and prairie ridges while at the park. Read on to learn more about this hidden Iowa State Park gem.

1. Where is Waubonsie State Park

Founded in 1926, Waubonsie State Park is located at 2585 Waubonsie Park Road in Hamburg, Iowa. It’s about 60 miles south of Omaha, and not too far off of Interstate 29.

2. You’re in the Loess Hills

If you’re not familiar with the Loess Hills and what makes them so special, don’t skip this section. Loess soil (pronounced “luss”) is a unique landform found only in the Loess Hills along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley and China. The hills were formed by winds carrying silt and glacial material and depositing them into massive drives.

Hiking in the Loess Hills at Waubonsie State Park in Iowa

I’d compare hiking at Waubonsie State Park to hiking at one of my favorite parks near Omaha, Hitchcock Nature Center. Hitchcock still beats Waubonsie, not only because it’s so close to Omaha. Hitchcock has a superior nature center and a neat lookout tower.

What Waubonsie has going for it is its remote location. There were very few people at the park on a beautiful summer day. I’m talking about one of those perfect days when there’s no humidity and it’s not even 90 degrees.

Hitchcock Nature Center is no longer a hidden gem, and in the last year or two, we’ve always crossed paths with other hikers. If you like solitary time, consider Waubonsie over Hitchcock.

Related post: 3 Places To Hike In The Loess Hills

3. Most trails are less than a mile

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news.

Downhill trek down a trail at Waubonsie State Park

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news.

There aren’t many long trails in Waubonsie, though many connect to each other. I wasn’t too impressed with the signage on the trails indicating which paths to take. We had a map and thought we were on Bridge Trail but we were really on the more moderate level Valley Trail at one point.

Here are the trails at the park:

Overlook Trail – An easy trail that leads to a scenic view of the treetops and the Missouri River Valley. There are some stairs, though. (.1 mile)

Mincer Interpretive Trail – An easy hiking trail near the picnic area. (.3 miles)

Ridge Trail – An easy trail you can take after doing the Overlook Trail. (.4 miles)

Bridge Trail – Like Ridge Trail, it’s near the Overlook Trail, so it’s an easy add-on to extend your trail time. (.6 miles)

Valley Trail – This is a short, but moderate hike through the forest. Expect some inclines. (.7 miles)

Sunset Ridge – This is the longest hiking trail in the park, and at a moderate rating. If you combine it with Mincer Trail, it’s a full loop. (2.1 miles; for 2.4 miles when combined with Mincer Trail).

There’s also Equestrian Trail that’s 5 miles long, and i’s in another area of the park.

The short path up to the scenic overlook at Waubonsie State Park

4. About the park’s namesake

Wabaunsie State Park is named for Chief Waubonsie of the Pottawattamie tribe. You may recognize Pottawattamie. Council Bluffs, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, is located in Pottawattamie County.

5. Waubonsie has a Lewis & Clark connection

If you make the short trek to the park’s scenic overlook, you’ll notice some faded signs. One explains how the park is a site on the historic Lewis & Clark Trail.

William Clark had written about the area’s “bald-pated hills.”

6. You can find CCC structures in the park

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a voluntary public work relief program in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the young men in the program built structures around the country.

A picnic structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s or 1940s

At Waubonsie, you may find the two shelters that were built by CCC workers. They’re pretty odd shelters, shaped like a mushroom.

My son and I found one of the shelters on our way from the Overlook to Valley Trail.

7. You can camp there

You aren’t going to find an abundance of lodging near Waubonsie State Park, since it’s in a pretty rural area of Iowa. However, the park offers plenty of accommodations if you want to rough it.

There are 42 campsites, 24 that have electrical hookups. There are modern shower and restroom facilities there, as well as a dump station. The equestrian campsite has 36 campsites and non-modern restroom facilities.

The forest of Waubonsie State Park in Iowa

I’m more of a cabin kind of camper, and Waubonsie has a few options. There is a two-bedroom and three-bedroom cabin that are open year-round. The larger cabin has a bathroom; the smaller one does not. Both cabins have heating and air conditioning.

There are five camping cabins (a bit more rustic). The cabins have A/C, but no heat.

Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made online here.

Unlike other state parks near Omaha (and located in Nebraska), this park doesn’t convenience store for any supplies you may have forgotten.

8. You can now boat at Waubonsie

Back in pre-kids life, I went to Waubonsie and it was strictly a hiker’s kind of place. But now, the park has added the Wa-Shawtee Unit, and with it, Lake Virginia. It’s limited to electric motors only.

The 7-acre lake is good for fishing. You’ll find largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish.

Bring your own canoe or kayak if you want to paddle the lake.

Fun story: I tried to find this lake during our summer visit. Followed the signs and everything. We never found it. But I swear, I know there’s a lake there.

9. The state park is near fun stuff

During regular times, you could plan a visit to time out with the state’s largest outdoor rodeo. It’s held each July in Sidney, Iowa. Sidney is the closest town to Waubonsie State Park; it’s 6 miles north.

If you didn’t get enough of trees at Waubonsie, the park is only 9 miles from Nebraska City, Nebraska (the birthplace of Arbor Day). There are a lot of things to do in Nebraska City, but if I had to pick one thing, I recommend you go to the Arbor Day Lodge Tree adventure. It has an easy hiking trail, the very cool Treetop Village, apple orchards, children’s outdoor education area, and more.

Waubonsie State Park is a beautiful, wooded park in southwest Iowa. Located in the Loess Hills, the terrain is unique in the USA, and the trails are not too challenging. Read on for interesting facts about this Iowa State Park.

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Erin O'Brien

Monday 17th of August 2020

I do wish Waubonsie was a *little* closer. It's been a few years since I last visited, but I definitely want to return – love the post!

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