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Wilson Island State Recreation Area, IA

Status: Open year round.   Season Dates
Max reservation window: Sat Oct 03 2015   Later Dates


Welcome to Wilson Island State Recreation Area, named after former Governor George Wilson, which came into being as an island sandbar in 1900. Today, Wilson Island State Recreation Area encompasses 544 acres of dense cottonwood stands. Seclusion is one of the area's greatest assets as well as shady campsites, hiking trails and picnic spots.

Wildlife is abundant in the recreation area and visitors may see deer grazing in the fields or be awakened by a huge flock of snow geese flying low overhead. Bald eagles are often perched in the tall cottonwoods during the winter and mushroom hunters will find no better place in the spring. On the way to Wilson Island, notice the unique wave-like loess hills that overlook the great Missouri River floodplain.

These rugged loess hills are only found in Iowa, Missouri and China. Early history tells us that Lewis and Clark camped on this reach of the Missouri River in 1804 on their historic voyage of discovery.


River Activities
The Missouri River is another large draw for visitors. You can cast a line in the "mighty Mo" with the hopes of hauling out a giant catfish. The area's river and chute boat ramps let anglers and recreational boaters get out on the water.

Six miles of multi-use trails are a great way to experience Wilson Island. Biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are all acceptable ways to travel. Depending on the route, the trail may wind along the backwater chute and river, providing access to these water bodies, or run through the dense cottonwood stands that cover most of the area.

As a recreational area most of Wilson Island, except the campground and other developed sites, is open for public hunting. Deer hunting and waterfowl hunting in the backwater area are the primary sports.


A picnic area with shelters is located along the shoreline of the Missouri River. Two open shelters can be reserved up to 12 months in advance for your event.

Camping is very popular at Wilson Island because of its well shaded and spacious campsites. The campground has modern showers and restrooms, nonelectric and electric campsites and two large youth group campsites that can be reserved in advance. A playground is located near the campground.

A nonmodern camping cabin with heat and air conditioning is available year-round. The cabin has no water or sanitary facilities furnished but is near the campground shower and restrooms. In winter there is a frost free hydrant for drinking water and a vault toilet. Renters must provide their own bedding, pillows, towels, toiletry items, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and dinnerware.

Nearby Attractions:

Immediately north of Wilson Island is the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. The 7,800 acre area includes a seven-mile-long oxbow lake, which provides a great fishery and stopover for migratory waterfowl. The refuge is also well known for the Vertrand Steamboat exhibit housed in the visitor center. For further details contact The visitor center at (712) 642-4121.

The Watson Steam Train is located in the Missouri Valley city park. Restored in 2009, the 1947 Ottaway steam and 1953 Ottaway diesel engines are housed in a new Museum and are available for children to ride on weekends.

Nearby Towns
Missouri Valley, Iowa is located 11 miles northeast of Wilson Island. The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area is located 25 miles south of the recreation area.

Services & Amenities:

Within Facility
  • Bird Watching
  • Boat Launch Ramp
  • Boating
  • Dock, Boat
  • Dump Station
  • Firewood Sales
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Jet Skiing
  • Modern Restroom
  • Motel
  • Park Office
  • Parking
  • Playground
  • River
  • Showers
  • Toilet, Pit/Vault
  • Trash Dumpster
  • Water Hydrants
  • Water Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
Within 10 Miles
  • Fuel, Vehicles
Greater Than 10 Miles
  • Hospital
  • Medical Clinic
  • Town
Alerts and Important Information
An Iowa or Nebraska fishing license is required for fishing the Missouri River and Wilson Island.

As a recreation area, Wilson Island is open for public hunting in season. Care should be exercised by both hunters and non-hunters during hunting seasons.

Getting There:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
41.4825, -96.005
41°28'57"N, 96°0'18"W

From Interstate 29, take exit 72. Go west on DeSoto Avenue six miles. Wilson Island is on the left. From Hwy 30, take County Road L16 south five miles to DeSoto Avenue. Go west 2 miles. Wilson Island is on left.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:

Wilson Island State Recreation Area
32801 Campground Lane
Missouri Valley  IA  51555

Phone Number:

Project Office: (712) 642 - 2069