Yellow River State Forest

Quick Facts

Yellow River State Forest

Iowa

(563) 586-2254

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

A visit to Yellow River State Forest is a truly unique experience. Yellow River Forest is located in Allamakee County in northeast Iowa. Its headquarters and recreation facilities are located on county highway B25, approximately 4 miles southeast of Waterville or 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry.

The Paint Creek Unit is of primary interest to the recreationist. It has the Big Paint Creek, Little Paint Creek and equestrian campgrounds with capacities of 48, 80 and 40 sites respectively. It also contains 6 miles of trout stream stocked from April through October and a marsh from which bass and panfish may be taken.

Hiking, snowmobile and horse trails and several picnic areas are located on the Paint Creek unit. Several scenic overlooks are accessible by horseback, foot or auto and a large portion of the cross country ski trail system is found here.

The entire forest is open to hunting (except for campgrounds), hiking and cross country skiing. However, designated hiking trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek Unit and designated cross country ski trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek and Luster Heights Units.

Yellow River Forest is comprised of the following: Luster Heights Unit - 770 acres Mudhen Unit - 196 acres Paint Creek Unit - 5237 acres Paint Rock Unit - 864 acres Waukon Junction Unit - 209 acres Yellow River Unit - 1227 acres

Map of Yellow River State Forest (IA)

Latitude, Longitude: 43.252267, -93.635531

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Activities

  • Boating

    Contact the park for specific boating activites allowed.

  • Camping

    Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available for self registration on a first come first-served basis. See maps for campground and trail locations. There is a fee for each campsite.

  • Fishing

    It also contains 6 miles of trout stream stocked from April through October and a marsh from which bass and panfish may be taken.

  • Hiking

    The entire forest is open to hiking.

    Yellow River's backpacking trails were featured in an article which appeared in the April 1996 edition of "Outside" magazine entitled "America's Top 50 Hikes--The Finest in Every State". The best hike in Iowa was chosen to be the Backpack Trail at Yellow River State Forest.

    Incidentally, if you haven't had the opportunity to hike the trails, they are open year round. Degree of difficulty ranges from relatively easy to moderate. If you have a scout or other youth group looking for a backpacking experience, or if you are planning a "real" backpacking trip out west and need some place to train, this is for you.

    There are over 25 miles of marked & maintained trails in the Paint Creek Unit alone. There is no charge or registration required for the use of the backpack trail facilities. There are two camp areas along the trail which are not accessible by vehicles so you can really "get away from it all".

    The backpack areas are large enough to support a large group or several small groups. They are not organized areas so you can spread out if you arrive to find a group or individuals already at the site. On nice weekends, slight but not overwhelming traffic can be expected. The backpack trail is also part of the equestrian trail for some of its length, so horses may be encountered. On weekdays, you will seldom encounter other users.

    There is a public water supply at the sawmill/headquarters areas. Water from springs or streams should be suitable for bathing but not for drinking or brushing teeth.

    Camp fires are permitted. Please practice fire safety and be sure your fire is dead before leaving the site. Do not use a camp fire during extremely dry conditions.

  • Historic Sites

    Yellow River Forest is located in a physiographic region called the Paleozoic Plateau. This region includes northwestern Illinois, southwestern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota. It covers most of Allamakee County (in which Yellow River State Forest is located) and parts of Clayton, Fayette, Winneshiek, Howard, Dubuque, and Jackson Counties.

    In contrast to most of Iowa, which is covered by deep deposits of glacial drift, the dominant feature of the surface of the Paleozoic Plateau is limestone and sandstone bedrock.

    For many years, and even today, the term "driftless area" was used, reflecting the belief that this region had never been glaciated. Thin, isolated areas of glacial drift do occur in the area, however. This drift is probably pre-Illinoian in age and approximately half a million years old. The ruggedness and deep dissection of the landscape is due to the elements having been at work for that period of time.

    Much of Yellow River Forest is marked by rugged terrain with numerous rock outcrops, bluffs and steep slopes. On the major upland divides between drainages, the bedrock is overlaid to varying depths with pre-Illinoian glacial till and this in turn is overlain with Wisconsinan loess of various thickness.

    Valleys are narrow and "V-shaped" except along major drainages where they may be quite wide.

    A brief summary of the geology of Yellow River State Forest and surrounding region is presented in a publication titled "The Archeology of Clayton County, Iowa", by Bear Creek Archeology, Inc., Cresco, Iowa. Several useful publications are referenced.

  • Horseback Riding

    The Paint Creek Unit is of primary interest to the recreationist. It has the Big Paint Creek, Little Paint Creek and equestrian campgrounds with capacities of 48, 80 and 40 sites respectively. Hiking, snowmobile and horse trails and several picnic areas are located on the Paint Creek unit. Several scenic overlooks are accessible by horseback, foot or auto and a large portion of the cross country ski trail system is found here.

  • Hunting

    The entire forest is open to hunting (except for campgrounds). Contact the state forest office for more information.

  • Off Highway Vehicles

    Motor vehicle operation is permitted only on roads. ATV's are not permitted anywhere on the forest, trails or roads. Snowmobiles are only allowed on designated routes.

  • Picnicking

    There are several fine picnic areas located in the Pine Creek Unit.

  • RVing

    Please contact the park before planning your RV trip.

  • Winter Sports

    Snowmobiling allowed on designated trails. The entire forest is open to cross-country skiing, however, designated cross country ski trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek and Luster Heights Units.

Seasonality/Weather

Weather has an effect on the activities which can be accomplished on the forest area. There are many days throughout the year which it is impractical to work out of doors. Also, weather affects soil conditions and in turn, the planning of work. The average annual temperature is 45.6 degrees. The average precipitation is 33.71 inches.

Directions

Driving

Yellow River Forest is located in Allamakee County in northeast Iowa. Its headquarters and recreation facilities are located on county highway B25, approximately 4 miles southeast of Waterville or 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(563) 586-2254

Campground reservations

(877) 427-2757

Links