Park Visit: Pammel Park

Pammel Park in Winterset, Iowa

I’ve been meaning to go check out Pammel Park this entire summer, and we finally made it! This is a Madison County park, down in Winterset. It has two very unique features, shown in the collage above, a tunnel to drive through and a ford to drive over. There are several trail options, all with dirt footing and heavily wooded. We had a lovely morning and will definitely be visiting again!

You can see more specific details on the Pammel Park page or check out its location on the interactive map.

14625577_10100391137694061_59884841_o

There are a few different entrances, but this is the one that our GPS took us to from Waukee.14686471_10100391137614221_1109925693_n

I had talked up the tunnel and then boom, it’s right at the entrance and right after you turn the corner. Harmon Tunnel is the only highway tunnel in Iowa, originally dug out in 1858.

14686270_10100391138053341_2109732505_n

The Middle River Ford dates back to the 1920s, and is the main access point to the other side of the park. It is closed during flooding and icy conditions, and serves as a recreation spot for wading and fishing when the weather is warmer. It was a little nerve-wracking driving across! Our Honda Odyssey did just fine. There were rocky banks and sandbars downriver from the ford, with folks hiking around even in October.

14678057_10100391137733981_912023443_o

We found this trail map over the ford and wished we had had it from the beginning! You can click on it to enlarge; the black lines are the road and we came in by the number ‘1’.  The two trails we hiked below were by 2 & 4, and then hiked to the number 6 from the parking by the ford. As you can see, there were plenty of trails left to explore.

14646800_10100391137738971_549129326_o

pammel-park-place-to-hike-in-winterset-iowa-13

The trails were nicely marked, with these signs and sometimes with labeled/named signs. I wish they had mileage measurements, though.

14689898_10100391137743961_31081365_o

14627940_10100391137768911_898524617_n

We started out parking by the Lodge, a 1920s building built out of oak trees. There were some beautiful fallen trees to climb on outside, in addition to bathrooms, a grill, and a small playground.

14672652_10100391137763921_492171997_o

There was a trail on this side of the road, clearly marked, which we took. We stayed “on the loop” (well marked) and saw a ton of cool fungi and crossed a bridge.

14620104_10100391137913621_935252067_n

I found this grassy green moss on top of mushrooms very striking.

picmonkey-image

This is a great spot for moss, leaves, and acorns. We also found multiple white shells.

14689949_10100391137888671_1651841368_o

This bridge had a hole in it! I couldn’t believe how dense the leaf fall was; this trail would not be good for an early walker as rocks jutted out.

14628013_10100391138023401_1511905744_n

Across the road from the lodge’s parking lot was an ‘interpretive trail’ that had a bunch of educational signs.

14618906_10100391138048351_211442828_o

Look, this one had a snail on top! They shared information about what to look for, and what was all around. We really enjoyed them – this was my favorite, with the prints.

4

I don’t normally pay a ton of attention to trees, but the “shagbark” was very noticeable, giving the trunks a craggy look. My kids liked peeked under the flaps – one of the signs taught us that bats sleep under them sometimes! We also found super cool “puff ball” mushrooms; when they dried out, they puffed spore smoke out once they were hit, which was a big hit with my kids.

14741673_10100391139964511_1329431596_n

After that, we drove back over the ford and parked, finding the unmarked trail to climb up the “backbone” – a limestone formation going over the tunnel. The trail was extremely steep; my daughter went on my back and I had to crouch down several times.

14627711_10100391139974491_872316798_n

Once we actually hit the top, it opened up to a very wide and flat trail. Their website talks about being able to see the river 4 different ways, but we could barely see it at all through the trees.

14628100_10100391139959521_35017200_n

My husband spotted this adorable woollybear caterpillar!

14694840_10100391139969501_1185119037_n

The fog and morning mist lit up several spiderwebs beautifully, I love this one!

14697271_10100391137659131_799410565_o

A few other notes were the campground, with lots of RVs. There are tent-only sites and rentable yurts but we didn’t happen to see either of those on our quick drive through. The campground had its own playground, and then the 1930s Backbone shelter is over in the same area.

14686679_10100391137699051_1942012548_n

The nature center was closed, as I expected, and is only open for specific programming

14689268_10100391140019401_1664298221_oThis sign shows the “water trail” for paddling in the area, we have never kayaked but this looked like a really cool place to try it!

So, that’s our first trip to Pammel Park! It was definitely worth the drive; we spent all morning hiking around and then drove into Winterset for lunch at Rodell’s Smokehouse, which was tasty. We will definitely be going back next summer, for a chance to play in the ford and wade.

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *