Outdoor parks and recreation

One of the many you can do at Ada Hayden Heritage Park is kayak on the lake.

Kalyn Gallup


Ada Hayden: An Ames favorite, Ada Hayden is located north of Ames on Grand Avenue, or Highway 69. The path around the lake is perfect for any running or biking enthusiasts and pet owners. The lake itself is great for kayaking, canoeing or fishing, but you can’t actually swim in the lake.

Peterson Park: There are two sections – East and West. You can swim, tube, fish, have a picnic, canoe and hunt at the parks. Peterson Park West has what is known as Peterson Pits where people can lay on the beach or swim. To get to the park, go north of Ada Hayden on Grand Avenue then turn right on 180th Street.

McFarland Park: Northeast of Ames on 180th Street, this park contains tallgrass prairie, woodland and stream habitats that are perfect for camping, hiking, fishing and stargazing. Grills are available for cookouts.


Ledges: Located south of Boone on Highway 17, Ledges State Park has campsites open to the public, bicycle routes, river activities, bird watching opportunities, picnic areas and much more. 

Seven Oaks: Located west of Boone off Highway 30, Seven Oaks provides canoeing, kayaking and tubing opportunities. Other outdoor recreation includes mountain biking, paint balling and camping. Seven Oaks also sponsors special events like the Gladiator Challenge and BOONECRUSHER. In the winter, Seven Oaks provides skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing.


Twin Anchors: Found 12 miles east of Ames near Colo, this campground has scheduled events every month, which are listed on their website. You can also fish, play golf, camp or rent a boat.


Little Wall Lake: You can participate in camping, hiking, water skiing, boating, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling and many more outdoor activities here. Little Wall Lake is located just south of Jewell on Highway 69. 

Des Moines

Big Creek: Located north of Polk City at 8794 NW 125th Ave., Big Creek was originally built as a dam to protect the city from floods. It is now open to the public for camping, shooting, swimming, boating, fishing, trails, antiquing, archery, canoeing, windsurfing and much more.

Saylorville Lake: Not only does Saylorville Lake provide a place for recreations such as camping, boating, fishing, hiking, biking and wildlife watching, but it also helps Saylorville’s water supply and water quality during drought periods.

Gray’s Lake: Located in Des Moines off Fleur Drive, this park has it all: basketball courts, a BMX track, boat and bicycle rentals, disc golf, closed and open-air shelters, equipment rentals, ice skating, nature trails, picnic areas with tables and grills, playgrounds, ponds for fishing, sledding hills, a soap box derby track, sports fields and courts, wading pools, skateboarding and more.