Pammel Park was originally one of the first State Parks in Iowa (dedicated in 1928), Pammel Park has been managed by the Madison County Conservation Board since 1989. Pammel is noted for its natural woodland beauty highlighted by its signature limestone ridge known as the “backbone”. Pammel is home to numerous botanical treasurers that include a lush diversity of woodland vegetation from wildflowers and native plants to the best quality Walnut stands in central Iowa. Some of the oldest recorded Oak trees anywhere in the State grow from the craggy surfaces of the “backbone”. All this natural beauty is graced with the meandering flow of Middle River. This 350 acre park, with carefully planned development, is quickly becoming the destination park of the Madison County park system.
- Backbone Shelter
- Pammel Lodge
- Picnic Grounds
- Modern Bathrooms
- Play Equipment
- Middle River Ford
- Harmon Tunnel
- Modern Campgrounds
- Dump Station
- Nature Center Activities
Camping: Pammel Park campgrounds have 36 designated modern sites providing electrical and water hookups. There are also 5 tent-only sites. Modern bathrooms and showers are also provided along with play equipment. Dump station provided.
Yurt Cabin Camping: There are two 24’ diameter Yurt style cabins. Yurt cabins are soft-sided structures that are commonly found in the western United States and are of a unique design to provide comfort in a more versatile setting. Our Yurt cabins sleep 8 people and are air-conditioned & heated. Each cabin has a small kitchenette that includes an electric stove/oven, microware, refrigerator, counter space and cabinets. Other furnishings include two sets of bunk beds (double-bed on bottom, single-bed on top), a sleeper sofa and a kitchen table and chairs. An exterior deck is attached to each cabin, along with a hooded BBQ grill, ground-fire ring and water hydrant. Cabin renters must use the bathrooms in campgrounds.
Historic Picnic Lodge: Built in the 1920’s from oak logs harvested from the site, the Lodge with a large limestone fireplace provides a rustic and historic setting for family reunions, weddings, old fashioned Christmas’s and much more. Utilities include electrical outlets, lights and water. Play equipment. Modern heated handicapped accessible restrooms. Reservations required.
Backbone Shelter: Constructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and built with native timbers and limestone, this small shelter is located in the backbone picnic grounds near the trail head of the Backbone Trail. Available on a first-come/first-serve basis. No utilities available.
Picnic Grounds: Three separate picnic areas are located near the main entrance of the park, as well as around the Lodge and north of the campground on the backbone. A small one-table shelter is located near the ford.
Environmental Education/Nature Center: Acquired during a recent expansion of the park, this former rural chapel has been transformed into a nature center where many environmental education programs are conducted by the Board’s naturalist throughout the year.
Trails: Nearly 5 miles of trails wind through Pammel’s woodlands exploring the many diverse ecosystems created by the river, geology and plant life. Three separate trail systems are located in the park. The Backbone Trail has trail heads at both ends of the tunnel as well as atop the backbone near the Backbone Shelter. The Lodge Trail has trail heads near the bathrooms and play equipment. The Interpretive Trail begins on the north side of the park road directly across from the Lodge.
Canoeing/Tube Floats: Canoe/Kayak accesses are available at the Middle River Ford. Some campers put in at the ford and canoe the “horse-shoe” section of the river and take out at the bridge by the main entrance (30 minutes). Click on River Access for more information on canoeing Middle River.
River Fishing in Middle River: Catfish (Channel, Blue and Flathead) is excellent, especially below the ford following heavy flows.
Camping & Shelter Rentals
Harmon Tunnel: The only highway tunnel in Iowa , greets all visitors entering the park. The tunnel pierces the base of the limestone backbone and provides access to the remainder of the park facilities. Historical Note: In 1858 the tunnel was originally dug by William Harmon and his sons as a small chute to carry water diverted from Middle River to power a saw mill that was eventually converted to a grist mill. The mill was abandoned in 1904 and the tunnel expanded in size to allow vehicle traffic in 1925. The tunnel has since been expanded and reinforced to accommodate modern vehicles.
Middle River & Limestone Backbone: Middle River makes a great horse-shoe loop in the park. The dividing wall is called the backbone which is a natural limestone ridge over 100 feet high. When standing atop the backbone directly over the tunnel, you can see Middle River flow in all four directions. The geology of the backbone is as extensive as the plant life and well worth exploring.
Middle River Ford: Built in the 1920’s, the ford is the only means of vehicle access (within the park) to the west side of the park. During normal river flow levels, vehicles can safely cross the ford which maintains a depth of 2” to 4”. The ford has provided countless hours of recreation for many generations of park visitors who love to wade, splash and fish in and around the structure. The ford is closed during high water flows and icy conditions during winter months.
Lodge: Built in the 1920’s from oak logs harvested from the site, the Lodge with a large limestone fireplace provides a rustic and historic setting for family reunions, weddings, old fashioned Christmas’s and much more. Utilities include electrical outlets, lights and water. Play equipment. Modern heated restrooms available. Handicapped accessible.
Backbone Shelter: Constructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and built with native timbers and limestone, this small shelter is located in the Backbone Picnic grounds near the trail head of the Backbone Trail. No utilities available.
Pammel Park is located 4 miles southwest of Winterset. From Winterset travel west on State Highway 92 for 1 mile, turn south on State Highway 322 for 3 miles.
911 Address: 1900 Pammel Park Road, Winterset, IA 50273
GPS Coordinates (UTM @ park entrance): X:410250 Y:4572325, UTM Zone 15