The wildlife and plant communities are interwoven with the human history of Ledges. Humans have appreciated this unique area for thousands of years. Archeological evidence found within the park dates to around 4,000 years ago. At the time of European settlement, the Ledges area was inhabited by the Sauk, Fox (now the Mesqwakie) and Sioux. Native American mounds in the vicinity contain artifacts acting as silent reminders of the area's past inhabitants.
The beauty of the canyons and bluffs of Ledges very quickly became a major attraction to the growing local communities. Ledges was proposed as a state park as early as 1914. The first park custodian, Carl Fritz Henning, was appointed in 1921. In 1924, the Ledges officially became one of Iowa's first state parks.
Park facilities constructed of native timber and field stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's are still standing today. These examples of fine craftsmanship include an arch stone bridge, shelter in Oak Woods, stone trail steps and the stone shelter in lower Ledges.
Ledges has a long history of being flooded by the nearby Des Moines River. The major flood water levels have been recorded on a "flood pole" located in the lower area of the park.
Facilities and Activities
Picnic areas are located throughout the park. The Oak Woods picnic shelter and nearby restroom, located in the eastern area of the park, are fully accessible. Two open picnic shelters may be reserved online through the park reservation system.
Ledges offers several campsites, including electrical hookups (1 of which is fully accessible), non-electric hookups (1 of which is fully accessible), and some hike-in. Modern rest rooms, showers, a trailer dump station and a playground are located in the campground. Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Ted's Firewood Sales is available for campers. (515-689-3857 (cell) or 515-275-4804). It is open mid-April through late October, Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, 3:00 to 7:00 PM at the campground. Will deliver anytime if buying 5 or more bundles.
Ledges, one of Iowa's most popular state parks, has attracted millions of visitors. Four miles of hiking trails lead up and down steep slopes to scenic overlooks and provide access to spectacular views of Pea's Creek "canyon". While most of the trails include steep portions, a fully accessible interpretive trail to Lost Lake is located at the southern part of the park.
River Activities (boating, fishing)
The Des Moines River flows through the west edge of the park and offers fine stream fishing and canoeing opportunities.
The Hutton Memorial is located along a trail on the north side of the canyon. It honors Murray Lee Hutton, a strong conservationist and first director of the Iowa State Conservation Commission in 1935.
With its sandstone cliffs, native plant communities and deep wooded river valley, Ledges is a truly unique place. The winding road along Pea's Creek offers motorists breathtaking views of the "canyon" and the Des Moines River Valley.
The sandstone "Ledges" rise nearly 100 feet above the floor of the streambed. The sandstone was deposited 300 million years ago following the retreat of the shallow sea that covered much of the midwest. About 13,000 years ago, glacial meltwater began to cut down through the sandstone, forming the park's dramatic cliffs and valleys.
The present vegetation at Ledges is a mixture of prairies, woodlands and clearings. Dry south and west-facing slopes of oak and hickory combine with cool north and east-facing slopes of maple and basswood. This blend of northern and southern forest types provides spectacular autumn leaf colors.
Bird Watching, Camping - Electric, Camping - Nonelectric, Camping - Walk-to/Hike-in, Camping - Youth Group, Canoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Dump Station, Fishing, Geological Formations, Hiking, Horseshoe Pits, Interpretive Programs, Jogging/Running, Kayaking, Modern Campground, Picnic Area, Picnic Shelter, Playground, Restrooms, River, Showers, Stream/Creek, Trails, Cross Country Skiing, Trails, Hiking, Walking, Water Hydrants , Wildflower Viewing, Wildlife Viewing