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view of the river at Ledges State Park from a cliff above

Historic Ledges State Park, one of Iowa’s first state parks, proudly features towering sandstone ledges and breathtaking views over Pea’s Creek Canyon. This 100 foot deep gorge carved over time by Pea’s Creek lies within Central Iowa only 50 miles north Des Moines.

The park offers guests 4 miles of hiking trails that lead access to these breathtaking views over the canyon as well as opportunities for them to camp, fish, paddle, bird watch, and picnic.

Ledges State park also showcases several historic structures, including the stone bridge over Pea’s Creek, that date back to the 1930s when they were constructed by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Activities

Spend a relaxing day at Ledges State Park. Start by packing a picnic lunch and then taking a scenic drive along Canyon Drive. This winding one-way road leads to gorgeous views of the canyon and the Des Moines River valley. Stop along the way and relax in one of the picnic areas and then take a leisurely walk out to Pea’s Creek to wander along the creek bed.

Or enjoy an active day inside the park by tackling one of the steep trails that leads up to one of the park’s scenic overlooks. Bring a snack, plenty of water, and your binoculars for a better view of the canyon and any wildlife that may cross your path.

At the end of the day head over to the park’s campground and get a good night’s sleep inside this peaceful park.

Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Ledges State Park:

Boating at Ledges State Park

Canoe, kayak, or tube along the Des Moines River. This famous river, the largest in the state, flows along the west side of the park offering guests opportunities for boating, floating, and fishing.

Hiking at Ledges State Park

Explore the 4 ½ miles of hiking trails through woodlands, along the creek, and up past towering sandstone ledges inside Ledges State Park. These trails consist of steep up and down sections as they lead up to several scenic overlooks, Inspiration Point, Crow’s Nest, and Table Rock, offering breathtaking views of Pea’s Creek Canyon. Pea’s Creek winds along the canyon and is a favorite spot to hike out to.

Here are a couple of the trails at Ledges State Park:

  • Lost Lake Interpretive Trail – Easy 1.1 mile trail along a crushed rock path that leads out to the scenic Lost Lake. This trail is considered universally accessible for all.
  • Prairie Trail – An easy 1 mile trail that winds through the surrounding prairie
  • Old Indian Trail – Difficult one mile trail with rocky terrain and uneven ground that leads uphill to the Crow’s Nest Overlook. The overlook provides spectacular panoramic views from high above the Des Moines River valley.

Fishing at Ledges State Park

Fish for white bass, catfish, walleye, striped bass, and flathead in Iowa’s largest river during your visit to Ledges State Park. This river, the historic Des Moines River, may be accessed along Lower Ledges Road west of the park. From here you may fish from the river bank or from canoe or kayak. Don’t forget to pick up an Iowa Fishing License before heading into the park.

Birding at Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park’s Lost Lake area is part of the Makoke Birding Trail, a popular birding trail that flows throughout Central Iowa highlighting native and migrating birds in the area.

Remember to bring your binoculars, you may just discover a Bald Eagle, Black-billed Cuckoo, Broad-winged Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Black‑bellied Whistling‑Duck, Great Gray Owl, Evening Grosbeak, Snow Goose, Baird’s Sandpiper, Gray‑crowned Rosy‑Finch, Ross’s Goose, Least Sandpiper, Boreal Owl, or a House Finch during your visit to Ledges State Park.

Nature and Wildlife at Ledges State Park

Canyon Drive offers guests breathtaking views of the canyon and the Des Moines River valley. Picnic areas scattered along the drive provide visitors with closer views of sandstone ledges, the stream, and native flora and fauna. Here and throughout the park guests may observe white-tailed deer, squirrels, birds, raccoons, rabbits, beaver, woodchucks, and more.

Pets

Well behaved pets are permitted inside Ledges State Park. If visiting with your pet, please leash, supervise and clean up after them.

Camping

Don’t just visit for the day, spend a few nights inside the park. Ledges State Park campground features newly renovated campsites near restrooms, hot showers, a playground, and a dump station. A youth group camping area and primitive hike-in campsites are also available inside the park.

Guests may choose between 16 full hookup campsites, 53 electric sites, or the 25 primitive hike-in campsites. Many of these campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, others may be reserved ahead of time.

Park Location

Ledges State Park
1515 P Ave
Madrid, IA 50156
Phone: 515.432.1852

Park Website
Reservations

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Ledges State Park: