Camp Iowa had the chance to chat with Charlie Finch, who’s the Park Ranger at Yellow Banks Park outside of Des Moines. Listen to our full interview here:
Charlie’s favorite campsite: “ “If I could spend one night in the park, it would probably be in the water trails campsite, just because I love the river…”
Camp Yellow Banks Park
Camp Iowa: I’m talking with Charlie Finch today. He’s the park ranger at Yellow Banks Park in Iowa. How’s it going today, Charlie?
Charlie: Doing good.
Camp Iowa: First let’s talk about how long Yellow Banks Park has been there and how it got its start.
Charlie: The park used to be farm ground and actually was called Yellow Banks Park before Yellow Banks, before it was even a park, due to the fact that people coming down the Des Moines River could see the lush hills on the side of the river as they came down the river, and those lush hills were yellow in color, so it used to be called Yellow Banks before this was even a park. Back in the ’70s, the park was purchased and it opened up in the early ’80s to the public.
Camp Iowa: How big is it?
Charlie: The park is about 517 acres.
Camp Iowa: What are the most popular activities there?
Charlie: One of the biggest popular activities we have here is the campgrounds. We have 48 electric camping sites with shower houses and electricity and fire rings. We have 13 tent campsites, which is primitive camping. Then we have 5 backpacking sites where you actually have to bring your gear in, walk about a quarter of a mile into the woods, and set up camp back in the designated areas back in the timber. Then the other campground we have is called the water trails campground, which is right along the Des Moines River. That’s used for paddlers and boaters. As they canoe down the river, they have a place to stay in between where there’s a little shelter, some fire rings, and some areas to grill and to camp out. So camping is one of the biggest attractions here.
But we also have two baseball diamonds which are used by Four Mile Little League. We have a boat ramp to the Des Moines River; four shelters now – we just built a new one last year – and then we also have a seven-acre pond in the back of the park that’s stocked with bluegill, crappie, channel cat, and largemouth bass.
Camp Iowa: It sounds like you cater to a lot of different types of campers. If somebody wants that more secluded experience, they can do that, but then you also have water-based camping. That sounds great.
Charlie: Yes, that’s correct.
Camp Iowa: What are some other attractions in the area worth checking out, if somebody wanted to venture outside of the park on an afternoon?
Charlie: We’re really close to the Des Moines metro area, so if you wanted to go to downtown, we’re about five miles from downtown Des Moines. So when you’re in the park, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but in about 5 or 10 minutes, you can be downtown and see any of the venues that downtown offers, from the Civic Center to the Science Center, anything downtown. Just north of us, we have Adventureland Park in Altoona, which is about 10 miles away, so you can head up to Adventureland and spend the day up there also.
A lot of people like to use this park because it’s about five miles away from the Iowa State Fair that happens in August every year, and that’s a large attraction, brings a lot of people to the park. They like to stay here and then go visit the fair the whole week.
Camp Iowa: If you could spend just one hour in the park, what would you do with your time?
Charlie: Me as an outdoorsman, I’d be spending my time fishing at either the Des Moines River or the pond.
Camp Iowa: What do you fish for?
Charlie: I’ll fish for anything that’s going to bite on the end of my line.
Camp Iowa: And if you could spend just one night in the park, which specific campsite would you choose and why?
Charlie: If I could spend one night in the park, it would probably be in the water trails campsite, just because I love the river and it’s right next to the river, so you’d be able to see and hear the wildlife that’s associated with the river as you’re camping down there. And it’s in a secluded area in the timber. So I would probably choose the river campgrounds. That aspect also means that I’ve got a boat that I probably have canoed down that day and pulled off to the side of the river down there.
Camp Iowa: Sounds like a lot of fun.
Camp Iowa: All right, thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with us, Charlie. Much appreciated.
Charlie: Yep, no problem.