Camp Iowa: I’m talking with Chris Leed today. He’s the executive director for Big Hollow and 4th Pumping Plant recreation area down in Iowa, how’s it going?
Chris: Not too bad, how are you?
Camp Iowa: Having a pretty good day. Big Hollow and 4th Pumping Plant Recreation Area, these are two separate areas. Do they both have camping?
Chris: Yeah they do. 4th Pumping Station is kind of at the north end of the county. Big Hollow is kind of almost at the middle of the county and we actually have a third camp ground at the south end of the county called Welter Recreation Area, campground is on there as well along the river.
Camp Iowa: Welter Recreation area and what types of camping is offered at each one of those?
Chris: All three of them have both electric and primitive campsites. Big Hollow is our newest campground, it was just built, as far as RV campground anyway, it was just built last year and we’re just finishing up the second round of electric installations. We have 19 of the 32 sites powered right now. Probably by the end of the month we’re going to have all the sites powered. We don’t have any of the utilities out there in Big Hollow to the campsites yet. There is central water station, you can fill up your trailer but we don’t have a dump station in yet, like I said the campground is still pretty new. It’s been an ongoing development project. For several years now we built a 178 acre lake, comes complete with a beach and boat ramp. The fish is just starting to get really good up there. Big Hollow is kind of been the focus of our camping efforts here in Des Moines county but beyond that up at the 4th Pumping Station we also have RV and tent camping up there as well. There’s electric at all the RV sites there, bring your RV. We do have a dump station and central water station both at 4th Pumping Station and at Welter Recreation area.
Camp Iowa: What are the most popular activities in the area? What are some of the main reasons people make the trek there to do a little camping?
Chris: Big Hollow is a destination in on itself. With the lake, like so we have a 178 acres of lake. A lot of it is still timbered. There’s a lot of standing timber when the lake filled up. The fishing there is phenomenal. Summer time like this there’s a beach, a pretty popular destination for people staying there at Big Hollow. Big Hollow also offers a shooting range. You have to be a member to shoot there but we have a lot of the locals and folks and the not too distant surrounding areas have gotten their membership and they use the range. The 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, there is an open observatory there at Big Hollow as well. You can stare at the stars through some pretty phenomenal telescopes. It’s really new which you can see through some of those and the area is complete with a whole series of trails. I think we have somewhere near 7-10 miles of trail just within Big Hollow alone. There’s a trail that goes all the way around the perimeter of the 800-acre park and search the little spur trails that will take you down to the lake and there are several other little ponds on the area as well. The other campgrounds, 4th Pumping Station, that’s up the north end of the county, it provides access to a large backwater lake off of the Mississippi River. Good fishing in there. There’s a boat ramp that feeds off that lake and then if you go right over the levy you get to the Mississippi River. Welter Reaction Area offers access to the Skunk River which is a good fishery down here in Des Moines County and there’s several spots to camp up and down the Skunk River. We have a lot of folks that will come in and they’ll put in at the upstream campground and they will canoe or take float tubes down to the lower area and that’s a pretty popular activity as well. We do offer a volleyball court, horseshoes pits there at Welter as well.
Camp Iowa: It sounds like just about anything that I would want to do is offered around there.
Chris: Yeah, for a person who like being outside, we try to offer a little something for everybody and we don’t charge a whole heck of a lot. It’s $8 a night to stay in a primitive campsite. It’s $15 a night to stay in an electric campsite and we feel pretty proud that a person can come out and do a lot of fun stuff for very little amount of money.
Camp Iowa: Do any of the campgrounds have group sites?
Chris: Yeah we do. At Big Hollow we offer group sites. We get a lot of scout groups that will come in and stay there and so there’s a group site that comes to the shelter house, a big fire ring and everything. We require that we’ll provide all the firewood. Yeah, just anybody who ever wanted a group site, call us up and we’ll get you that as well.
Camp Iowa: Okay, do any of the campsites have sites that are more secluded?
Chris: Yeah, Welter Recreation Area has some really great secluded sights and their kind of campground is really carved out of the bottom of the forest so there’s actually three separate loops at Welter Recreation Are. Sycamore Loop is kind of the primary one and it’s a bit more modern but Maple and Cottonwood loops both offer some pretty secluded areas. Cottonwood is a primitive only site. Maple does have some other; it’s got more sites than the others, with Cottonwood anyway.
Camp Iowa: Two more questions for you Chris, if you could spend only 1 hour in any of the three campgrounds, how would you spend your time?
Chris: I would spend it on the lake fishing.
Camp Iowa: You would, and what do you like to fish out there?
Chris: At Big Hollow I like fishing for pan fish, crappie bluegill.
Camp Iowa: It’s hard to beat it if you fry them up, delicious.
Chris: It really is, it really is.
Camp Iowa: And if you could spend just 1night in any of the three campgrounds, which particular campsite would you choose and why?
Chris: Personally I would pick a site down at one of Welter Recreation Area. I’m a long time river rat myself so I like being close to the river. I’d have the boat pulled up on shore and tied up to a tree so I could spend the night out catfishing. That’s where I would go. What I know most people, I would probably prefer Big Hollow just because there’s a lot more to do up there.
Camp Iowa: Okay, well hey thanks for taking some time out of your day, Chris to chat with us, much appreciated.
Chris: Not a problem, appreciate it.
Camp Iowa: Alright, well talk to you soon.
Camp Iowa: Bye, bye.