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Jester Park

Boating Boating at Jester Park
For those who want to launch their own boats onto the upper reaches of Saylorville Lake, Jester Park offers a boat ramp at the Lincoln Access beside the Mile-Long Bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns boaters to use caution upstream from the Mile-Long Bridge.

A "No Motorized Vessel Zone" is located north of the Mile Long Bridge during April 1 to August 31. During periods of flood storage, restriction may be lifted. Please contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at Saylorville Lake for details. Call 515-276-4656 or visit their website at http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/SaylorvilleLake.aspx
Cabins Cabins at Jester Park

Four modern rental cabins have been constructed at Jester Park. Each cabin has a two-story walkout floor plan. One cabin has two bedrooms and sleeps 8 people. The three remaining cabins have one bedroom and sleep 6 people.

Amenities include a full kitchen, two modern 3/4 bathrooms with shower (one ground level, one in basement), charcoal grill, front porch, back deck overlooking the timber, and a communal fire pit.

The proposed cabin site was carefully selected for its beautiful woodland setting and close proximity to many recreational amenities and environmental education programming opportunities. The cabins are nestled in amongst a mature pine grove that is adjacent to Discovery Pond. This 2.8 acre pond is a popular fishing spot and public programming site. An accessible canoe/kayak access, fishing pier, and hiking trail around the pond provides safe and healthy outdoor activities for people of all ages and abilities. Within short walking distance, cabin users will stumble upon a secluded bird blind, elk and bison wildlife exhibit, and an innovative natural playscape.

There are also many exciting places to explore while hiking on the nature trails that connect to the cabins. Jester Park and the Saylorville Lake region is a goldmine for outdoor recreation. Premier camping, picnicking, boating, beach use, interpretive programming, hiking, cycling, golfing, and horseback riding are just a handful of the many opportunities that await cabin visitors.

Pictures of the facilities can be found at our website at leadingyououtdoors.org

Camping Camping at Jester Park

Jester Park features campsites spread across wooded hills and along the shore of Saylorville Lake. These include many electric and non-electric sites (some of which allow advance reservation),  primitive walk-in sites, and two reservable youth areas.

Two campground showerhouses are open mid-April through mid-October. A special discounted rate is available for a 7-day camping stay on non-reservable sites. More information about camping is available on our website at www.leadingyououtdoors.org

Reservations can be made for some campsites using this website. PLEASE NOTE:  All reservable electric sites at Jester Park (Campground 1) will close September 5th, 2023 for electrical and cosmetic upgrades. Reservations for 2024 will open 2/1/24 to confirm renovations are complete prior to booking. Don’t forget to book your spots at our other great campsites at Thomas Mitchell Park, Yellow Banks Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt.

Many campsites cannot be reserved in advance. Those using these first come first served campsites should set up at their campsite before registering at the campground registration booth located one mile from the park entrance.  Firewood is available near the registration booth.

A youth camping area is available by reservation only. 

Canoeing & Kayaking Canoeing & Kayaking at Jester Park

For those who want to launch their own boats onto the upper reaches of Saylorville Lake, Jester Park offers a boat ramp located at the Lincoln Access beside the Mile-Long Bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns boaters to use caution upstream from the Mile-Long Bridge.

A "No Motorized Vessel Zone" is located north of the Mile Long Bridge during April 1 to August 31. During periods of flood storage, restriction may be lifted. Please contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at Saylorville Lake for details. Call 515-276-4656 or visit their website at http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/SaylorvilleLake.aspx

Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center
Rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boards from the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center. For more information call: (515) 323-5330 or visit the website: Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center


Education Education at Jester Park

Polk County Conservation naturalists offer many year-round nature programs. To request a Nature News to learn about upcoming programs at Lewis A. Jester Park and other parks in Polk County send an email to pccb_info@polkcountyiowa.gov and put ADD TO MAILING LIST in the reference line. For current listings, click on the EVENTS tab above or visit the calendar on our website at www.leadingyououtdoors.org.

Jester Park Nature Center

One of Iowa’s leading nature centers, the Jester Park Nature Center is a gateway to experience Iowa’s natural environment. As a place where education and tourism intersect, this facility  provides exceptional value to this region. Serving as the welcome center, portal to Polk County’s family of parks, and Jester Park’s new front porch, tourists, students, educators, families, and others connect through the nature center to the natural playscape and bison/elk exhibit, restored woodlands, Saylorville Lake, and a network of natural trails that will immerse people back into nature.

As visitors walk downstairs to the lower level of the Nature Center, they can explore displays representing three major habitats at Jester Park: wetlands, prairie, and woodlands. These displays help visitors identify plant and animal species in the park, discover relationships and connections between different species in the ecosystem.

Wetlands Island
Explore either side of a freestanding display that depicts a wetland habitat. Visitors can scoop up aquatic animals and look through a microscope to understand the importance of wetlands and good water quality. Along the critter wall, visitors can enjoy the large aquariums with live turtles and fish.

Prairie Island
Discover what lies beneath the sea of grass and flowers. Young visitors can crawl through a root-filled space to discover a variety of animals living underground like a fox and her pups or a pocket gopher. Above ground they can search for a three-dimensional ornate box turtle and bull snake along with real bison and elk fur. Visitors can lift interpretive panels "buried" in the ground form and discover creatures in their underground burrows.

Woodland Island
This exhibit depicts a forest floor, with sculpted mushrooms. Visitors can become nature detectives, using clues like animal tracks or scat to see if they can identify what creatures have been in the forest. Visitors can crawl thru the sculpted log to explore the "basement" of the woodland habitat revealing the secret relationship between plant, animals and the soil that supports them.

Habitat Wall
A large magnetic Habitat wall allows visitors to engage in free form play. Visitors will be free to make their own meaningful connections to the animals and plants found in Iowa while "playing" with magnets.

Naturalist Nook
Investigate natural items left by our naturalists or park visitors to discover and identify. A puppet theater allows free play for the young visitor. There is also space for reading books and playing with games.

Outdoor Exhibits: Features two outdoor patios; t​rails; prairie, woodland and ​wetland habitats.


Equestrian Activities Equestrian Activities at Jester Park
The Equestrian Center offers guided trail rides, group riding lessons, wellness & educational activities, and seasonal wagon & sleigh rides. For for a complete listing of all programs follow this link, Equestrian Center or call 515-999-2818.
Facility Rentals Facility Rentals at Jester Park

Looking for a venue for your next corporate or personal event in a beautiful park setting? The Jester Park Nature Center is an eco-conscience building immersed in prairie and surrounded by woodlands. The nature center offers many different areas of the building for your next event. For more information on reserving this facility, visit this link.

Rental reservations will begin being accepted on January 2, 2019. Reservations can only be made six months prior to the reservation date. To make a reservation, call (515) 323-5317 between 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.(Monday - Friday).

Five open air picnic shelters can be rented from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., 7 days per week. All shelters are accessible and come with picnic tables and grills. Amenities such as electricity, water service, sand volleyball courts, and playgrounds can be found in or nearby certain shelters.  For more information or to make reservations, please click on the MAKE RESERVATIONS tab above.

Managed by Food with Flair Catering, the Jester Park Lodge is a unique destination for weddings, corporate retreats, and private parties. The venue is nestled in mature woodlands overlooking an expansive lawn with beautiful lake views. The Jester Park Lodge can seat over 250 guests with a beautiful, private deck overlooking Saylorville Lake. The indoor event space can be divided in half for smaller events. Facility rental prices change seasonally. For more information or to make a reservation at the Lodge, please click here to go to their website.

Jester Park Equestrian Center can be your go-to destination for your equestrian clinic, small show, conferences or other venue needs (ie: dog shows!). Our facilities were established in mind to host a plethora of groups and we are very accommodating and flexible for your needs. Utilize our indoor complex, outdoor arena, trail system or a combination of all of the above! For fees and rental information, visit their website here.

Surrounded by beautiful rolling greens, the Jester Park Golf Course Clubhouse is an excellent choice for your next corporate or holiday party, graduation party, reunion, or birthday! The clubhouse does not host weddings. This venue has a private entrance for events, a customizable floor layout that seats 100+ guests, full service bar and kitchen, and a private back patio with plenty of extra seating. For more information, visit their website here.

Five picnic shelters are available by reservation or on a first-come  basis. Shelter #2 has a volleyball court and overlooks Skull Pond and golf course, Shelter #3 has a volleyball net and is closest to the playground, Shelter #5 is near the cabins, across from Two Dam Pond, Shelter #6 is across from Elk/Bison Exhibit and Nature Playscape. The Amphitheater/mini shelter, great for award ceremonies and small wedding ceremonies is also available to reserve. Reservations for these facilities can be made by clicking on the MAKE RESERVATIONS tab above.

Four modern cabins at Jester Park provide opportunities for families to enjoy Jester Park who are unable or less inclined to camp. The cabins feature a walk out basement, covered front porch seating area, a wrap around wooden walkway to a back deck with a secluded woodland views. Amenities inside include a fireplace, kitchenette, two restrooms with shower, and modern household furnishings. The one larger cabin has a 2 bedroom upper level, with separate bunk space in the lower walk-out; the three smaller cabins have 1 bedroom on ground level with the same lower level features. Other amenities to the cabin site include fire ring, BBQ grills outside, and a central fire-pit gathering area for families.  For more information or to make reservations, please click on the MAKE RESERVATIONS tab above.

Come take a beautiful hike through the trails or a paddle on Discovery Pond at Jester Park to experience the colors of fall in full swing!
Fishing Fishing at Jester Park
Three ponds (Teal, Skull, and Discovery) support largemouth bass, bluegill, green sunfish, and crappie.
Maximum depth: 8 feet.
Average depth: 5 feet.
Most fish are small but plentiful making it a good for beginning anglers. Look for submerged brush piles. Ice fish using wax worms and minnows. You can also fish Saylorville Lake from the shore or by boat. 

For more information on fishing and pond contour maps, please visit our website at www.leadingyououtdoors.org or by clicking on the following link: FISHING INFORMATION
Geocaching Geocaching at Jester Park

Geocaching has become a very popular activity for individuals and families to participate in. Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for GPS users. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the Internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is to leave an item if they decide to take something from the cache. Visit geocaching.com for more details.

Polk County Conservation permits geocaching in keeping with its mission to provide opportunities for safe recreational activities. Geocachers are welcome to place a cache in PCC lands as long as they comply with the requirements of the geocache permit.

Hunting Hunting at Jester Park
Several remote areas of Jester Park are available to hunt all game. A portion of Jester Park along Saylorville Lake is open to waterfowl hunting only. All state and federal hunting laws apply.

For more information on hunting, please visit our website at www.leadingyououtdoors.org or by clicking on the following link: HUNTING INFORMATION
Other Activities Other Activities at Jester Park
Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center

The Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center offers a wide range of outdoor programming through Polk County Conservation, rental equipment, and Pingora Outdoors at Jester Park, allowing everyone access to outdoor adventure and fun!

Equipment Rental
Rent summer and winter equipment at the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center.

This play structure was created with the child in mind. One structure is desgned for children ages 2-5, while the other is designed for children ages 5-12. Both structures are accessible and can be found near shelter #3.

Natural Playscape
The Jester Park Natural Playscape is not a run of the mill playground. It is a play area constructed using natural materials such as boulders, earth mounds, and water features, avoiding plastics, metals, concrete, or signs explaining how to play.

Children that climb trees, roll down hills, scramble up rocks, dam up water, and hide in grass experience natural play. This type of play frees the child’s imagination to limitless learning opportunities. By using the approach of a Natural Playscape instead of a fabricated playground, children’s creativity will be challenged with adventurous natural activities and objects.

Jester Park Golf Course
The Jester Park Golf Course is an 18-hole championship course judged by the Des Moines Business Record in 1997 to be Greater Des Moines' "best public golf course." Excellent playing conditions and challenging holes have helped make Jester Park a popular course for state tournaments. Tee times may be made in advance by calling (515) 999-2903. Jester Park also offers a 9-hole par 3 course especially popular with beginning golfers, as well as a modern Golf Learning and Practice Facility with driving range and practice greens.

Miniature Golf Course The newly constructed 18-hole miniature golf course is a fun, yet challenging game for players of all ages. The professionally designed course has multiple water features,
practice greens, and beautifully manicured flower beds. The course is also lit for the after sunlight hours to provide night time fun! Birthday party & group packages are available.


Picnicking Picnicking at Jester Park

Five picnic shelters are available by reservation or on a first-come basis. Several offer views of the lake and others are located in private, wooded settings. Picnic tables with grills are scattered throughout the park.

Picnicing is also available at the Jester Park Nature Center on the outdoor patios.

Trails & Hiking Trails & Hiking at Jester Park
Jester Park offers more than 8 miles of trails to explore, including the Lakeshore Trail along Saylorville Lake, Hickory Ridge trail near the bison-elk display and Campers Loop. The Stagecoach Trail brings one to an especially scenic view of the lake. The Red Pine and Red Cedar trails are perfect short hikes for young children. 

Basswood Trail  - 0.3 mile trail winds through the woods from the park entrance, past the Lodge, and to Camp Area 3.

Camper's Loop -  0.3 mile loop is located near Camp Area 2 and is great for a leisurely stroll.

Stagecoach Trail - 0.2 mile trail leads hikers from the park road to Camp Area 4.

Red Cedar Trail - 0.4 mile loop east of Camp Area 5, perfect for a night hike.

Red Pine Trail - 0.4 mile loop west of Camp Area 5.

Hickory Ridge Trail - 0.7 mile trail from the kiosk to the wildlife exhibit.

Lakeshore Trail  -4.6 mile trail begins at Mile Long Bridge traveling north along Saylorville Lake. Snowmobiles, horses and hikers are permitted on this trail.

Discovery Trail - just under 0.5 miles of accessible trail leading to and from the nature center and around Discovery Pond with a pedestrian boardwalk.

Portions of these trails are groomed for cross country skiing in the winter.

For more trail information or a park maps, please visit our website at www.leadingyououtdoors.org or click on the following link: PARKS AND TRAILS

Winter Activities Winter Activities at Jester Park
The 5-1/2 mile Lakeshore Trail is open for snowmobiling when snow conditions permit and offers a beautiful ride alongside Saylorville Lake. For an update on trail conditions, call the park ranger at ​515-249-3229.

Cross Country Skiing
At Jester Park you’ll have an opportunity to ski over 3.5 miles of trails. Shelter # 2 will serve as the trailhead. Due to drifting, the majority of trails on the golf course have been closed. Trails will lead skiers through the woods, near Saylorville Lake, and along the edge of the golf course. Rent cross country skis at the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center. Call 515-323-5330 for more information or visit our website: Jester Park Equipment Rental information

Snowshoeing can be enjoyed by anyone just about anywhere in Polk County. The only places to avoid snowshoeing are on groomed cross-country ski trails (found at Jester Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt) and golf courses. Rent snowshoes at the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center. For more information call (515) 323-5330 or visit click here to visit the website: Jester Park Equipment Rental information