Set in Muscatine County, Wilcat Den State Park boasts winding trails through rocky terrain featuring towering pine tree bluffs. The stunning views combine with the hiking experience to make the main attraction at this southeast Iowa park.
The challenge of hiking the rugged trails is rewarded by breathtaking cliff views in seemingly pristine surroundings. Some of the unique markers along the trail tend to break the solitude. For example, Fat Man’s Squeeze is the name of one narrow section with another spot on the trail called the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
Wildcat Den furnishes a more rustic camping experience than some other parks providing 28 campsites and several picnic spots. A few amenities exist but there are no modern rest rooms available. It’s more of a place to get away from the stress of everyday life by getting in touch with nature.
The park offers a scenic place for a family picnic with two outdoor shelters. It costs $25 for the entire day to rent a shelter. Shelter reservations can be made at the Department of Natural Resources’ homepage at http://www.iowadnr.gov/index.html . Click on the state park’s tab on the side panel.
The peaceful environment is home to historical structures preserved as part of Iowa’s rich heritage. Benjamin Nye, known as an important early settler, built several important structures including a mill listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Pine Grist Mill is considered one of the best mills in America’s history representing the mid 1800’s. The Mill is located near Wildcat Den’s eastern border on Pine Creek.
Restoration of the mill to its original working condition is an ongoing project of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources and a group called the Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill. The same group helps with maintenance of the Melpine Schoolhouse built near the mill closer to the end of the century. Some of the park land was donated by the Brandt sisters who lived in the school for many years.
Wildcat Den State Park is about 10 miles east of Muscatine, Iowa and 15 miles from Davenport, Iowa and the metropolitan area known as the Quad Cities. Although the park does not offer any water recreational activities, the Mississippi River is only 6 miles away marking the border between Iowa and Illinois. The Mississippi splits the Quad Cities—Rock Island and Moline in Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa.
Campers interested in more information about Iowa’s Wildcat Den State Park can write to 1884 Wildcat Den Road Muscatine, IA 52761 or call 563.263.4337. Reservations are accepted. Wildcat_Den@dnr.iowa.gov is the e-mail address for the park.
For campers who require more modern amenities, Fairport Recreation Area is located on the river about 6 miles from Wildcat Den.