Elinor Bedell State Park is a state park of Iowa, USA, located in Marion County. The park was named after Elinor Bedell when she was acting as the State Secretary of State under governor George Wyth Memorial Hospital. She previously worked for the American Red Cross and the YWCA before becoming the first female cabinet member in the history of the state of Iowa. The park has an area of 1,818 acres (726ha). It features camping facilities including youth group campsite, camper cabins, equestrian campground with stable and riding ring, picnic areas, swimming pool, playgrounds, hiking trails, biking trail, boat ramp, and nature center.
The park receives about 640,000 visitors annually. Some notable people who have visited include President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Richard Nixon, President Gerald Ford, former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, actor John Ritter, singer Pat Boone, television star Meredith Baxter, actress Jean Stapleton, musician Ethel Waters, author Louis Bromfield, and poet Carl Sandburg.
The new route runs directly past the park’s campgrounds and goes straight through farmland instead of following the course of the old route which ran near several farms. The new route also includes passing over two small lakes. The park offers boating, fishing, swimming, 18 primitive campsites (11 with electrical hookups), 16 semi-modern sites, 4 camper cabins, and 6 equestrian campsites with stables and corrals. Picnic tables and fire rings are common throughout the park. Modern restroom facilities with hot showers are available seasonally. Camping supplies, gifts, and clothing are sold at the park office.
Visitors needing special accommodations, due to age or physical challenges, may reserve a private tent/RV site. Half of the campsites are reserved up to 11 months in advance, the remainder are open on a first come, first served basis. Reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Tent and RV sites with water and electric hookups are designated as “Full Service,” those without these specifications are designated as “Primitive.” Most of the campsites feature level grassy yard areas. Two primitive walk-in sites are accessible via footpaths from Route 381. One of these sites features Lake Manawa and another features Cedar Run. Horses are allowed in certain parts of the park but must be kept within sight at all times. Riders are asked to wear blinders. No horses are allowed in the campground. Horse owners are required to register their animals with any state.
The park hosts numerous events each year including cross country races, weekly walks and hikes, guided nature tours, story time, bingo, karaoke, and bonfire circle. Events are posted to the park calendar. The park provides space for family reunions, company picnics, barbecues, outdoor parties, weddings, receptions, and business meetings. Banquet facilities can be reserved for groups larger than 50 attendees. To help fund a backlog of deferred maintenance and park improvements, the state implemented an entrance fee for this park. The fees, charged per vehicle, start at $10 per day for a single-day or $8 for residents with an Iowa license plate or Oklahoma plate. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and Iowa residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Iowa residents.
In September 2011, the Friends of Elinor Bedell State Park organization helped raise $200,000 for a new park office building and visitor amenities. Groundbreaking took place on May 3, 2013, and the facility opened in June 2014. Renovated facilities were dedicated by Governor Terry Branstad on October 28, 2016. Facilities include modern restrooms, handicapped parking, bike racks, picnic tables, Wi-Fi access, a warming hut, and a porch overlooking the pond. A ceremony was held at the site on July 10, 2021, celebrating the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States.
Former U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III addressed the gathering along with other dignitaries including his father Joseph P. Kennedy II, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congressman David Loebschuck, former Governor Tom Vilsack, and former State Senator Joni Ernst. His speech can be viewed here. On January 31, 2010, a large sinkhole, at least 20 feet wide by 30 feet deep, occurred along Highway 381 just east of the city of Yale. At least one person died in the incident which occurred around 2 p.m. Central Time. An investigation into the cause of the sinkhole began immediately, led by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Iowa Conservation Commission.
Over 350 personnel from various government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local authorities participated in the effort to contain the damage caused by the sinkhole. By April 23, 2010, excavation had begun and the first piece of debris removed from the hole. Three months later, on July 25, 2010, the broken highway was finally repaired. However, not all the holes in the road were filled in; rather, some remained open, creating ruts that remain visible even today. On December 12, 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court ordered the state to go forward with plans to build a 14 miles (23km) long gravel bypass around the park because the original route would have destroyed more than 200 privately owned homes. Construction started in 2015 and completed in 2017 at a cost of nearly $37 million.
There are also many opportunities to participate in organized group activities such as:
- cross-country skiing
- horseback rides