Updated: May 3, 2022
Big Hollow Recreation Area is a 798-acre property owned by Des Moines County in Southeast Iowa. This park offers a variety of outdoor activities for year-round enjoyment. Big Hollow offers an assortment of terrains, including timber, wetland, and prairie. The man-made lake is comprised of 178 acres.
The Big Hollow Creek Valley was originally known as “Sawmill Creek.” Native Americans are known to have dwelled in the area for thousands of years. The Schoolhouse, Stone Church, and other buildings around the area were constructed by the limestones quarried in the area. The recreation area land was just a wooded hollow first acquired in 1966. The dam which helped this area became the lake it is today was not completed until 2008. Since then, the park has slowly been adding activities and amenities, with more plans set for the upcoming years.
Big Hollow offers 32 RV campsites and 16 primitive campsites. The RV sites are available for $20 a night and offer central water and sewer dump station in addition to a central shower house. The primitive sites are available for $10 a night and are set back in the woods for a private feel. Some primitive sites are only accessible by a short hike in via an access trail. The park allows people to camp for a maximum of 14 consecutive days.
The park also offers off grid cabin rentals from April 1 to October 31 for $40 per night (two night minimum). These cabins provide a furnished dining area, living room, and two bedrooms. Outside the cabins you will find a fire ring, charcoal grill, picnic table, and portable restrooms. The cabins can sleep 5 people and hold a maximum of 10 people.
Big hollow’s trail system is comprised of 10 trails. The longest trail, known as the Perimeter Trail, provides 6.3 miles of hiking around the perimeter of the park. The Big Hollow trail system also connects to the Flint River Trail, which is a local favorite for gravel biking.
Some of the park trails are equestrian friendly and are a great place to go for a ride. The park grounds include an equestrian campground. The grounds do include a shooting range, so be mindful in bringing your horse if they are not used to loud gunshots.
The recreation area does include an extensive outdoor shooting range. The sizes are 25-, 50-, 100-, and 300-meter ranges. The ranges provide a covered firing line with built in benches. The range does require an online certification course and annual membership. The membership fee is $30 for an individual and $35 for a family. The range provides target frames for paper targets, but does not allow other types of targets. They recently installed clay target throwers for clay pigeon shooting on the 50-yard range.
3D Archery Course
The park grounds include an extensive 3D archery course, maintained by the Flint River Bow Hunters Club. They host monthly 3D archery shoots during the summer that include 25 3D along the wooded course. The course is also open for the public to use with the old targets placed throughout the course.
Because this man-made lake was once forest and trails, there are many trees throughout the lake, making the ideal fish habitat. There are also multiple ponds surrounding the lake, offering a variety of fishing settings. The species found in Big Hollow include bluegill, bass, crappie, and channel cat. The boat ramp and canoe launch allow visitors to easily fish from a boat or the shore.
As previously mentioned, the park offers a canoe launch, allowing for easy access to the water. The long shape of the lake provides a good opportunity to work on paddling endurance. The submerged trees make a fun obstacle course to paddle through and work on your navigation skills. For motorized boats these submerged trees do make some difficult hazards to watch for.
Big Hollow allows public hunting and is known to have deer, turkey, small game, and upland game. The park does have severe No Shooting Zones, so it is wise to check the park map before hunting with firearms. The trail system allows for easy access to most areas of the park. Decent sized bucks have been captured on trail cameras around the grounds in recent years. Plenty of deer prints and tree scrapes suggest a thriving population of the famous Iowa sized whitetails within the Big Hollow Recreation Area. Whether hunting in the timber or grasslands, beautiful views are to be found throughout the park.