When traveling and living full-time in an RV, we’ve learned pretty fast that the best laid plans are always subject to change.
That’s what happened when we pulled into Lake Red Rock Campgrounds near Pella, Iowa on Tuesday, May 24. The campground that we were shooting for was full. “In fact”, said the Gate Keeper, “all the other 5 campgrounds at Red Rock were full.”. Bad news for us! Barbara explained that we were not locals and had arrived early in hopes of securing a site for just a few days before the Memorial Day crowds arrived and if they didn’t have any sites available, perhaps she could direct us to someplace that might. Well, the Gate Keeper fell for Barbara’s big sad green eyes and said she’d make a few phone calls to the other campgrounds to make sure that they were full. Nice.
A few phone calls later and we were told that there was one site, and only one, available over at Ivan’s Campground. We hightailed it over there expecting the worst possible site imaginable and to our total surprise and joy, it was a site nestled in-between two huge shade trees with a river view out of the back window! We set up, met Rich, the camp host, and set off to explore the area!
Town Square Information Office and Square Tulip Monument
We learned quickly that Pella, Iowa was founded in the mid 1800s by a group of Dutch immigrants. They were so impressed with the area that they set up camp and over a period of time worked out an agreement with the local land owners to purchase a large amount of acreage. One of the things that impressed me most about their arrival and settlement in the New World, was that they immediately assimilated into America, while keeping their rich Dutch traditions. These early pioneers considered themselves to now be Americans.
The Dutch traditions and faith are still very strong today. The town is rich in various places to worship and that (their faith in God) and what they call “Dutch Clean” is noticeable in their actions, words and community. Barbara and I were constantly amazed at how friendly everyone was, from the eldest to the youngest. A strong sense of civic responsibility and pride was certainly evident. We drove around the village, a population of 10,000, and could not find one “bad side of town”. Every home, from the meekest to the richest, was well kept and maintained. The village has a town square and is a very nice, quaint place to visit. Shops line all four sides of the square and several of the side streets as well. The village architecture is attractive and interesting to look at.
Pella is known for it’s Tulip Festival that is held the first part of each May. I read that in the fall, they plant over 100,000 tulip bulbs and then in the spring, after the festival, they dig them all back up and re-plant with over 25,000 bedding plants. Then come fall, back into the ground goes another 100,000 tulip bulbs. Amazing! They are also well known for a pastry called “Dutch Letters”. Yes, we tried ONE. It had been recommended by Rich, the Camp Host back at Ivan’s. Dutch Letters are a cinnamon powdered pastry with an almond paste filling.
Dutch Letter Pastries
They are also known for their Pella Bologna (we got ours at a meat market called In’t Velds, which means “In Field”) and some amazing cheeses. They are also home base for Pella Windows and a company called Vermeer. If you’ve ever seen those huge round bales of hay out in the farm fields, Vermeer invented the machine to do that. I would say that we were enchanted with this little community. Now…. if they just didn’t have winters…. ;-)
A small "water canal" in a business district.
The same can be said for Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake. With six campgrounds, plenty of boat and bank access to the waters both above and below the dam and over 11 miles of walking trails the activities are endless; Camping, boating, fishing, hiking, kayaking, swimming, bicycling, Eagle watching, birding or just lounging around the camp!
Our campsite at Ivan's Campground
We met this deer along one of the walking paths.
Our time at Ivan’s Campground is a memorable time. Red Rock (which is where Ivan’s is located) is a Corps of Engineer Park/Campground and during our stay was meticulously taken care of. All the sites were clean and well maintained as were the bathhouses. We spent our time walking several trails, watching for Bald Eagles and other birds and visiting with neighbors in the campsite next to us. Often times, we’d just lounge in our camp chairs and watched our neighbor Jim and his friends wade out into the river and fish. Three of their biggest fish were a 23 inch Walleye, a 26 inch Northern Pike and a five pound Wiper. A “wiper” is a hybrid of a White Bass and a Striped Bass. I think that was my only regret of this visit, that I didn’t splurge to buy a 3 day nonresident fishing license to join in on the fun. Lesson learned.
Neighbor Jim going after some big ones & his dog Journey.
We were constantly entertained by three local Domestic Swans that always acted aggressive but never did us any harm. There was a fourth swan that was nesting so that probably had something to do with the aggressiveness of the others. They became quite comical at times! And Barbara took a shine to Jim and Melanie’s Golden Lab, Journey. He was a very lovable dog.
Success for the crane!
Mom-to-be Swan and her protective hubby.
Lake Red Rock Beach was a sad place. It had lots of driftwood debris and the sand was only a few inches deep at best. There was no way a kid could build a sand castle or bury his dad on that beach! I did happen to find thirty-nine cents with my metal detector though! Winner winner!
There is so much more to tell about Pella and Lake Red Rock and the things that we encountered and experienced there but, without experiencing them yourself they’d just be words on a page. You REALLY need to visit this place to get it’s true flavor!
Lake Red Rock and the nearby village of Pella was so beautiful, we stretched that three day stay into a wonderful nine day staycation! We had arrived in Iowa only intending to stay 3 nights and then head on down the road.
There ya go. So much for well laid plans.