Wildcat Den State Park is a historical and geological wonder to visit. The area has large sandstone bluffs, steep cliffsides, beautiful mature white oaks, pine trees, hiking trails, and a campground. Many visit this park to enjoy the natural beauty and the historic Pine Creek Grist Mill.
1884 Wildcat Den Rd, Muscatine, IA 52761
Where is Wildcat Den State Park
Wildcat Den State Park is located in Iowa just north of the Mississippi River and the Illinois border. The town of Muscatine is an 18-minute drive, and 12 miles west of the park, located on the Mississippi River. The larger city of Davenport, Iowa is a 27-minute drive, 19 miles east of the state park.
Wildcat Den State Park is located in a lush, forested area with sandstone bluffs overlooking Pine Creek Valley below. The landscape varies with diverse forests, steep ravines, wildcat and bobcat ‘dens’, and limestone and shale rocks in lower elevation.
How Big is Wildcat Den State Park
The park is 423 acres and has an elevation of 627 feet at the lowest point. Cliff and bluff formations in the park can reach up to 75 feet tall. The park offers 4.2 miles of trails leading through the forest, up sandstone bluffs and cliffsides, and around geological landscape wonders. Pine Creek winds through the park in a low ravine and later joins the Mississippi River a few miles downstream. The park is located 4 miles north of the Mississippi River.
Wildcat Den State Park Weather
Weather in the state park varies greatly with the seasons, with snowfall and cold temperatures in the winter, and warm rainy days in the summer. The summer season is warmest from May through October with temperatures reaching an average high of 80 degrees. July is the warmest month with an average high of 86 degrees. Lows during the summer are in the 60’s. Rain and thunderstorms are common during summer months with average precipitation of about 5 inches of rain a month.
Fall brings less rainfall, cooler temperatures, and beautiful foliage as the leaves change color preparing for winter. Peak leaf changing happens in the middle of October but depends on the first cold snap and freeze. In October and November, temperatures begin to drop into the high 50’s during the day and the 30’s during the evenings. Winter brings cooler temperatures and snowfall from December through March. Average lows during the winter are around 15 degrees. Snowfall can be anywhere from 1 to 2 inches each month.
Because of the cooler temperatures and snowfall, trails may close due to icy conditions at any time, making summer the most popular time to visit Wildcat Den State Park.
When did Wildcat Den become a State Park
Located in an area with plentiful land of rich soils, and full of water from Pine Creek and the Mississippi River, people have been able to thrive off of the land since the first settlers dating back to well before 1800’s. The first settlers are the Native American tribes Fox and Sac. White settlement began in the area after the Black Hawk War in 1832, displacing Native Americans from the area.
Benjamin Nye, one of the first settlers in the area in 1848 helped found the town of Montpellier, Iowa. Nye built the historic Pine Creek Grist Mill in 1848, located in the now state park. The historic school was later built in the 1880s.
Conservation of the area began in the 1930’s to save the historic Mill building. Since the 1930’s, the area has been conserved as public land for all to enjoy.
Things to do in Wildcat Den State Park
Wildcat Den State Park offers great hiking trails through a diverse forest and varied landscape with sandstone bluffs and 75-foot cliffs. The park also has a campsite, two large shelters, and picnic areas for reservation. Many people visit the park to view the picturesque historic mill and schoolhouse built in the 1800s.
Photograph the Pine Creek Grist Mill
A focal point of the park, this 1848 mill was built by one of the first settlers in the area. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Step back into history at the Melpine Schoolhouse
This historic schoolhouse was built in the 1880s and is a highlight of the park located near the Pine Creek Grist Mill.
Hike the Wildcat Den Trail
A 4.2-mile trail is the main trail leading around the state park that takes you past infamous natural landmarks such as Steamboat Rock, Devil’s Punch Bowl, and Fat Man’s Squeeze. The trail gains 495 feet in elevation and is rated intermediate.
Reserve a shelter for a picnic
The park offers two open shelters for reservation online. They are ADA accessible and are available for reservation online.
Photograph the foliage
This diverse forest hosts beautiful fall colors as the leaves of maple trees and other foliage change color.
Visit Wildcat and Bobcat Den
There are two dens to visit, one of which the park is named after, Wildcat Den, and the smaller Bobcat Den. Visit the Emma and Clara Brandt Plaque, then hike up the stairs in the rock to lead up to the dens.
When to go to Wildcat Den State Park
The Pine Creek Grist Mill and Melpine Schoolhouse are open for the summer season only from May through October. The campgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic area are open year-round, however because of icy conditions and snowfall, the summer is the most popular time to enjoy the hiking trails and campground. Fall is a desirable time to visit as the foliage and tree leaves change color.
Must-Have things to bring to Wildcat Den State Park
Wildcat Dent State Park has limited services and does not offer food. Stop at the nearby town of Muscatine just an 18-minute drive west of the park off the main road following the Mississippi River to stock up and food and water before venturing into the park.
Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated at the park.
There is no food in the state park, so make sure you bring lots of snacks and a packed lunch to picnic in the park.
Although the trail system is limited, the forested landscape can make it easy to lose your sense of direction. Download a park map from online onto your phone or print one before you go.
Proper Hiking Boots
Hiking trails wind through steep cliffsides and terrain with loose sandstone and limestone underfoot. Have solid hiking boots with good traction. If visiting during the winter, snow and ice are frequent so bring winter boots or snowshoes.
Rain Jacket and warm layers
During the summer, rainfall average is 5 inches per month with frequent thunderstorms. Even with the warm temperatures during summer, it’s important to not get soaked from rainfall to avoid hypothermia. During the winter, bring lots of warm layers as average low temperatures reach down into the single digits.
With beautiful landscapes and historical buildings, this is a popular photographers spot, especially during fall when the leaves change color. Don’t forget your camera!
Where to stay in Wildcat Den State Park
Wildcat Den State Park has one campground, where campsites can be reserved online. 6 miles down the road is the Fairport Recreation Area Campground located on the Mississippi River with campsites for reservation as well. Nearby hotels are in the town of Muscatine, just 10 miles west of the park located on the Mississippi River. There are about 20 options to choose from ranging from more expensive hotels, to small bed and breakfasts. Located east of the park about 19 miles is the city of Davenport with many options for hotels and lodging.
Food Nearby Wildcat Den State Park
There is no food inside of the park, however the nearby town of Muscatine and the 3rd largest city in Iowa, Davenport, offer many dining options and grocery stores to stock up before heading to the state park. The closest dining option near the state park is the Charthouse Bar and Grill located just a couple of miles south of the park on the Mississippi River.
Airports near Wildcat Den State Park
The closest major airport to Wildcat Den State Park is Quad City International Airport, about 23 miles east below the city of Davenport. The best way to visit the state park is to fly in, rent a car, and drive the scenic road along the Mississippi River heading west to Wildcat Den State Park.