F.W. Kent Park is a 1,052-acre county park with tons of native prairie, wetlands, and woodlands – and heaps of fun outdoor activities. And it’s just northwest of Iowa City.
Its scenic trails, 27-acre lake, great fishing, and excellent camping make it a popular outdoor destination for nature enthusiasts year-round!
A Brief History of F.W. Kent Park
Kent Park is named after Frederick Wallace Kent, a native Iowan who began taking pictures at 14. He attended the University of Iowa and eventually became the official photographer for the University’s events for 40+ years.
But his love of photography expanded beyond the University to other parts of life, including nature. Mr. Kent enjoyed photographing Iowa birds and landscapes, especially in Johnson County.
He took countless birding* and canoe trips and gained extensive knowledge about the area. And he shared this knowledge with the newly established Johnson County Conservation Board in the mid-1960s as they sought to develop new conservation and park areas.
Johnson County soon bought the original 200 acres for a park. The board unanimously voted to name it after Frederick Wallace Kent.
Things To Do at Kent Park
Hike the trails
Over nine miles of trails wind throughout the park, extending through the prairie, woods, and around the lake. Stroll around the lake, explore the prairie, or walk among the trees. No matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed!
Trail surfaces are mowed grass and crushed limestone. See the park map for trail options and locations.
See the Tallgrass Prairie
Kent Park features vast areas of restored tallgrass prairie! So, it’s a great place to see the wildflowers and learn more about native prairie.
The Knight Prairie Pavilion offers one of the best views of the prairie! There, the self-guided exhibit provides educational information on the prairie ecosystem.
Kent Park is one of the most popular places to camp in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids area! And for good reason. Spacious campsites, modern facilities, and paved pads in a park full of fun activities? Yes, please.
For more on camping at Kent Park, see the campground section below.
Spend the day at the beach
There’s no better way to spend a hot summer day! The beach is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, from 11 am to 8 pm.
Find the beach on the southeast corner of the lake near the park entrance (see the park map for details). No lifeguard is on duty.
Go fishing at Kent Park
Kent Park is a popular place to go fishing! Visitors can fish at the 26-acre Kent Park Lake or at the three ponds in the park. The lake gets stocked with Channel Catfish, and anglers also catch Crappie, Bluegill, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye.
Fishing jetties, a fishing dock, and shoreline access provide excellent fishing spots. And the crushed limestone trail around the lake is a great way to access shore fishing. See the lake map for depths and structures to choose a fishing spot.
There’s also a boat ramp for canoes, kayaks, and electric motors only if you want to fish from the water (no wake).
See the bridges
The historic bridges in F.W. Kent Park are a unique feature that adds to the park’s beauty. Seven old bridges were relocated to the park, and several are on the trail that surrounds the lake.
Attend a nature program at the Conservation Education Center
Johnson County Conservation provides nature programs for all ages at the Conservation Education Center in Kent Park. So whether you want to learn a new outdoor skill, take a guided night hike, or learn about local wildlife, there’s likely something for you! Check out their events to see what intrigues you!
Also, part of the center is dedicated to interactive exhibits where visitors can learn more about wildlife, habitats, and more. It’s open to the public during limited weekend hours.
While at the Conservation Education Center, go to the parking lot’s east side to get to the bird blind! Check out eBird to see what’s been spotted there lately.
It’s also common for visitors to spot Eastern Bluebirds throughout the park! Through the efforts of Johnson County Conservation, twenty-five bluebird boxes are placed throughout the park. This map shows bluebird box locations.
Have a picnic
What a beautiful park for a picnic! And there are plenty of perfect picnic spots with grills throughout. Plus, six open-air shelters are available; four are reservable, and otherwise, first-come, first-serve. To reserve a shelter, call (319) 645-2315.
Stop by the playground
A large, accessible playground is near the park’s entrance, next to a picnic shelter. Not only is it a fun place for kids, but it’s built entirely out of recycled or recyclable materials!
Winter activities at Kent Park
Ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are excellent ways to experience the park in winter!
Kent Park Campground
There’s so much to do and see around Kent Park, you’ll want to stay awhile! Plus, it’s super convenient for those just passing by since it’s only four miles from Interstate 80.
Below are the campground details:
- 86 campsites with electricity accommodate up to 40’ rigs
- Modern restrooms/showers
- Storm shelter
- Dump station
- See the campground map here
- All campsites are first-come, first-serve
- A youth group camp with an enclosed shelter is available for youth group organizations
Things To Do Nearby
Visit the Iowa Children’s Museum at Coral Ridge Mall, just 7 miles from the park. Kids love the hands-on exhibits and programming at this fun, kid-centric museum.
The University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History is in Iowa City and has free admission. Explore the Iowa Hall, check out the “Hall of Birds,” experience the Biosphere, and more!
The Iowa Raptor Project is 15 miles from Kent Park and home to a dozen native birds of prey. Visitors can view the birds and learn about them year-round. See the project’s website for details.
The Amana Colonies are 15 minutes northwest of the park. Find one-of-a-kind shops and famous homemade food & drink with traditional German flair! And if you’re looking for a unique place to stay, check out the Hotel Millwright, Die Heimat Country Inn, and more!
Take your off-road all-terrain vehicle or motorcycle to Lake View OHV Park. It’s 21 miles northeast of the park at 3877 140th St NE, Solon, IA 52333. According to the Iowa DNR, the park has ”an “A” level motorcross practice track, a “B” level motorcross practice track, an off-road utility vehicle practice track, a pit bike track, and two kiddie tracks.”
Coralville Lake is a few miles northeast of Kent Park. This 23-mile-long lake has plenty of space for boats of all sizes. Also, there are three beaches, mountain bike trails, disc golf, trails, camping, and (much) more!
Lake MacBride State Park is a 30-minute drive from the park. It’s on the northeast side of Coralville Lake, Iowa’s largest state park, and has many outdoor activities! Go swimming, boating, fishing, camping, and picnicking while you’re there. Boat rentals are also available.
Palisades-Kepler State Park is another excellent Iowa state park that’s a 30-minute drive. This scenic 840-acre park along the Cedar River is popular among nature enthusiasts, offering breathtaking views, unique trails, wildlife, and more!
Visit Kent Park Today!
Kent Park is at 2048 US-6 NW, Oxford, IA 52322.