Ashton Wildwood County Park is located in northwestern Jasper County about 7 miles west of Baxter. What makes this modest 113 acre park so unique is the Ashton Observatory. The building has two permanently mounted telescopes and a classroom.
Other park features include a densely wooded campground, orienteering course, nature trail, softball field and two shelters for large groups.
It would also be possible to make Ashton-Wildwood a side trip off of the Chichaqua Valley Bike Trail. At Mingo take HWY 117 northwest to Eagle Street and then to W. 122nd Street North. The distance from Mingo to the park is 4 miles.
The twin domed observatory structure is twenty minutes north-east of Des Moines which helps to minimize light pollution. It houses a 16-inch, f/4.5 Newtonian, and a 16-inch Meade Reflector telescope. A 30’ x 30’ classroom is used for club meetings, lectures and workshops. On the exterior there are seven outdoor telescope pads that are designed to accommodate visitor’s personal equipment.
The telescopes are maintained by the Des Moines Astronomical Society. A list of events can be found on their site.
The campground is tidy and surprisingly large. It’s tucked into a dense growth of oak and hickory trees.
Camp sites are primitive and do not have water or electric. There are some very private spots tucked into the trees and others are more public. All of the sites have plenty of space between them. Camping pads are grass with gravel and are mostly level. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table.
The restroom facility is primitive and includes a women’s and men’s toilet. The lack of modern hookups and dump station may discourage large campers.
Camp sites operate on a first come first serve basis and no reservations are taken.
The Ashton Observatory combined with a well maintained park makes Ashton-Wildwood County Park an unexpected pleasure.
Are there showers at this park? I read an article that said showers were expected in 2014. I wondered if those have been built.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to the park and I’m not seeing anything online. You can always call Jasper County Conservation at 641-792-9780. Please let me know what you find out. 🙂
One modern bathroom with shower up by the observatory.
your site notes that there are fir rings at each campsite. there are also posted signs that no ground fires are allowed. which one is true?
I’d check with the park ranger on that.
Heading there in two days. Driving from Colorado to WI. Looks like a nice quiet stop. Any good restaurants and microbreweries on area?
The closest restaurant would be the Blue Ribbon Cafe in Baxter. I’ve never been there but it looks like a small town diner. I’m not sure what route you are taking but Ankeny has many restaurant and brew pub options.
There is a brewery in nearby Newton. Gezelig in the Legacy Plaza which was the original Maytag facility and now all owned by the community college, DMACC. Fun eating places in Newton too.
What are the fees for 65 and older?
The Jasper County website doesn’t mention a discount for 65 and older. Here is what is on the FAQ page, “The Jasper County Conservation Board charges $7/unit/night. A fee of $25 will be charged for scout and church group camping. Primitive camping with vault latrines are available at Ashton Wildwood Park and Mariposa Recreation Area.” https://www.co.jasper.ia.us/FAQ.aspx
When does Ashto open for camping?
I would contact Jasper County Conservation at 641-792-9780
Early Sept 2020: I called the Jasper County Conservation It was Reported that the Recent derecho storm closed the observatory. Telescopes are safe. the classroom had the roof torn off. This is a great camping spot for boy scouts and cub scouts.
This is a Heavily wooded area. and I can only imagine what the derecho did to that park.
This is great information – Thanks!