Matsell Bridge Natural Area

At 1,912 acres, the Matsell Bridge Natural Area is the largest Linn County area. Diverse in terrain and habitat, Matsell Bridge is home to many species of native Iowa wildlife and plants. The area contains uniqure facilities within the Linn County park system: a shooting range, primitive year-round cabin, equestrian camping and unique historical features.  The area is popular for hiking, hunting and trapping, fishing, horseback riding, and much more.

portrait of George Matsell in 1880Matsell Bridge is named after George W. Matsell, a New York City chief of police from 1845-1857. He eventually built a mansion near the present-day equestrian campground. Matsell fashioned his home after George Washington's Mount Vernon home that overlooks the Potomac River. Additional buildings were added to the farmstead until there were a total of 11 buildings including livestock barns, grain storage, a gate-keeper's house and an ice house. Over time, the buildings fell into disrepair and were razed. Only the icehouse and stone pillars of the former entrance gate remain today – reminding us of the grand old history. A nearby bridge that bears his name crosses the Wapsipinicon River.

His decision to build in Iowa remains unclear. The popular story is he befriended Native Americans who were passing through convinced him to visit Iowa, and he soon fell in love with the land. Another story connect Matsell with conversations he had with unlawful people, or perhaps a connection to the mob... 


All campsites include a picnic table and ground campfire ring. All campers must self-register and pay the required Camping Fee

Equestrian camping: This campground at 3742 Matsell Park Road includes 12 campsites with hitching posts. No water and electricity is available. This campground is typically opened April 15 - November 15.

Primitive camping: Matsell Bridge Campgrounds in the 3700 block of Matsell Park Road provides 15 campsites including 2 pack-in or paddle-in areas. Mt Hope, along Stone City Road, provides 6 campsites. This area is available year round. No electricity or water is available in these campgrounds. 

Mount Hope, along Stone City Road, has 7 sites. No electricity or water is available in these campgrounds. Mount Hope will close permanently for camping after the 2023 season. 

Water and Firewood: Potable water (April - October) is available at the maintenance shop located at 3742 Matsell Park Road. Due to thefts in recent years, there is no longer a self-serve firewood box there. Please bring your own firewood.

Red Oak Cabin is located on a bluff along the Wapispinicon River, offering a primitive "get away from it all" experience.  No water or electricity is available on site.  This cabin is available year round and is reservable online in advance.

Visit our camping page for more information about camping opportunities at Linn County Conservation

Equestrian Activities
Matsell Bridge equestrian trail rider

With an expansive equestrian campground and over 10 miles of multi-use trails, the historic Matsell Bridge Natural Area is a destination for equine enthusiasts. The campground features hitching posts and a lot of space - situated with direct access to the equestrian trails in the park.  

Matsell Bridge Natural Area map.

Matsell Bridge Shooting Range
Matsell Bridge shooting range

A permit is required to use the shooting range.

Purchase a permit and view the range rules.