The new lodge
Many people have stayed at Red Oak Lodge over the years. Those of us who have, have come to think of it as "our" cabin and it is something special to us. If you would like to be part of the loose-knit, unofficial Friends of Red Oak Lodge, write an e-mail to RedOak@Skep.com or phone (319) 362-0761. Your help will be appreciated.
Red Oak Lodge is an isolated rustic/new cabin that's nestled in the woods on a cliff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River. It is located in Matsell Preserve about 2 1/2 miles north of Viola, Iowa. There is no drive-up access to the cabin.
This is a primative site; toilet facilities and water are up the hill. There are no beds, that is why air mattresses are so important to the overnighters. Motor home campers will find it a bit spartan, but seasoned campers will find it cushy. You decide. Whether you are a day-tripper or an overnighter, the scenery is beautiful. Red Oak trees are all around and the cabin has a porch that overlooks the Wapsi. There is no sign of civilization anywhere in view. Caution must be taken off the beaten path where one can inadvertently encounter poison ivy or cliffs.
There are a couple of ways to get to Red Oak Lodge. Starting from the intersection of
Highway 13 and 151 in Marion, you can either go north on Highway 13, then east on the
County Home Road to Viola, or you can go east on Highway 151 to Springville, then north to
the County Home Road, then east to Viola.
Follow the Matsell Bridge Road north till you get to the Wapsipinicon River. Just south of the river on the east side of the road will be Matsell Bridge Park. This is NOT the place! Cross the river to the north side. There will be County buildings on the left. Turn right at the first turn, then right again towards the Rifle Range. Park in the Rifle Range Parking Lot.
Once you get to the parking lot, park on the right side at the end. You should see the restrooms and a trail leading off into the woods. Take the trail past the Rifle Range. After about a quarter of a mile or so, there will be another trail that leads off to the right. This is the shortcut to the cabin. Take it. If you miss the cutoff, don't worry, you will get to the cabin by the long route. It is about twice as far.
PUBLIC INPUT MEETINGS concerning the state of repair and possible remedies for Red Oak Lodge's deficiencies were held on Monday, February 24, 1997 at 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. in the Board room at the Conservation Board Headquarters. Another meeting of the Conservation Board was held April 15, 1997. At that meeting much of the same information that was presented to the public was presented to the Board. Also, information concerning the lack of eligibility for the cabin to make the National Historical Register was presented. After questioning by the Board, the staff indicated that they were leaning towards building a new cabin about 20 feet uphill from the present one. Which was subsequently done.