Laws & Policies


Rules & Regulations

Below is a selection of park rules and regulations. For more information, see the Superintendent's Compendium which is a summary of park-specific rules implemented under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 36, Chapter 1 which cover all National Park Service lands.

Violators are brought before the U.S. District Courts in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and are punishable by fine or imprisonment.


Taking nuts, berries, and apples for personal use only is permitted if gathered only by hand and do not exceed a half-gallon per person per day. Collecting mushrooms is prohibited.

No other natural, cultural, or archeological resources or features may be disturbed or removed from the park. Relic hunting is prohibited. Possession of a metal detector in the park is unlawful.

Commercial Filming

Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land

On January 22, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Price v. Barr determining the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CFR Part 5.5 are unconstitutional. The National Park Service has issued interim guidance as of February 22, 2021, to manage filming activities. Under the interim guidance, filming activities may require a permit if they pose a threat to park resources or the visitor experience. The National Park Service intends to update regulations addressing filming activities that are consistent with the outcome of Price v. Barr. Once effective, those regulations will replace and supersede the interim guidance.

As regulations regarding commercial filming permits are being reassessed, those interested in commercial filming activities on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.

Do I need a permit to film?

Under the interim guidance, the National Park Service is not distinguishing between types of filming, such as commercial, non-commercial, or news gathering. Low-impact filming activities will not require a special use permit, but non-low-impact filming may require a permit to consider its potential impacts on park resources and visitor activities.

Low-Impact Filming

“Low-impact filming’ is defined as outdoor filming activities in areas open to the public, except areas managed as wilderness, involving five people or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras. Those participating in low-impact filming activities do not need a permit and are not required to contact the park in advance. If low-impact filmers have questions about areas where they want to film, they should contact the park directly.

All applicable laws and regulations governing activities and public use in parks still apply, including park hours and areas open and closed to the public. Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, news and other staff associated with filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips.

Non-Low-Impact Filming

Filming activities that do not meet the description of low-impact filming requires at least ten days advance notice to the National Park Service by contacting the park directly in writing. The park’s superintendent will determine whether the filming activity will require a special use permit for filming Based on the information provided, a permit may be required to:

  • maintain public health and safety;

  • protect environmental or scenic values;

  • protect natural or cultural resources;

  • allow for equitable allocation or use of facilities; or

  • avoid conflict among visitor use activities.

Some requests that may require permits: entering a sensitive resource area, filming in areas that require tickets to enter, or filming in visitor centers, campgrounds, or other visitor areas. The decision to require a permit rests with the park superintendent based on the threat to park resources, values or the visitor experience.

Contact the park directly if unsure whether or not a filming activity is considered low-impact or will require a permit.

Filming in Wilderness Areas

The National Park Service manages and protects more than 44 million acres of Congressionally-designated wilderness areas under the Wilderness Act of 1964. These areas have additional laws and policies to preserve their wilderness character for future generations. Filming activities in wilderness areas must follow all applicable laws and regulations that govern wilderness areas in the park, including prohibitions on structures, installations, motor vehicles, mechanical transport, motorized equipment, motorboats, or landing aircrafts.

Special use Permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, except casual filming by visitors, no matter the group size or equipment used.

Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?

As of January 22, 2021, and under the interim guidance the National Park Service is not collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming activities.

Still Photography

When is a permit needed?

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

Firearms & Other Weapons

Firearms in national parks »

It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearm laws before entering this park. As a starting point for Iowa, please see the Iowa Code, Chapter 724.

Lost & Found

Property may not be left unattended longer than 24 hours. Found property must be turned in to the Visitor Center or nearest park ranger.


Pets are allowed in the park, but must be physically restrained at all times. Leashes may not exceed six feet in length. Pets, except service animals, are prohibited in buildings and may not be tied to objects and left unattended.

Pet excrement must be immediately collected by the pet handler and removed from the site or deposited in an appropriate waste container.


Certain activities, like commercial photography, weddings, or special events require a permit.

Recreational Activites

Organized activities prohibited in the historic core, loop road, and gravesite areas include, but are not limited to, kite-flying, ball-playing, Frisbee-throwing, sledding, tobogganing, tubing, etc.

Motor vehicles must remain on paved roads and parking areas. Bicycles are permitted on paved roads normally open to the public, sidewalks, boardwalks and parking areas. All trails and service roads are closed to bicycles.

Picnicking is allowed only at the park picnic shelters and on the Village Green.

Loud playing of radios, tape recorders, musical instruments, CD players, or other audio devices is prohibited. This also includes loud motor vehicles, motorized toys, generators, and other noise-making devices.

The use of skateboards, roller skates, roller skis, coasting vehicles or similar devices is prohibited throughout the park.


Smoking is prohibited in all park buildings and within the tallgrass prairie.

Trash & Littering

Littering or other dumping of refuse is prohibited. Use of park dumpsters for discarding household trash is prohibited.


Hunting, trapping, touching, feeding, teasing, or otherwise disturbing wildlife or fish is prohibited.

Last updated: June 22, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 607
West Branch, IA 52358


319 643-2541

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