The BEST Frog Pond in Central Iowa – Ankeny

Place/Event: Cottonwood Recreation Area
Location: 7400 NW 37th St, Ankeny, IA 50023
Cost: Free
Grade/age range: K-12
Group size: large or small (great location for very large groups)
Hands-on: Yes
Stroller friendly: Yes (but not along the edge of the frog pond)
Bathrooms: Yes (running water and flushable toilets)
Water: Yes
Food: No


Nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids and their best friends overflowing with excitement and wonder, nets full of tadpoles, and 7 little voices all talking at once about “tadpole city”!

Water sloshing out of rain boots and beaming muddy faces…ahhh… come join us at the frog pond!

Frog Pond Cottonwood Recreation Area


Catching frogs is a timeless childhood tradition but I personally have found it difficult to find good locations for frog hunting…until we discovered Cottonwood Recreation Area.

The pond here is filled with frogs and tadpoles (like millions of them) each spring. Coming to the pond is going to become an annual tradition for us!



In all our excitement, I forgot to take pictures of the other facilities at the park. There are several open air shelters, nice sidewalks, two playgrounds and access to the Des Moines River and bike trails.

This is southeast of Saylorville Dam. At the top of the hill about a mile from Cottonwood is the visitor center.

These pictures are looking south toward the parking lot by shelter 5.

Kids can catch a tadpole or frog within a few minutes of being there. The pond is shallow along the edge and easy for children to walk along. W

hen the tadpoles are available depends on the weather and season. Last year they were there by end of April and this year it was more into the middle of May.

The tadpoles take around 15 weeks to change into frogs so you have lots of opportunities to visit and see the metamorphosis.



Packing List

  • Snacks and Water for kids to drink
  • Water Shoes or OLD shoes that can get muddy and wet (And clothes)
  • towels
  • aqua nets for catching frogs and tadpoles
  • jars to put them in for viewing
  • magnifying glass or other fun research toys – field journals etc
  • binoculars to see birds (Right now there are two families with baby ducks).  Common to see eagles in the area.
  • camera – you don’t want to miss this!
    *stroller for little ones but you can’t get a stroller close to the pond so you may want to wear baby if you are going to be walking around the pond.



One thing I really stress and cover with my kids is responsible use of our local parks!

We want to be able to come back and enjoy the park each year and our participation is important!!!

As a general rule – for local and state parks you aren’t allowed to remove anything from the park. I don’t know if removing frogs falls under a fishing license. (I looked the state law up but it’s confusing). If you have any questions or are unsure of the law, please check with the park ranger or Polk County Conservation or the DNR. The DNR has a little easier to understand guide.

*As a general rule of safety, I don’t visit wooded or remote areas alone. This area does have a fulltime resident caretaker but is more secluded and you may want to bring a friend!



If anyone can identify this water bug for us, please post a comment!!!???


It just doesn’t get any better than this!!!

***Except for this poor little toad we caught – we aren’t sure what happened to him but he must be a fighter.  WARNING Graphic images below.***







Poor Toad. 🙁


Frog Pond Cottonwood

The kids learn so much at the frog pond! I can’t wait to take them back!

*If you know of another great public park to observe and learn about frogs, please list locations in the comments!


Frog Pond Ankeny Iowa

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