The recent cool weather might not evoke thoughts of camping — but the time to head to the great outdoors is getting closer — as is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources annual free camping weekend. D-N-R spokesperson, Sherry Arntzen, says the free weekend is May second through the fourth.She says the idea is to get regular campers ready for the season, and to get those who’ve never camped a chance to see what it’s like. Arntzen says they’re also gearing up for their second year of the “Explore Iowa Parks” program. Under the program, campers can earn prizes while camping at a number of different state parks. Arntzen says the program has three levels of prizes based on how many state parks you visit. The first level requires you to stay in five state parks or campgrounds, and you get a free one-year subscription to the Iowa Conservationist magazine. She says the second level gives you the free subscription along with a t-shirt. The level requires you to camp in 10 different parks and you get the subscription, the t-shirt and a shot as one of three grand prizes. The free camping weekend is open to Iowans only, but anyone can participate in the Explore Iowa program. The program will include all 53 state parks, recreation areas and forests. She says the peak season rate for camping is 16 dollars per night for a site with electricity and 11 dollars per night for a non-electric site. For more information about free camping weekend and Explore Iowa Parks program, go to the D-N-R parks website at