The new developments along the river in Bellevue this spring are numerous.
As well as the Offshore project, the River Ridge Brewing relocation and the Button Factory building restoration, the Shady Haven campground near Potter’s Mill is also expanding and offering new amenities.
Shady Haven (a.k.a. Riverview RV Park & Vacation Rentals) will be adding two ‘Tiny-Home’ log cabins, which offer customers full kitchens, restrooms, a sleeping loft as well as a close-up view of the Mississippi River. One of the tiny homes was actually delivered last week.
“Each Tiny House is fully furnished and equipped with all linen, cookware and all have heat and air conditioning, as well as wireless internet,” said owner Dan Blitgen. “The homes will be available by May (if not sooner) and sit along the north end of the campground next to our existing two-bedroom Riverfront Cabin with spectacular views of the Lock and Dam. Each also includes picnic table and firepit and outdoor seating.”
Dan and wife Annie Blitgen purchased the Shady Haven campground in 2013 and remodeled the site and upgraded the utilities. In 2015 the couple purchased the campground and riverfront cabin to the north then called “Riverbottom.” The Blitgens combined the two parks and changed the name to “Riverview RV Park.” The name changed again in 2020 to the “Riverview RV Park & Vacation Rentals.” The business now offers several unique stay options as well as boat, kayak and fishing equipment rental. The riverfront cabin is available year-round with other options seasonal.
“Another new addition this year is the availability of a pontoon boat which guests can add to their stay or just spend the day in Bellevue and enhance the experience by enjoying an afternoon on the water,” said Blitgen. “The 18-foot pontoon seats up to six adults and is complete with full insurance, towels, safety equipment, large cooler and we can even provide fishing equipment.”
Dan Blitgen is originally from Bellevue, the oldest of three siblings. His father Mike Blitgen and grandfather (the late Richard Blitgen), were both riverboat captains on the Mississippi River.
“I grew up here in Bellevue always loving the river and in 2009 when my wife Annie and I got married, we purchased our home on front street from my grandfather who actually bought it from his father (Walter Blitgen) years before, and was just renting the home out,” said Blitgen. “It was owned by my great great grandfather before him for a brief time. We had been renovating the home ever since.”
Annie Blitgen is originally from Centralia Iowa (near Peosta), and met Dan while attending at North Iowa Community College in Peosta after graduating from Bellevue.
Dan’s early background has been in the hospitality industry working for hotels, event centers and casinos through and after college until moving back home to Bellevue in late 2007. He has worked for Sedgwick Claims Management Inc for the past 13 years. Annie works for Millennium Therapy of Des Moines, working at the nursing homes in Maquoketa, Bellevue and the hospital in Dubuque in the physical therapy rehabilitation departments.
The couple has owned the campgrounds since 2013.
“When my first daughter was born in 2012, my wife and I began looking for an investment property in town. At the time I knew the city had a need for a marina, and as I was looking for a potential place for one I stumbled across the Shady Haven campground south of town,” said Blitgen. “It’s a place that not a lot of people pay much attention to, as we are tucked away along the river on the far edge of town across from Potter’s Mill.”
Blitgen’s original plans were to dredge it out and build a marina at the location. However, after having it reviewed by a marina service, the couple decided the costs were going to be too high, and the revenue would be the same as if they left it the way it was.
In 2014 the couple had their second daughter and that same year were approached by the neighboring property owners of the Riverbottom Campground. The property used to house a bait house as well as a restaurant called Point Pleasant.
“I remember going to the restaurant as a kid with my grandparents, getting bait and then going fishing after having a fish sandwich. Rod and Mona Heister owned the property and converted it into a campground when the restaurant burnt down in the 90s,” said Blitgen, who agreed to buy the property and soon after, the Riverbottom and Shady Haven became one campground “The Riverview RV Park.”
“I don’t know a lot of the history about the properties themselves, other than they were once used by a logging business back in the day, and the train depot was just over where the lumber yard is now,” said Blitgen. “The property is not owned by the Corps of Engineers which makes it a very unique property along the river as I don’t lease it from the government. It is also within city limits as we are annexed into the town and are supplied with city water, sewer, electric and internet.”
Over the years the Blitgens have made a lot of updates to the property. They installed new utilities to the park, raised it above minor flood stage, and now started an AirBnB business with some different unique stay options including rental campers, a newly renovated cabin (which sits atop of the old bait house building now turned into a campground bath house and storage area).
“We wanted to continue to provide some unique stay options for people visiting Bellevue and decided on Tiny Homes on wheels. They are built with the same quality as a regular home however they are built on a dual axle frame on wheels so they can be moved,” said Blitgen. “They will sit adjacent to our riverfront cabin on the north end of the park and their picture windows will have panoramic views of the Mississippi River. They are being built by a company in Knoxville TN known for their high quality in custom Tiny Home building.”
Starting up a new pontoon rental business at the location is the next step for the couple. If it is popular they may expand it in the coming years.
“I do know that the Riverbottom campground used to rent out fishing boats back in the 1980s and ‘90s as well as campers and trailers throughout the park, so we are keeping some of the old spirit of the grounds alive with fresh new amenities,” said Blitgen. “Annie and I are glad to be able to be part of this community where so many of our family and friends live and are glad to be able to share a piece of the river’s beauty with visitors to our great town.”