In Iowa, there are more than 65 lakes to be found, and the majority of them are artificial. Artificial lakes are created for several reasons, such as controlling floods, managing an area’s drinking water supply, irrigation for agricultural use, or even just for recreational fun. This article will cover the largest artificial lake in Iowa, and what you will want to know about it.
Lakes are the perfect spots for enjoying outdoor activities like fishing, boating, and swimming. While you can find numerous artificial lakes across Iowa, let’s take a look at the largest, and the wonders it holds.
The Largest Artificial Lake in Iowa
Lake Red Rock is the largest artificial lake in Iowa, and also the largest lake in the entire state. Lake Red Rock has a size of around 109.4 square miles. It holds up to around 61.59 billion gallons of water. This beautiful lake sits on the Des Moines River and is about 45 miles southeast of the city of Des Moines.
Lake Red Rock is a reservoir and is controlled by the Red Rock Dam. Also called Red Rock Reservoir, the lake collects water and drainage across Iowa and in a small part of Minnesota. While not the deepest lake in Iowa, Lake Red Rock has a maximum depth of 55 ft. The lake is surrounded by Elk Rock State Park. You can find several wildlife retreats worth visiting along the over 500-mile-long Des Moines River, which includes Lake Red Rock.
History of Lake Red Rock
Major floods plagued the region of Iowa where Lake Red Rock is now located. The Des Moines river banks flooded Iowa’s towns with major floods occurring as early as the 1850s. Iowa’s government went to work after the Flood Control Act of 1936 was passed, which made it a national priority to reduce floods.
The entirety of the Des Moines river was studied to identify major flood points, and where would be the best areas to place dams to reduce flooding. Red Rock was the perfect area in Iowa to place a dam in the river. The dam would help prevent flooding from occurring all the way to the Mississippi.
The construction of Red Rock Dam began in 1960, and it took nine years until finally completed in 1969. The dam was created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. While the finished dam resulted in the largest man-made lake in Iowa, a sacrifice of six towns was needed to complete the project. Today the towns sit at the bottom of the lake and are a forgotten reminiscent of the past.
The six towns flooded in Lake Red Rock include:
- Red Rock
These towns had previous issues of flooding from the river. The destruction of schools, stores, houses, and other buildings was a great loss, but buying out the towns, and flooding the area was the best option, creating what is now Red Rock Lake.
Activities to do at Lake Red Rock
The largest lake in Iowa is closest to the cities of Knoxville, and Pella. Lake Red Rock is a major attraction in its region, enjoyable because of the multiple outdoor activities, and the historical sites. Swimming, fishing, and boating are some of the enjoyable activities to do on the lake.
Surrounding the lake there are camping spots, and trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding, allowing you to explore the nearby wilderness. You can even hunt in the designated places when following the local regulations.
The surrounding towns around Lake Red Rock also provide numerous attractions. Like other hot tourist spots, the area has plenty of places to shop and eat. There are also museums and wilderness refuges. You can also stop by some of the landmarks like Red Rock Dam, or the Cordova Observation Tower which is just a drive away from the lake.
Wildlife of Lake Red Rock
Lake Red Rock is a great place to visit to see some of Iowa’s wilderness, including various fish, birds, and insects. Some of the fish that live in the lake’s water include catfish, bluegill, bass, walleye, carp, and other species native to Iowa.
The region is one of the best places to bird watch in Iowa, as you may see species like swans, ducks, pelicans, gulls, or sparrows. If lucky enough you can spot bald eagles, which use the trees near the lake to roost in the winter.
Where is Lake Red Rock Located on a Map?
Lake Red Rock is less than an hour, or about 37 miles, from Des Moines, the state capital. This city has over 212,000 people, but the metro area population is almost 700,000, so there are a lot of people eager to enjoy the recreation and activities at Lake Red Rock.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © andy.king1971/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.