10 Most Gorgeous Lakes In Iowa, the USA

lakes in iowa
| 5 min read

Stretching from the Mississippi River on its eastern border and the Missouri River on the west, Iowa is an awe-inspiring scenery of rolling hills, lush cornfields, old-fashioned barns, and sprawling lakes. It is a primarily bucolic town but offers a hearty dose of rural USA. While there are quite a few cities that exude a lively scene, this state retains its raw charm. There are lots of things to do that’ll keep you busy around this state, but don’t forget to discover some of the most gorgeous lakes in Iowa, the USA, too. Keep reading below, and get started on planning that next getaway right now.

1. West Okoboji Lake

Lake Okoboji
Source: Photo by Flickr user Mary Fairchild used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Spending summer vacations at the Iowa Great Lakes is almost a tradition for many families. The largest of the five interconnected lakes is Lake Okoboji, that is further divided into East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake. West Okoboji Lake is the deepest natural lake in Iowa. There are plenty of lakeside activities you can enjoy here such as boating and fishing. More than 45 species of fish can be found in West Okoboji Lake, with 11 of them being a species of popular sport fish. Pillsbury Point State Park, Gull Point State Park, and Pike’s Point State Park are located along the lake and are also pretty great haunts worth checking out.

West Okoboji Lake

Address: Dickinson County, Northwest Iowa, the USA

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2. Big Spirit Lake

Source: Photo by Flickr user Kev Herrera used under CC BY 2.0

Big Spirit Lake is another equally fantastic lake offering an array of activities such as boating, picnicking, chilling lakeside, and camping among others. It is also quite the hit among fishing enthusiasts, with yellow perch, black bullhead, bigmouth buffalo, channel catfish, pumpkinseed, and several other fish species calling the lake’s waters home. Legend has it that the lake got its name from an evil spirit that inhabited the lake’s waters, but it is very likely that this myth only stemmed from the sound the wind makes as it passes the mighty lake’s waters!

Big Spirit Lake

Address: Dickinson County, Northwest Iowa, the USA

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3. Lake Red Rock

Lake Red Rock, Pella, IA
Source: Photo by Flickr user Carl Wycoff used under CC BY 2.0

About 10 minutes’ drive outside the city of Pella, and 15 minutes coming from Knoxville, Lake Red Rock attracts those interested in lakeside hiking and biking. A 20 km (13 mi) hiking and biking trail has been paved along the lake’s shoreline, offering visitors an excellent panoramic view of the scenery. Shoreline fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, and camping are also popular activities around here. This area is also a bird-watcher’s delight, with packs of bald eagles scattered around during the winter months and white pelicans during spring and fall.

Lake Red Rock

Address: 1105 Highway T-15, Knoxville, IA

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4. Rathbun Lake

Rathbun Lake
Source: Photo by Flickr user Anna used under CC BY 2.0

The picturesque Rathbun Lak is a hotspot of water sports activities, such as water skiing, motor boating, as well as sailing. The lake has an ample fish and neighbouring wildlife population. Fishing (crappie, walleye, bass, catfish, etc.) and wildlife (turkey, duck, quail, pheasant, etc.) enthusiasts always have a great time here. There’s also an abundance of public-use land around the lake, making picnicking, birdwatching, and sightseeing equally fun things to do. There are eight campgrounds around the lake, as well as snowmobile trails along the lake’s north shore. This makes it a fun destination during winter, too.

Rathbun Lake

Address: 20112 Highway J5T, Centerville, Iowa

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5. Black Hawk Lake

Source: Photo by Flickr user touterse used under CC BY 2.0

Black Hawk Lake is the USA’s southernmost glacial lake, attracting thousands of travellers annually. 50% of the lake’s shoreline is accessible to the public, with fishing, boating, tubing, camping, and chilling by the lake as the top attractions. There are two pet-friendly campgrounds – Camp Crescent and Thirty Acres Campground – in the area that offer boat ramps, swimming areas, and playgrounds aside from a brilliant camping experience. Bass, muskie, crappie, perch, walleye, etc. are some of the many fish species you’ll find in the lake’s waters.

Black Hawk Lake

Address: 228 S Blossom St, Lake View, IA 51450-7361

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6. Lake MacBride

Lake Macbride
Source: Photo by Flickr user Alan Light used under CC BY 2.0

Lake MacBride is about 6.5 km (4 mi) outside Solon city. It is a popular family-outing spot, with Lake Macbride State Park offering four open picnic shelters and even a park lodge to host fun family reunions. There are two campgrounds in the park – one towards the northern side of the park, equipped with electrical hook-ups and full hook-ups, and the other towards the southern side, which is ideal for pitched-tent-style camping. There are several multi-use trails, but the 8 km (5 mi) scenic multi-use trail located along the lake, from Solon to the park’s entrance, is probably among the most amazing ones you can hitch, rife with gorgeous sights. Aside from these, lake swimming, boating, and fishing can also be enjoyed here. The lake is also an ideal spot to pack in a session of cross-country skiing and/or snowmobiling during winter months.

Lake MacBride

Address: 3525 Highway 382 NE, Solon, IA 52333-8911

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7. Lake Manawa

Lake Manawa, IA
Source: Photo by Flickr user Beatrice Murch used under CC BY 2.0

Lake Manawa is just the place to be if you’re one to enjoys hikes, bike rides, or leisurely walks. A special needs-friendly nature trail has been built inside Lake Manawa State Park, taking visitors through plentiful greenery. There’s also a paved bike trail that has been constructed inside the park, which connects to Western Trails Center, Council Bluffs trail system, and Wabash Trace Trail. Lake activities include boating, fishing, and swimming. Modern boat ramps are located on the west, north, and south sides of the lake.

Lake Manawa

Address: 1100 S Shore Dr, Council Bluffs, IA 51501-7354

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8. Lake Wapello

Sunday drive at Lake Wapello
Source: Photo by Flickr user trwarnecke used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Vast swathes of wooded hillsides, shaded picnic areas and an incredible environment envelop Lake Wapello. This lake is considered one of Southern Iowa’s best-kept secrets, offering excellent picnicking, camping, cross-country skiing (in winters only), and fishing opportunities. You can also rent one of the 13 family cabins (with a 4-person occupancy) here and take your family outing up a notch. Several miles of trails in Lake Wapello State Park offer some of the most spectacular views so do head out here.

Lake Wapello

Address: 15248 Campground Rd, Drakesville, IA 52552-8559

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9. Lake Sugema

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Stevenjgarner used under CC BY 3.0

Primitive-style campgrounds at Lake Sugema overlook a 230 ha (570 ac) lake, offering one of the best camping experiences you’ll have had. Else, there’s hiking, hunting, birdwatching, cross-country skiing, and relaxing lakeside that you can busy yourself with, too. While the lake itself is stocked with bluegill, channel catfish, and black crappie fish species, those interested in hunting can head to Indian Creek Wildlife Area. While here, do remember to head to Shimek State Forest for some of the most amazing hiking trails.

Lake Sugema

Address: 19640 Jersey Avenue, Keosauqua, IA 52565

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10. Backbone Lake

Source: Photo by Flickr user Brian McNamara used under CC BY 2.0

Home to Iowa’s first state park, Backbone Lake gets its name from a steep ridge of bedrock carved by the river’s waters. The lake offers multiple fun opportunities to visitors, but a hike down the Devil’s Backbone trail is possibly the one thing you cannot miss around here. The Backbone State Park Beach is another popular haunt among those looking to absorb Iowa’s sun, else a camping trip at Forest Villa Resort or South Lake Campground will be an equally amazing experience. Visit here from September to October to catch the best of views and awesome weather.

Backbone Lake

Address: 1347 129th St, Dundee, IA 52038-8618

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Packed with beauty

While there are plenty of stunning lakes in Iowa, incredible landscapes are no less. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway and Loess Hill National Scenic Byway are probably the most famous and brilliant drives you can hitch around the area. Take out a sufficient amount of time and make the most of your getaway to Iowa.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Priyanjali, a writer and traveler, identifies as a self-proclaimed aesthete dedicated to achieving fulfillment in her personal and professional life. Her skill lies in transforming intangible...Read more

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