natural resources & recreation
Wapello County Features
Wapello County Trails
Ottumwa has a growing trails network suitable for hiking , biking or just enjoying a summer evening .
The first part of the network was created in 1998 , according to the Wapello County Trails Council . The Ottumwa Park Trail cost $ 99,238 and used federal funding . But it is in the 21st century that the trails have really taken off .
Sixteen major expansions and improvements have taken place since 2002 . Trails have been constructed on both the north and south levees , with extensions reaching the Ottumwa John Deere plant and Gray Eagle nature reserve , the Wabash Bridge ’ s conversion to trail use , and the 2015 construction of a tunnel under Highway 34 .
All told , the network runs more than 10 miles along the river and through Ottumwa Park .
The council is funded through a number of events through the year . “ Tips for Trails ” has been a fixture for more than a decade , and the annual lighted hike through Holiday Nights ’ N Lights brings in funds as well . The total invested in the trails to date , according to the Trails Council website , is $ 2,131,128.72 .
The Beach Ottumwa
The Beach is Ottumwa ’ s municipally owned water park . It was built in 1992 and includes both indoor and outdoor attractions on a 13-acre site .
Two pools are indoors . One is a smaller pool with a 100-foot waterslide . The other is a competition-sized pool that serves as the home pool for the Ottumwa High School swimming teams .
The summer months see the opening of the outdoor facilities , which include two curly slides , one speed slide , a wave pool and a kiddie zone . The wave pool holds 300,000 gallons of water and is often packed with people during the summer months . A new wave machine debuted in 2019 . It is fully automatic with the capability of creating different wave patterns ; every time the waves start up , swimmers won ’ t know what to expect as it changes each time .
People must be at least 48 inches to go on the curly slides . The same height is required of the speed slide , but those riders need a bit more nerve . The slide plummets 150 feet down into a long channel at the bottom to safely slow riders .
The Beach underwent some restoration work after the outdoor areas closed in 2016 , and the facility has continued to improve options for visitors . The newest addition is a Wibit Aquatrack , an aquatic obstacle course that can be found in the indoor pool . The track was purchased through a grant .
The indoor facilities are available yearround and have both open swim and lap swim hours . The water park ’ s outdoor areas are open through the summer months when the forecast highs are at 70 degrees or higher .
In addition , The Beach houses two sand volleyball courts for those who prefer to stay dry or need a break from the water . A snack shack , locker and tube rentals are also available . New shade structures are scheduled to be installed in time for the Memorial Day weekend opening of the outdoor park .
Fees and hours are available online at http :// www . cityofottumwa . com / departments / aquatic-center /.
Des Moines River
If there ’ s a beating heart to Wapello County and Ottumwa , it ’ s probably the Des Moines River .
The river runs for 525 miles , from southwestern Minnesota and forms the border between Iowa and Missouri at its mouth . It cuts diagonally through Wapello County , flowing past Chillicothe , Ottumwa and Eldon . Over the course of its run , the river falls 1,375 feet .
It ’ s not just the river ’ s length that makes it a major factor for the region . The river ’ s watershed covers much of the state , a total of more than 15,800 square miles . It was the state ’ s major avenue for commerce prior to the development of railroads .
At Ottumwa the river is dammed , with the resulting pool forming the city ’ s water supply . The Iowa Department of Natural Resources considers the river at Ottumwa to be the top fishing spot in Wapello County , with plentiful sturgeon , walleye , bass and large catfish .
That ’ s well known to area residents . It ’ s common to see a dozen people fishing the river on any given evening from spring through the fall . Fewer people cast lines into the river in the winter months , but hardier anglers plow right through .
But the river has brought sorrow , too . Massive floods in 1947 prompted efforts to straighten the river , creating the horseshoe lagoons that surround
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