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the state ’ s only destination resort .
Construction on the dam that formed the lake began in 1964 . The lake has 11,000 acres of water , a 50-foot maximum depth and 23,000 acres of surrounding land . Rathbun is the second largest lake in the state , trailing only Red Rock in Marion County .
Seven campgrounds surround the lake and are managed by several different entities . Four are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers , while others are managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources .
The corps manages 10 boat ramps on Rathbun Lake , and a day use pass is required . The lake is popular with sailboat owners because of the combination of the open water and direction of the prevailing winds during the summer months .
Fishing is also popular at Lake Rathbun , with crappie , catfish , bass and walleye all challenging anglers . Iowa fish are generally safe to eat , and the IDNR routinely posts updates if concerns emerge .
For those who want to be near the lake but not on it , there are several trails for hiking , biking , ATVs , and even snowmobiles during the winter months . Information about those trails is available on the corps ’ website .
Perhaps the biggest draw for the lake is Honey Creek Resort . It ’ s the state ’ s first , and so far only , destination resort . The Iowa Department of Natural Resources manages the site , as well as the adjacent Rathbun Fish Hatchery , which raises catfish , walleye and other fish for Iowa lakes .
Honey Creek includes 16,000 acres of park land , a hotel with 105 rooms and suites , 28 rental cottages , and an 18- hole golf course . Guests can also enjoy a pirate-themed Buccaneer Bay indoor water park , playgrounds and educational programs designed to teach people about the park ’ s plants and wildlife . Special events take place year round , with a schedule on the Honey Creek Resort website .
Lake Red Rock
Lake Red Rock isn ’ t just the largest lake in the area , it ’ s the largest in Iowa .
More than 15,000 acres of water and 35,000 acres of land form a spectacular outdoor recreation area . Most of the time the lake serves as a host for fishing , boating , camping and outdoor fun .
Built in 1969 , the lake ’ s original focus was flood control . It drains water from a
natural resources & recreation
massive , 12,320-square-mile watershed that covers much of Iowa and extends even into southern Minnesota .
Lake Red Rock is in Marion County , about 45 minutes away from Ottumwa . The Army Corps of Engineers , which manages the lake , expanded the camping program in 2017 in response to demand .
The lake also hosts several species of game fish . Hunting and trapping is allowed in some areas but not others . Anyone looking to hunt near the lake would do well to check both Iowa hunting seasons and the Corps of Engineers information before heading out .
Access to the water is comparatively easy . The corps manages five boat ramps for the lake . The Iowa Department of Natural Resources manages two . Marion County handles three ramps , though the Roberts Creek ramps do not have access to the lake .
The lake includes overlooks and recreation areas along its entire length , and the tailwater recreation areas just downstream of the dam are popular spots for seeing bald eagles during the winter months . The North Tailwater Recreation Area is closed currently as part of a major evolution of the lake .
A $ 400 million hydroelectric project was completed in 2020 and made operational in 2021 along the Red Rock Dam . The project provides power to nearby Pella , Iowa .
Perhaps the best-known feature of the lake lies at the other end , though . The “ Mile Long Bridge ” carries Highway 14 over the lake near the upstream end .


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