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Lake Anita State Park - Notes on Iowa State Park Series, Episode 77

Come along with Notes on Iowa as we explore Lake Anita State Park.

After the initial flurry of Iowa state park development during the 1920s and 1930s, the Iowa Conservation Commission focused attention on creating recreational opportunities for Iowans through the creation of artificial lake projects. The project, commonly broken into two waves, saw the creation of many artificial lakes throughout southern Iowa in particular. Lake Anita represents one of the eight lakes created during the second-phase of the project which started with the initial authorization from the Iowa General Assembly during 1947. While other dams rose to create lakes throughout the state during the 1950s, the process at the future site of Lake Anita waited until 1961.

As the state worked to acquire the necessary lands over the first years of the 1960s while spending a total of $209,040.04, engineers started working on plans for a dam across Turkey Creek. The geological realities of the Southern Iowa Drift Plain and considerations of the future lakebed covering three rolling valleys postponed dam construction until October 25, 1963. Over the following years a 53’ tall and 1125’ long dam impounded Turkey Creek. Development of amenities quickly followed with construction of a park service building and residence in 1965. Beach facilities, a bathhouse, habitat work, and eight picnic shelters quickly followed. In 1967, a federal grant for $18,000 helped the park purchase additional lands. By the close of the decade, the park proved ready for dedication on Memorial Day of 1969. At initial opening, the park contained 942 acres. During the early 1970s, a major project saw the hard-surfacing of the park’s roads in order to provide better access. Over the 1970s and 1980s, Lake Anita State Park grew to represent one of Iowa’s most popular state parks.

Like many other artificial lakes in the Southern Iowa Drift Plain, water quality issues eventually emerged at Lake Anita. During the early 1990s, officials started to actively take measures to offset siltation at the lake. Starting in 1992, a lake draw down allowed a multi-year project to dredge of a silt pond while providing rip-rapping on five fishing jetties. The Nishna Valley Trails project also helped improve the park during the 1990s, raising funds for the construction and surfacing of a 4-mile trail in the park. Although the restoration and other work helped to improve the park in the short term, water quality issues continued to impact enjoyment. To help remedy the situation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources started a major restoration project focused on limiting siltation effects and controlling aquatic vegetation in 2013. To aid in the lake’s future health, the state acquired the 112-acre Lake Anita Wildlife Management Area during the time of the restoration, in the hopes of lessening several specific water quality issues.

Today, Lake Anita State Park offers visitors a variety of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in southwestern Iowa. Featuring two boat ramps and numerous shoreline fishing opportunities, the lake proves a popular spot of Iowa’s anglers. The beach still welcomes Iowans looking to cool off in the state’s hot summer months. A 1-mile, self-guided interpretive trail winds through diverse habitats while pairing with a 4-mile walking and biking trail which encircles the lake. Featuring one of the most popular campgrounds in southwestern Iowa, visitors often enjoy the opportunity to spend the night. Eight reservable picnic shelters make Lake Anita a great place for gatherings large or small.

Next time you find yourself looking to get out and enjoy Iowa’s public lands, consider a stop at Lake Anita State Park. A truly stunning representation of Iowa’s natural beauty and a testament to the necessity of maintaining opportunities to get outdoors for all Iowans, Lake Anita State Park shines as a must visit for all people hoping to see Iowa Slowly.

Thanks for coming along with notes on Iowa to explore Lake Anita State Park.

Make sure to subscribe to the Notes on Iowa website, subscribe on YouTube, follow on social media, and tune in each Sunday to explore the history of Iowa’s state parks, preserves, and other public lands.

I hope I’ll see you out there!


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