Located just northwest of Hampton in Franklin County, a 419-acre State Park holds natural and historic treasures.
Come along with Notes on Iowa as we explore Beeds Lake State Park.
In contrast to many other Iowa State Parks featuring spillway dams, the original dike and gristmill which formed the lake long predate any recreational interests. In 1857 T.K. Hansberry constructed a 10’ tall earthen dike stretching more than 1,300 feet across Spring Creek. From 1864 to 1903 local man William Beed took over the sawmill and flour mill, and his legacy lives in the park’s name today.
Archeological and historical evidence suggests Hansberry and Beed weren’t the first people drawn to the area by the springs, and the site holds significance for Iowa’s Indigenous peoples from a time immemorial.
The lake proved a popular local attraction due to quality fishing, and the Clear Lake Mirror Reporter noted a shipment of 5000 black bass and crappies arriving by train on December 3, 1896.
Although the springs continued to flow year-round and draw visitors, the initial lake met demise when local man Henry Pallus acquired the land and deconstructed the earthworks in the hopes of using the area for pasturage. Although locals protested, the lake stayed drained for over a decade until the Franklin County Izaak Walton League helped organize local efforts to purchase the lands. Turning the purchase over the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1933, Beeds Lake opened to the public in 1938 after extensive work to reform the lake.
The park represents a prime example of the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Iowa. In 1936 the CCC started work on a 170’ long and 40’ tall dam. The Mississippian Period Maynes Creek Formation Limestone walls stretch high above the creek below, and the trickle of water over the top of the spillway offers a prime attraction of the park.
The CCC also constructed a stone-and-timber bathhouse, known to today’s visitors as the Beeds Lake Lodge. An iconic representation of Civilian Conservation Corps design and construction, the building constructed of locally sourced materials stands out as significant among the remaining CCC structures in Iowa’s state parks system. In the 1990s workers converted the structure to an all-seasons lodge, and the federal government added the lodge to the National Register of Historic Places.
Area newspapers abound in stories of pleasant camping trips, Boy Scout Outings, and picnics in society pages throughout the post-CCC era for the park. Earl Saxton served as the Park Conservation Area at the Park from 1937 until his retirement in 1957. Charles Hagen took over for a busy era of redevelopment.
The 1960s saw significant improvements to the popular North Central Iowa lake including the construction of a large fishing dock. Additionally, in 1967, crews worked to improve on the original 1800s earthen dike to create a walkway linking the northeastern corner of the park to the lodge area. The project helped to provide over 650 yards of shoreline fishing opportunities for eager anglers.
However, the late-1960s and early 1970s also saw challenges for the lake despite the new amenities. Extreme silt buildup paired with a growing population of undesirable fish to make the lake a relatively unexciting location to toss out a line. To rectify the issue, extensive work on the lake including dredging the depth to 23’ and killing off rough fish species followed. By 1972 the restocked population featuring walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, and channel catfish started to offer improved fishing on the lake.
Today, Beeds Lake State Park offers a variety of amenities including a 2-mile walking trail crossing the long causeway built out of the former millrace site, as well as swimming beach, playgrounds, and a large-electric campground. With quality access, shoreline, no-wake boat, and dam fishing prove popular pastimes in the park.
Next time you find yourself looking to get out and enjoy Iowa’s public lands, consider a stop at Beeds Lake 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, Beeds Lake 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 Beeds Lake State Park.
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I hope I’ll see you out there!