Located just north of Creston in Union County, a 1060-acre State Park holds natural and historic treasures.
Come along with Notes on Iowa, as we explore Green Valley State Park.
The idea for Green Valley State Park originated much earlier than the 1950s founding of the park itself, dating back to the 1930s. As drought gripped southern Iowa, Union County seat Creston struggled to maintain a viable water supply. Summit Lake, the town’s reservoir, dried up completely as conditions peaked during 1934.
The town partnered with the Southwestern Federated Power Cooperative and the Iowa Conservation Commission on plans to construct a nearly 400-acre reservoir which would ensure access to drinking water while also creating a new source of steam-electric generated power for the area.
Although plans stalled during the late 1930s and 1940s, the project to dam the headwaters of the Platte River came together by 1950 when construction started on the artificial lake tentatively named Creston Lake.
On September 20, 1953, local and state officials celebrated the park’s dedication. In the leadup to the event, the Creston Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest to name the park. Over 500 entries flooded in, and officials selected Green Valley State Park as the winner.
The celebratory mood of locals proved short-lived as cracks in the dam resultant from a flawed design and inadequate materials quickly offered challenges for engineers. Nearly a decade of work stalled development of the park, as the large expense of reworking the dam ate away at funds for the park.
In March of 1957, State Representative Robert Maggert of Union County asked for an appropriation of 75,000 to improve and develop the park. An 140 site campground featuring 50 electrical hookups followed, as well as a sand beach for swimming. Other amenities, included twelve miles of mowed trails also followed during the 1960s and 1970s.
By the 1980s, workers planted between 3,000 and 5,000 trees annually, helping to develop the natural landscape of the park. The park also added fish-cleaning stations after park ranger Larry Lock noticed the amenity at another state park. As funding from the Iowa Lottery started to aid in improvements to the Iowa State Parks system in the mid-1980s, the park added fishing jetties to the lake.
Lake sedimentation has posed a significant challenge for the body of water since the 1950s construction. Over the decades the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have partnered with the DNR to improve the contributing watershed in efforts to maintain water quality in the lake.
Today, Green Valley State Park offers visitors a wide-variety of amenities. A 2009 project enlarged the campground and added three cabins. Additionally, the project added a new playground.
Fishing represents the most popular activity on the lake, and anglers utilize a variety of jetties and, piers, and four boat ramps to try and hook the stocked populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish.
A multi-surface trail measuring over ten miles completely surrounds the lake, offering kiers and bicyclists opportunities for recreation. 3.5 miles of the trail, completed in 2015, run from the campground to the Green Valley Lake Dam, while also linking to a hard surface trail running south of the park into Creston near Southwestern Community College.
Next time you find yourself looking to get out and enjoy Iowa’s public lands, consider a stop at Green Valley 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, Green Valley 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 Green Valley State Park.
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