The 10 Largest Lakes In Iowa

Lake Okoboji, one of the largest lakes in Iowa.
Lake Okoboji, one of the largest lakes in Iowa.

Iowa has numerous lakes, both artificial and natural. The three largest lakes in the state are artificial reservoirs created by the construction of dams on rivers flowing through the state. The dams and reservoirs were built to control floods, supply water to nearby towns and agricultural fields, and provide recreational opportunities to locals. Most of Iowa’s natural lakes have a glacial origin including the Iowa Great Lakes. Below is a list of the largest lakes of Iowa.

The Five Largest Lakes Of Iowa

1. Lake Red Rock

The largest lake in Iowa, Lake Red Rock, is an artificial reservoir with an area of 283.3 square km. It was born of the Red Rock Dam on the Des Moines River in 1969. Various recreational activities are available on the lake's shores like camping, boating, hiking, fishing, etc. Several wilderness areas including the Elk Rock State Park are nearby. 

2. Rathbun Lake

With an area of 84.98 square km, Rathbun Lake is Iowa’s second biggest lake. It is also an artificial lake created for flood control, fish and wildlife enhancement, and for providing recreational opportunities to residents. Rathbun Lake is located in Appanoose County. Visitors to the lake can enjoy boating, camping, sightseeing, picnicking, and other recreational activities. Many species of mammals, birds, and fish like white-tailed deer, wild turkey, Canada geese, channel catfish, walleye, etc., live in and around the lake.

3. Saylorville Lake

The Saylorville Lake is the third largest lake in Iowa. It occupies an area of 24 square km. The lake came from the construction of the Saylorville Dam on the Des Moines River to control floods. Several recreational areas exist along the shores of the lake including campgrounds and boat ramp facilities. Outdoor activities like hiking, disc golf, biking, boating, fishing, etc., can be enjoyed in the area. Many species of fish like northern pike, largemouth bass, brown trout, white bass, crappie, bluegill, etc., thrive in the lake.

4. Big Spirit Lake

The Big Spirit Lake is the largest natural lake in Iowa and the fourth biggest lake in the state. It has an area of 23 square km. It is one of the Iowa Great Lakes, a chain of three natural lakes along the Iowa-Minnesota border. Geologically, the Big Spirit Lake has its origin in a glacial pothole. Over 40 fish species thrive in the lake which is a popular fishing destination. Kiteboarding is another favorite activity in the lake region.

5. West Okoboji Lake

Another member of the Iowa Great Lakes, the West Okoboji is also a natural lake that has an area of 15.57 square km.  The land around the lake is the territory of the Dakota Sioux people. The West Okoboji Lake is also Iowa’s deepest lake. It has a maximum depth of 136 feet and a mean depth of 39 feet. Motorboating, water skiing, sailing, and swimming are some of the activities that can be enjoyed by visitors to this lake. It is also a popular fishing destination.

The 10 Largest Lakes In Iowa

RankLake In IowaSurface Area in square kilometres
1Lake Red Rock283.3
2Rathbun Lake84.98
3Saylorville Lake24.00
4Big Spirit Lake23.00
5West Okoboji Lake15.57
6Clear Lake14.91
7Okamanpeedan Lake9.30
8East Okoboji Lake7.42
9Lost Grove Lake6.87
10Lost Island Lake4.70

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