Spotlight: Iowa’s Coralville Lake
A Midwestern gem offering countless opportunities for discovery and fun!
What You’ll Find
Bicycle trails, camping, kayaking, quiet coves for fishing, swimming and a sandy beach!
Coralville Lake, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a lively center for recreation just outside of Iowa City, Iowa. Whether you are a University of Iowa student, a native Midwesterner, or a visitor passing through seeking a tranquil place to play and relax, Coralville is a great choice to get outdoors. The lake welcomes almost a million visits per year to its shores, and visitors love the gigantic man-made West Overlook Beach that sprawls almost 1,000 feet along the shores next to the reservoir dam.
Coralville Lake is located on the Iowa River, 15 miles north of Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa. Visitors take the Dubuque Street exit off Interstate 80 and drive north to West Overlook Road. Look for the dam, visitor’s center and of course, the mighty West Overlook Beach.
Make Sure You
Behold the dam which held back high waters during June 2013 and protected Iowa City and other downstream locations from certain flooding. Without the immense water storage permitted by the more than 5,000 acre reservoir, the river would have crested 5 feet higher than it did. Army Corps hydrologists were able to manage the crisis by holding the floodwaters back at the dam and prevented more than $105 million in flood damages.
Explore prehistoric life more than 200 million years older than the dinosaurs! Observe thousands of fossils, including brachiopods, crinoids and corals at the Devonian Fossil Gorge. In 1993, amateur and professional geologists got a real thrill when floodwaters pushed millions of gallons of water over the Lake’s emergency spillway and washed away as much as 15 feet of topsoil to reveal a spectacular, fossilized 375 million year old seabed. In 2008, floodwaters crested over the spillway again, washing away even more soil and exposing more of the seabed. Geologists at the University of Iowa and amateurs had a field day with the find, known as the Devonian Fossil Gorge.
Interested in learning about more fossil finding opportunities? Read our article, Where Fossils Rock!, to learn about special places throughout the country where fossil deposits are some of the most well-preserved in the world.
Disc golf! Coralville Lake offers two 18-hole disc golf courses. Try your hand at the Turkey Creek or Sugar Bottom courses – challenges for both novice and advanced players!
Pause and reflect about those honored along the quarter-mile Veterans National Recreation Trail. See our article about this place of tribute.
Join the fun as Coralville Lake hosts many events throughout the year. Take the Polar Plunge in late winter with an icy dip in the wintry waters or watch the Tractorcade, an Iowa specialty parade of tractors as they make their way across the state.