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Spotlight: Lake Red Rock, Pella, Iowa

Spotlight: Lake Red Rock, Pella, Iowa

Where recreation opportunities offer something for everyone!

Sailing, Red Rock, Lake Sailors enjoying a brisk ride on Lake Red Rock (USACE Visitors Gateway)

What You’ll Find

Lake Red Rock, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is Iowa’s largest lake and has been protecting valuable farmland, houses and businesses along the Des Moines River against flooding for more than 40 years. The lake provides nearby residents and visitors with a treasure trove of recreational opportunities. Measuring 15,000 acres, with 35,000 acres of land along its shoreline, Lake Red Rock is a popular destination for sailors, swimmers, hikers and others seeking a relaxed setting for fun and exercise.

The 13-mile – and still growing – Volksweg Trail (Dutch for “People’s Path” and a nod to the area’s strong Dutch heritage), links the nearby city of Pella with a number of the lake’s recreational facilities along its northeast shore. Popular with bicyclists, walkers and joggers, the trail provides visitors with exercise and fresh air in a quiet setting, far from traffic. The Army Corps of Engineers plan to continue extending the trail another four miles to nearby Cordova County Park.

Getting There

Lake Red Rock is located on the Des Moines River, approximately 40 miles southeast of Des Moines, Iowa. From Des Moines, take Highway 163 to the first Pella exit and take G28 west and watch for signs to the lake. From Interstate 80, go south on Iowa Highway 14.

Make Sure You

Visit the largest sandy beach in the state of Iowa at the North Overlook Beach facility, located along the Volksweg Trail. Beach designers brought in 10,000 tons of sand to create the impression of a spacious ocean beach. Visitors can bicycle to the beach and secure their bikes to racks, play volleyball at two courts and rinse off at indoor and outdoor showers.

Check out Iowa’s only water trail that leads kayakers to the Hickory Ridge Wilderness area. You can fully unplug and paddle into a wilderness camping experience, accessible exclusively by water.

Stay Here

Lake Red Rock offers eight convenient tree-shaded campgrounds with more than 600 spacious campsites. Four of the campgrounds are located along the Volksweg Trail, giving campers easy access by foot or bicycle to many of the lake’s attractions. Visitors can select from campsites with amenities such as water, showers, toilets and playground equipment, to primitive campgrounds without amenities. Lake Red Rock campground reservations are available on Recreation.gov for Howell Station Campground, North Overlook Campground, Wallashuck Campground and Whitebreast Camp.

A modern campground at Roberts Creek, managed by Marion County, boasts forty campsites with full hook-ups including sewer, water and electric, perfect for long-term RV campers.

Marion County offers cabins to rent at the Cordova County Park located at the northwest edge of the lake. For more information about the Cordova and Roberts Creek parks, visit www.mycountyparks.com.

Try This

Experience the Lake Red Rock Balloon Festival, July 12-14. Balloonists with more than 25 hot-air balloons will navigate the blue skies over the lake creating a colorful and festive sight for thousands of visitors. Don’t miss the Night Glow, when balloons are filled at dusk, creating a dramatic effect of enormous brilliant lanterns against the night sky.

Other activities during the festival include the Resurrected Tin car show in downtown Pella. More than 350 classic cars will be on display on Saturday, July 13. In addition, sand artists will compete at the sand-sculpting contest at the North Overlook Beach.

Don't Forget

Summertime in Iowa is hot and sunny so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Bring your bicycle to take advantage of the lake’s many trails and see how many recreation facilities you can visit without getting behind the wheel of your car. Take a trip to the beach or into downtown Pella for a Dutch pastry. If you visit the area the first weekend in May, make sure you come for Tulip Time. Other events include the International Reel Wheel Film Festival, April 5-7, and the 24th annual National Sprint Car Hall of Fame induction banquet May 31 and June 1 at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Pella.