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Lake Red Rock is a reservoir in south-central Iowa created by the Army Corps of Engineers. This Marion County lake was constructed over the course of nine years in a massive damming project on the Des Moines River, at an estimated cost of $88 million. The Red Rock Dam measures 5,676 feet long and 110 feet high, and its construction provided flood control for an area that had seen several major floods in the past hundred years. Upon its completion in 1969, Lake Red Rock became the largest lake in Iowa and a popular destination for boating, fishing, and camping.
Boating and fishing are two of the most popular pastimes at Red Rock Lake. Several public boat ramps are located at various points around the lake, making boat access convenient for all. A commercial marina is also located at the lake. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy the lake's large size and restriction-free motor boating, making it an ideal place for water skiing or just cruising the waves. Sailing is another favorite activity, and the local yacht club hosts races and regattas at Lake Red Rock all summer long. Anglers at Lake Red Rock can always be spotted in search of crappie and white bass. Many anglers also have good luck below Red Rock Dam in the Des Moines River, where walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, northern pike, and bluegill are all common.
Surrounding Lake Red Rock is a large expanse of public land, including parks, campgrounds, and recreation areas. The approximately 35,000 acres range from woodlands and wetlands to bluffs and beaches, providing habitats for a variety of plants and animals. Birdwatching is a favorite activity at the lake. Pelicans migrate through the area in spring and fall, and bald eagles can be found in large numbers in the winter, roosting in trees along the shoreline of the lake. Ducks, gulls, and herons can all be spotted at the lake, as well as shorebirds such as sandpipers and plovers. Perhaps the best way to experience nature at Red Rock Lake is with a hike--Elk Rock State Park offers 13 miles of nature trail to explore on foot, bike, or horseback. After a long hike, nothing beats a refreshing dip in the cool lake waters, and there are multiple public beaches available for a relaxing swim.
There is no shortage of options for camping at Red Rock Reservoir. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains five campgrounds at the lake, with a total of 432 campsites. The two largest, Howell Station Recreation Area and Whitebreast Recreation Area, both have boat ramps accessing the lake, and all of the campgrounds offer shower facilities and playgrounds. In addition, camping is available at Elk Rock State Park, which boasts boat access to the lake, picnic areas, and even an equestrian campground with horse stalls and a riding arena. Two county-run parks, Marion County Park and Roberts Creek Park, offer even more options for campers.
If you are looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure, Lake Red Rock offers everything under the sun. Fishing, swimming, camping, hiking--nature lovers have a multitude of ways to experience the great outdoors. Iowa's biggest lake is sure to leave a big impression on all who visit.
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