The Iowa Great Lakes – Dickinson County, Iowa

iagreatlakes.jpgThe Iowa Great Lakes – Dickinson County, Iowa

The three principal lakes of the group are Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji Lake. They are the largest natural lakes in the state of Iowa. The largest, Spirit Lake, is 5,684 acres (23 km²).

The opportunities for fishing, swimming, boating, summer theater, amusement park or any number of other activities the Iowa Great Lakes is an ideal place to be. 

It is located at the junction of US highways 71 and 9, which intersect in the city of Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Having been established in the 1850′s this community is devoted to making sure that the people living in the area and those that come to visit or own summer homes are all welcomed and made a part of this vibrant community. There are things scheduled nearly all year, but especially in the summer, participation is encouraged.

One of the wonderful options for a view of the area is to take a cruise around the lake on the Okoboji Queen II. You will see beautiful homes, pristine nature, the wonderful Arnolds Park and the church camps that surround the area. You will literally fall in love with the beauty and want to come back often.

Some of the sights consist of the Abbie Gardner Cabin, which is the site of the 1857 "Spirit Lake Massacre." The Abbie Gardner Cabin was first known for the "Massacre" and later became one of Iowa’s first tourist attractions. The Abbie Gardner Cabin survives as a reminder of one of Iowa’s most tragic events during its frontier days. The dramatic stories of Abbie Gardner and the Dakota leader, Inkpadutah can be found here at the Cabin and Museum. The cabin and Museum can be found just one block west of Arnolds Park.

The Spine Trail or Dickinson county Hiking trail covers an extensive area reaching to almost every natural habitat within Dickinson County. The trails are wide enough to allow for travel in two directions thus making this an excellent choice for hiking, biking, roller-blading, jogging or just a casual walk.

Surely you have heard of the University of Okoboji and the Winter Games. The annual University of Okoboji Winter Games takes place during the last weekend in January. The Games are designed to bring fun for all ages. Some of the events are the Ice Man Run, a broomball tournament, kids ice fishing contest, a snowmobile run, dog sled rides, snowball softball and football, and for the empty stomach the famous chili cook-off and ending the events with the fireworks and bonfire or Christmas trees. Join in the fun and meet new people at this fabulous recreational event.

Are you a hiker? Do you like to ride bike? Then you really will enjoy the adventures available in the Iowa Great Lakes region. The Iowa Great Lakes Trail winds its way through the Iowa Great Lakes region, which offers plenty of outdoor opportunities for visitors-from its popular blue lakes and sandy beaches to quieter natural areas, many protected with INHF assistance.

The multi-use Iowa Great Lakes Trail provides local citizens and visitors a safe place to bike, walk, rollerblade, run and cross-country ski. The trail winds along rural, community and nature areas in the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes Region, including Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Arnolds Park and Milford. The “spine” of the system is a 14-mile, ten-foot wide, hard-surface trail that accommodates two-way recreational traffic. Connecting to the spine trail are several other shorter trails to explore, including the Kenue Park Trail, Arnolds Park City Trail and Spirit Lake City trail. The trail has already been extended and now loops around the east side of Spirit Lake. Future plans are to continue the expansion so the trail borders the entire lake.

The West Big Spirit Lake trail will be nearly half completed by the end of summer 2006 and in the spring of 2007, the trail will extend all the way up into the Minnesota state border and the Minnewaukan State Park.

You will be glad you took the time to get to know the people and area of the Iowa Great Lakes and will want to return year after year.  



  1. Beverly Shaffer says:

    Wonderful article on the lakes,,and about the steam boat,. My mother was raised in Arnolds Park, He rgrandparents Jake Richey,Hettie Richey lived there ,and had a house up an alley from a Jack’s bar. They are buried in the cenetery in Okiboji Cenetery I believe.

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