Lacey Keosauqua State Park is located on the forested south side of a great horseshow bend in the Des Moines River. Some of the parks unique features include rugged exposed rocky outcroppings, dense timber, varied terrain in several creek valleys, lake and river access.
Dedicated in 1921, Lacey Keosauqua State Park is Iowa’s second oldest state park. The park is rich in history beginning with Native American’s who lived and died in the area. Their presence is evident through artifacts and burial mounds found in the park.
Mormon’s crossed the Des Moines River here on their journey west in the mid eighteen hundreds. Ely’s Ford is a shallow area where the river flows over hard bedrock. This made an ideal place for wagons and livestock to cross.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) made an enduring mark on the park as well. Several C.C.C. companies took years to construct most of the infrastructure we see today. In addition to the C.C.C. structures, it’s fun to explore the old quarries in the park where building material were acquired. Be sure to visit the stone gate house and bronze statue dedicated to the C.C.C. at the west park entrance.
There are also six family cabins with modern facilities that can be reserved through the park reservation system.
The picturesque Lake Keosauqua has much to offer visitors. There is a boat ramp on the north end of the lake; however, boat motors are limited to electric. Fishing is good thanks to the Iowa DNR’s installation of stake beds and other fish habitat.
The roped off swimming area at the beach is free to park visitors. There are no lifeguards so be attentive. The historic bathhouse offers restrooms and changing areas as well as a patio space overlooking the beach.
The well-established campground has two main loops with accommodations for tents, camper trailers and large RV’s. There are 76 campsites (45 with 30-amp electrical and 10 with 50-amp electrical and water). Most campsites are shaded with level gravel pads. There are also plenty of pull through sites for larger RV’s. Campers around site #13 may require an additional length of power cord to reach breaker boxes that are positioned further away than normal.
Other accommodations include: a modern shower house with restrooms, pit toilet, dump station, playground, potable water spigots and a separated youth group campsite.
Access Lacey Keosauqua Lake and the swimming beach from the campground via Lake Trail or take a short drive to the bathhouse parking area.
Printable Trail Map
The 14.64 mile trail system at Lacey Keosauqua State Park consists of three trails. Each trail has unique features to explore and the trail system can be hiked over a weekend or a single day. Be sure to linger at the scenic views, interesting architecture, and historical markers.
– Gate House Trail
A little less than half the 4.19 mile Gate House Trail will take you deep into the Keosauqua unit of Shimek State Forest. This timber hike is rich with wildlife so step lightly to see the most fauna. The south portion of the trail is a level and quiet hike along a ridge. The north half of this trail traverses up and down Ely’s Creek and Duckworth Creek valleys. The bridge over Ely’s Creek is a great place to stop and admire the view.
– Lake Trail
This 4.71 mile trail is easily accessed from the campground or beach. The majority of this trail loops around the perimeter of Keosauqua Lake and has some nice spots to take in the lake views. Watch for some of the C.C.C. built structure like bridges, beach bathhouse and stone stairs to the beach. There’s a portion of the trail on the south side that heads away from the lake and through the forest. As you trek south the view opens up to a row crop plot. The trail follows the perimeter of the row crop and ultimately ends at a gravel road (240th Street).
– River Trail
The 5.34 mile River Trail is the signature hike at Lacey Keosauqua State Park. This trail tracks along the east bank of the Des Moines River and can be accessed from multiple parking and picnic areas. Views of the Des Moines River are breathtaking from countless vantage points but any of the seven bridges make good spots to stop for the vista. Be sure to note the unique geology that the river and weather help expose.
Lacey Keosauqua State Park’s history can be experienced on this trail. Native Americans left their mark on the area with 19 Indian burial mounds around shelter #2. Another historical landmark can be seen at Ely Ford where some of the Mormons crossed the river on their journey west.
It’s also worth stopping by the Gatehouse at the west trailhead to see the C.C.C. Interpretive Center. The plaques have information explaining various C.C.C. projects in the park.
– Unnamed Trails
There a two short trails totaling .4 miles on the east side of the park. The northern trail starts at Park Road and ends at the park border. The southern trail also starts at the road and ends at the old quarry.
Lacey Keosauqua State Park is one of Iowa’s largest state parks. Now consider the adjacent Keosauqua unit of Shimek State Forest and the 574-acre Lake Sugema and you have one of Iowa’s largest outdoor recreation areas.
The picturesque and historic River Trail is what I will remember most. A close second was the quiet hike on Gate House Trail through the Keosauqua unit of Shimek State Forest.
Lacey Keosauqua State Park is one of the state’s gems nestled in the historic southeast corner of Iowa.
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