I’ve learned that there are two types of Midwestern people: Those who love Lake Icaria and those who haven’t been there yet. Lake Icaria is an expansive county park in southwestern Iowa with a lot of things to do around (and on) the beautiful lake. It’s a big draw to Adams County, and it keeps improving with new cottages and updates to the current ones. We visited Lake Icaria, as part of Iowa’s 99 Parks campaign, which highlights one park in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. In this post, I’m going to tell you about all the things you can do at Lake Icaria, like all the lake activities, the disc golf, the food options, and what it’s like to camp or stay overnight in a cabin there.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Iowa Tourism. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Things to do at Lake Icaria
Lake Icaria is located in southwest Iowa near the town of Corning. It’s a quick getaway from Omaha, making it an ideal weekend trip. The big draw is the 650-acre lake, obviously, and the activities you associate with lakes like fishing, water skiing and tubing.
I’m told the lake is bustling in the summer with boats, but not jet skis. There’s even a party cove where boaters will drop anchor to hang out for the afternoon. You’ll find giant mats floating on the water in the summer.
Lake Icaria has a small sandy beach and a roped-in swimming area. My kids love playing in the water, so I can see my kids wanting to spend hours there on a summer day. The day we were at the lake, it was about 60 degrees, so we did not get in the water.
One of my favorite things to do at a park is hike, and Lake Icaria has more than 6 miles of trails. You might be tempted to just stroll the lakeshore, but there are paths through prairie, through trees and over bridges.
It was raining for most of our visit, so we didn’t do much hiking. When it was dry, however, I tried to get my kids to go on a hike, but they were far more interested in the playground near our cabin. Shortly after we arrived, they found the playground, made friends, and started a game of hide and seek.
And for those who can throw a frisbee, Lake Icaria has an 18-hole cage disc golf course. I can’t aim a frisbee, so I didn’t even consider trying this activity.
I printed out the Family Fun Pack and Get Moving Guide from 99 Parks and brought them with us. Each guide inspired several activities for us! The Family Fun Pack had educational activities including a sensory scavenger hunt and a family photo challenge. The Get Moving Guide had more than 15 games and activities. Some required materials so check before your trip so you can bring along what you need.
Lake Icaria fishing
If you fish, this lake is a walleye fisherman’s dream. The lake is also stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, wipers or channel fish. Kids can take part in popular fishing contests on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
Of all the things we could do at the lake, my kids were most excited about fishing. We fished from the rocky shore, and following the first cast, my son caught a large-mouth bass. It was possibly the smallest baby large-mouth bass ever, but he was still pretty excited.
You can fish from a boat at the lake, so you can bring your own or rent. The marina offers pontoon rentals for $45-$55.
If fishing’s not your thing (yet), download the Fishing 101 Guide from 99 Parks that will not only tell you how to catch a fish, but how to prepare it.
Food trucks & rentals at Lake Icaria
The county parks website is pretty helpful preparing you for what to expect; however, it didn’t mention everything you’d find at Lake Icaria. There was an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise I learned thanks to the helpful camp host. She let us know that every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’ll find a food truck near the beach (seasonally). So, if you’re like me, and you struggle getting a campfire started, dinner won’t be a bust.
I checked the food truck calendar for May, and there was a nice variety! A surprising variety, actually. The food truck hours as of this post were: Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’s right – they have breakfast options at the park on Sundays!
There was barbecue truck when we were there. My kids preferred roasting hot dogs over a rack of ribs for dinner, but we did get a small breakfast to share at the food truck on Sunday morning. We had a slice of quiche with brisket in it and pancakes.
Depending on your campsite, the beach may or may not be within walking distance. The beach is pretty near the marina which is Lake Icaria’s go-to spot for all the thing you forgot. You can get your fishing license there. The marina is also where you’ll go to rent items, like pontoon boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards.
Camping at Lake Icaria
There are a few options for overnight stays at Lake Icaria: Cabins, family cottages and camping/RVs. First, I’ll tell you about the camping options.
There are two camps sites: Timber Ridge Campground and Lake View Campground. Timber Ridge is shaded by mature trees and is newly renovated with full-service or electric/water sites. It’s drawback is that there isn’t a view of the lake. Lake View features has that view for most campsites (and some waters edge tent sites), plus it has full-service, electric, and all new restrooms and showers.
There were a lot of RVs the weekend we visited, and I imagine when the weather’s warm, you’ll see more of a balance of tent campers.
Cabins at Lake Icaria
I once thought we were a camping family, but over time, I’ve learned that we are 100% cabin lovers. So, we stayed the night in one of the lakeside sleeper cabins.
If you’re looking at the staying in a cabin, you have two choices: Full-service cabins with water (i.e., sink and toilet) and sleeper cabins that don’t have water. Other than that bathroom perk, they all have the same accommodations. Both cabin types sleep up to 6 with two bunk beds and a pull-out couch; they also have a fridge and microwave; and they have heat and air conditioning. If you stay in a cabin, you will need to bring your own linens, utensils, and pots and pans. These cabins are seasonal, and not open during the winter.
Our cabin was a beautiful lakeside sleeper cabin that felt private and well-situated. The cabin had an amazing view, but the parking lot was further from the cabin, so we had to walk about 50+ yards. Not a huge problem, but if you’ve got a lot of stuff, it can be a trek.
There is a NEW option at Lake Icaria. The Family Cottages are two new, large, home-like cottages that have their own little cove on the lake. They’re beautiful, sleep a lot of people, and frankly, offer a lot of amenities that I think families are going to love. During our tour of one of the cottages, my 7-year-old daughter described it as “first class.” When we return to Lake Icaria, I’m definitely going to book one of these.
Each Family Cottage is full-service, with linens included and a kitchen that’s ready for you. Unlike the other two cabin types, the cottages have TVs, a dining area, and several sleeping rooms for a little more privacy. The Family Cottages have their own boat dock, as well. The deck, I think, is one of the highlights of those cottages!
While the other two cabin types are open for short-term stays, like a weekend, the Family Cottages are open for week-long bookings from Friday to Friday. A weekend booking might open up, but you’ll only know the week of an available weekend. Family Cottages are open year-round.
After staying in the sleeper cabin and then touring the full-service cabin and Family Cottage, I can say that the cottages are definitely my kind of “camping.” That’s to say, it’s basically staying in a well-furnished home with the perk of having a gorgeous lake outside your door.
To book a cabin or campsite, visit mycountyparks.com.
Exploring more of the 99 Parks
Iowa’s county parks offer an abundance of outdoor adventures, and depending on what you’re looking for — whether you want to fish, horseback ride, relax or hike — there’s a park in Iowa to fit your needs. For Omaha residents, I say you start with looking at the parks in western Iowa, including:
– Southwest: Mormon Trail Park in Bridgewater, Lake Icaria in Corning, Fremont County Campground & Golf Course in Sidney, Pony Creek Park in Pacific Junction, Hacklebarney Woods in Villisca, Pierce Creek Recreation Area in Essex, Poe Hollow Park in Mount Ayr, Sand’s Timber Recreation Area in Blockton and Three Mile Lake in Afton
– West Central: Littlefield Recreation Area in Exira, Swan Lake State Park in Carroll, Cold Springs Park in Lewis, Yellow Smoke Park in Denison, Nations Bridge Park in Stuart, Willow Lake Recreation Area in Woodbine, Peters Park in Rodney, Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek and Nishna Bend Recreation Area in Harlan
– Northwest: Buena Vista County Park in Peterson, Featherstone Memorial Park in Manson, Martin’s Access in Cherokee, Scharnberg Park in Everly, Kenue Park in Okoboji, Tuttle Lake Recreation Area in Dolliver, Joe Sheldon Park in Humboldt, Moorehead Pioneer Park in Ida Grove, Smith Lake Park in Algona, Lake Pahoja Recreation Area in Inwood, Dog Creek Park in Sutherland, Hawkeye Point Campground in Sibley, Lost Island – Huston Park in Ruthven, Five Ridge Prairie in Westfield, Meredith Park in Mallard, Hagge Park in Sac City, Sandy Hollow Recreation Area in Sioux Center and Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City.
If you’re interested in Loess Hills hikes, I suggest parks like Hitchcock Nature Center, Willow Creek Recreation Area and Five Ridge Prairie.
Your turn: Are you planning any trips to Iowa this summer?
Get travel inspiration in your inbox!
Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, family travel ideas, giveaways, and more! Subscribe here.