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Iowa's Great Lakes, Iowa Travel Guide

Complete Vacation, Recreation and Tourism Information

Iowa's Great Lakes are one of the most popular resort areas in the state year round. Six lakes: Big Spirit, the largest lake in the region, and West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, and Minnewashta, a chain of glacier-created lakes, offer unlimited recreational activities. Marinas and outfitters provide equipment rentals and guide services.

In spring, water sports: parasailing, sailing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming take front stage on the lakes. West Okoboji, a deep, spring-fed lake with clear blue water, is the most popular water sports venue of the lakes. For fishing, Big Spirit, a shallow lake, provides walleye, bass, and panfish. West Okoboji has great spring and fall fishing. The river-like East Okoboji has less water sport activity, and therefore is a great place for a relaxing fishing trip.

Snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and hunting are popular winter activities. In January, the lake region hosts the University of Okoboji Winter Games, three days of indoor and outdoor sporting events and game competitions.

There are many state parks and public hunting/recreational areas surrounding the lake. Along with camping and lake access, these areas are popular for bird watching, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Recreational trails throughout the area are open for biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Fourteen miles of trails pass along the lakes and connect the towns of Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Arnolds Park, and Milford. There are eight area golf courses with 9- and 18-hole courses.

The towns on the shores of the lakes have a fun atmosphere. There are several amusement parks like the Arnolds Park Amusement Park where visitors can ride a wooden roller coaster, and water parks such as Boji Bay. The towns surrounding the lakes offer art galleries, antique shops, museums, and lake-view restaurants. Visitors can take cruises of West Okoboji Lake aboard the Okoboji Queen II or enjoy views of the lake region aboard a vintage railroad car.

The Iowa Great Lakes are located near the Minnesota border. They are 110 miles northeast of Sioux City and 260 miles northwest of Des Moines. They are accessible via U.S. Highway 71 and State Highway 9. Lodging options are plentiful and include: resorts, motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, cottages, and campgrounds.


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