By Theresa “Resa” Leppert
About a month ago, I went camping with a group of ladies to Lake Ahquabi State Park in Indianola. I hadn’t camped at this park in more than a decade – and I had forgotten what a beautiful place it is! Lake Ahquabi is just south of Indianola, IA (just south of Des Moines), right in the middle of the state!
“Ahquabi” means “Resting Place”
“Ahquabi” is the native Fox and Sauk word for “resting place.” I must admit, after spending the weekend there, it is apropos. The park itself is about 770 acres. It was dedicated all the way back in 1936, and many of the structures were built by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, otherwise known as the CCC, during the Great Depression. Lake Ahquabi is a man-made lake that is approximately 115 acres. There is a beautiful beach that has an area for swimming. Note: No lifeguard! There are also kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats available for rent at the concession building. There are numerous areas for shore fishing and boating. The lake has a rule of “no wake” speed, so take it easy! Life’s about the journey, not the destination, right?
Lots to do at the park and nearby!
Day Use Areas
So what is there to do in the area? Lake Ahquabi SP also has an extensive day-use picnic area near the beach that is just gorgeous. Lots of open ground, sunny spots, and surrounding shade trees if you need the shade. There is also a stone lodge (built back in 1936) overlooking the lake that is available for rent.
Indianola Balloon Classic
There is the Indianola Balloon Classic held at the end of July/August. Dozens of hot air balloons fly during this week long event. The last time we camped here, around 2010 or 2011, we happened to head into town in search of ice cream – and there was a huge launch going on at that moment. We stretched out on the grass lawn of a local bank and watched dozens of balloons take off during a burning sunset. I had some beautiful pictures somewhere, but that was before I had a digital camera. No telling where they are now.
There is a 12-mile bicycle path near there, the Summerset Bike Trail, if biking floats your boat. And of course, 22 miles to the south is Des Moines, the capitol of Iowa, which has all kinds of things to do. We went to the Blank Park Zoo, which was delightful!
Hiking trails – my favorite part!
I think my favorite part of Lake Ahquabi State Park was the hiking trails! There are more than seven miles of trails. We hiked the trail around the lake. It was CRAZY hot that weekend, so I’m glad we went early. I was breaking in a new pair of hiking sandals, and boy did I regret not taking another pair of shoes. I ended up with some blisters on the balls of my feet. Miserable!
Plans to drain the lake and renovate the campground, so closures are expected.
IMPORTANT: The DNR is planning a major renovation of the lake and the campground area, so the lake will be drawn down starting in July 2021. The campground will be shut down starting on August 9, 2021. The campground, shelter, and lodge will be closed for all of 2022 while all the work is being done. I can’t wait to go back there in 2023 and see all the changes!
Such great memories.
My favorite memory of this park still gives me a chuckle. My hubby’s friend has this dramatic unreasonable fear of raccoons. He calls them the “Raccurians.” The first night we got there, I had two dozen ears of sweetcorn that I set down by the picnic table when we were setting up, and I forgot to take them in the camper that night. Ummmm, yeah. Those raccoons ate every last kernel on every last ear of corn. I had such a mess to clean up the next morning. Corn cobs and leaves everywhere!
Well, Stan* (name has been changed to protect his privacy, lol) was just beside himself that there were “Raccurians” all over our campsites the night before. So while we’re sitting around the fire, we tossed a few marshmallows around his campsite, and the response from the Raccurians was as expected. We thought he was going to have a heart attack! (PSA: One should not feed the local wildlife. I know better now, I promise!)
You can find out more info on this lovely park here: https://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/lake-ahquabi-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=IA&parkId=610149
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Theresa “Resa” Leppert
Guide, Iowa & Wisconsin
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