Lake Anita State Park is a state park of Iowa, USA, located in Appanoose County. The park consists of over 1,300 acres (5km2) and sits adjacent to the west bank of Lake Anita. It offers camping facilities as well as trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The campground features 188 campsites all equipped with water and electrical hookups, modern rest rooms and showers, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Half of the sites are available on a first come, first served basis while the remainder must be reserved. Camping season begins mid-May and ends at the conclusion of September.
Reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are open year round, other half are seasonal. Lake Anita has crappie, walleye, northern pike, perch, catfish, bullhead, sucker, carp, and muskellunge populations. A boat launch allows access to the lake for boaters. Canoes, kayaks, sailboats, paddle boats, rowboats, and pedal boats may be rented from the park office during May through Labor Day. There is also an equestrian entrance off of Highway 14 that provides access to the trail network within the park. Many of these animals make their home in this park.
Lake Anita State Park was established in 1920 following authorization by the State Board of Conservation in 1919. Prior to its designation as a state park, it had been operated informally as a recreational area known as “Camp Anita”. In 1920, approximately 200 men working for the WPA arrived at what would become Lake Anita State Park. Their arrival coincided with the completion of a new bathhouse and overnight shelter which were put into operation upon orders from the conservation board. Additional buildings completed during the next several years included horse stables, carpenter shops, and storage sheds. A fire station was built in 1923 after a previous one was destroyed by fire. Other infrastructure projects completed were roads, telephone lines, and sidewalks.
Lake Anita State Park has 188 campsites divided into two sections. Section A includes 104 sites that have sewer, electric, and water hookups and are accessible via Highway 14. Section B, consisting of 84 sites, does not offer sewer, electric, or water hookups and requires a hike of .4 miles (.640km) along a back road. This section of the park is only open from June 15 until September 30. Section A opens daily at 6am and closes at 10pm; however, due to the large number of people attending the annual summer solstice event known as Midsummer Night’s Dream, the park closes at 8pm every night except July 20, 21, 28, and 29. During those nights, the park stays open until 11pm. Section B opens at 6am and remains open until 10pm, unless posted otherwise.
Hiking trails at Lake Anita State Park consist of Shoreline, Woodland, and Scenic Overlook loops. The Shoreline Trail is 2.0 miles (3.2km) long and passes by the bathhouse, cabins, and Lake Anita. The Woodland Trail is 0.6 miles (0.97km) long and passes through the campground and around the pond. The Scenic Overlook Trail is 3.1 miles (4.9km) long and leads out onto a bluff above Lake Anita. All three trails start and end near the parking lot. The Timber Road loop is a bike route that uses county maintained gravel roadways and railroad right-of-way between a gap in the trees and lakeshore. It is 4.8 miles (7.3km) long. The Sand Hill Crane Nature Trail is a 0.6 miles (0.97km) long circular interpretive trail. Interpretation focuses on the ecology, habitat, and behavior of the endangered whooping crane.
Lake Anita State Park hosts a variety of events including music festivals, parades, fairs, and sports competitions. Due to the small population size of the trumpeter swan, there is intense competition among sporting clubs for possession of this species’ eggs during autumn. Nesting takes place in nearby wetlands but the birds themselves stay close to the lake. As a result, wading birds like egrets and herons congregate here when looking for food. Fairly common throughout most of Iowa, prairie dogs live in southern Iowa in particular regions of the park. They are much smaller than their eastern counterparts, weighing no more than 120 pounds (49kg). Because they are ground dwellers, they require very sparse vegetation, eating mostly grasses and clover.
However, prairie dog colonies are highly social, living in complex societies where each individual knows his or her place in the hierarchy. When threatened, prairie dogs will alert their colony, causing them to take cover in their underground tunnels. These tunnels extend down to depths of up to 40 feet (12m), allowing the rodents some protection against vehicle traffic. Although they appear to be alone, prairie dogs actually form strong family bonds. Litters born within a colony remain within the colony, being raised together and taught how to survive in their harsh environment. After weaning, mothers teach their young about the dangers of predators and humans, teaching them to be wary of strangers. If a mother prairie dog is captured and taken away, she will leave behind a hole in the earth, called a den site, where her offspring can survive for a time without her guidance.
Prairie dogs typically spend their lives in permanent burrows, making short excursions outside to forage for food twice a day. They store fat for winter hibernation in a special organ called a suet pocket. Lake Anita State Park is unique in that it preserves a remnant of precontact civilization. Located just south of Lake Manawa, the park contains enough archaeological evidence to fill a museum exhibit.
Prehistorically, the region was inhabited by Dakota Native Americans, who clashed with Ojibwe migrating north from the Great Lakes. Around 1750, a French trader named Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette mapped out the mouth of the Mississippi River using a native guide. On returning to France, they convinced King Louis XV to grant them exclusive rights to trade with the Indians in North America, sparking off the so-called “French Trade Route” and beginning European colonization in the New World. Along the way, they picked up a Jesuit mission at St. Louis, Missouri, and founded Fort St. Joseph on the western shores of Lake Michigan. In 1818, William Williams, a Welsh immigrant, bought the land under contract from Joliet and Marquette. He cleared some land, planted wheat, and started a grist mill. At Christmas 1819, he received official title to the 160 acre tract, calling it Lot Number Twenty-two in the District of Green Bay.
Recreational activities at the park include:
- cross-country skiing
Lake Anita’s shoreline contains many different types of wildlife including:
- sandhill cranes
- bald eagles
- owls such as
- barred owls
- screech owls
- saw-whet owls
- snowy owls
- trumpeter swans
- Canada geese
- American white pelican
- black or brown bears
- red foxes
- river otters
This habitually fattened animal becomes the prey of ravenous mammalian hunters like:
- cottontail rabbit