Pikes Peak State Park is a state park of Iowa, USA, located in the bluffs and ravines adjacent to Lake Manawa. The park was formed when two smaller parks merged in 2005; it became the largest inland state park in Iowa with an area of 1,300 acres (530ha). It lies within both Jackson County and Lee County.
Pikes Peak State Park offers many different opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts. There are 100 miles (160km) of hiking trails, 50 miles (80km) of horseback riding trails, 20 miles (32km) of mountain biking trails, 6 miles (9.7km) of cross country skiing trails, 4 miles (6.4km) of snowmobiling trails, 3 miles (5.1km) of canoeing trail, and 1 mile (1.6km) of fishing trail. Additionally, there are 18 miles (29km) of paved multi-purpose trails open to cyclists, skaters, and inline skating enthusiasts.
Picnickers will enjoy sitting on the shores of Lake Manawa in front of the lodge overlooking the marshy ground surrounding the lake. Those seeking further adventure may climb aboard the paddlewheeler Maredith for a trip across the water, or take the short walk down to the beach where the sandstone cliffs drop away to reveal a pebble beach below. Swimming under the shelter of the dam is another option. Canoeists and kayakers need look no farther than the north end of the lake, where a put-in point has been provided near the old gravel ramp. Other access points are available at either end of the park road.
On November 11, 1920, a local resident named George Wyth Memorial Lodge proposed that a park be created around Lake Manawa. A group of civic organizations, including the YWCA, helped bring this about. Land acquisition began in 1923. Two years later, on May 15, 1925, the citizens were able to celebrate the opening of what would become one of the most popular state parks in Iowa – “Lake Manawa State Park”. However, there were still some areas along its shoreline that needed attention, so workers returned to fill potholes, build bridges, plant trees, and improve roads and trails.
This work continued for three more summers, until 1933. That year, a master plan for improvement was adopted which included new recreational facilities, camping sites, picnic grounds, bathhouses, shelters, and observation towers. Work started in 1935 and completed by 1936. In 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps moved into Camp Pike Peak. These men were instrumental in transforming the camp site from a place primarily used for basic maintenance to a premier outdoor recreation destination. They set up base campsites, built miles of foot trails, constructed boat ramps, developed scenic overlooks, planted trees, and cleaned streams. Their efforts have left behind a legacy of improvements that can be seen today at the park.
On July 2, 1941, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, the federal government through the National Park Service took over management of Lake Manawa State Park. This action marked the beginning of federal involvement in Iowa’s state parks, which totaled 34 units at the time. Over the next several decades, additional land was added, bringing the total acreage to 368 acres (149ha), but budget constraints led to a decline in staffing levels. As a result, visitor services suffered, and amenities such as playground equipment were not maintained properly.
By the 1990s, only nine out of the original 34 had been updated with modern facilities. When two neighboring parks, Tamaqua State Recreation Area and White Tail Ridge State Recreation Area, were slated to undergo major renovations, a partnership was established between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Tamaqua/White Tail Watershed District, and the Upper Mississippi River Regional Development Council. With support from the community, enough money was raised to transform both Tamaqua and White Tail Ridge into much-needed upgrades.
After many long hours of hard work, both Tamaqua and White Tail Ridge reopened to the public in June 2000. Following this success, the idea was born to combine these two parks together into a single contiguous unit. A public meeting was held in August 2001 where residents in each town voted on whether they wanted to merge their respective parks or not. On election day, March 10, 2002, a majority of voters in both towns chose to join forces and create Pikes Peak State Park. Boundaries were formally transferred on April 30, 2004.