Rice Lake State Park is a state park of Iowa, USA, located in the bluffs and ravines adjacent to Rice Lake. The park has many amenities for various activities including camping sites, hiking trails, boat launch, picnic areas, swimming beach, equestrian area, playgrounds, cabins, lodges, RV sites with water and electric hookups, and much more. It also features an 18-hole disc golf course.
Rice Lake Campground offers 50 drive up campsites divided into two sections: north and south. Both sections contain tent pads, fire rings, and vault toilets. There is a separate group camp site just outside the main section of the campground. This group camp contains four hike-to cabins (three are available year round) and eight walk-up cabins (six are available year round). All cabins share a common wall of rock separating them from the campsite. Adjacent to the campground is a horse camp where horses can be boarded or cared for in large numbers.
There is also a small equestrian staging area where riders can warm up their mounts before entering the campground. Located within Rice Lake State Park but separately administered are the Hardin Memorial Recreation Area and Eagle Point Nature Preserve. The Hardin Memorial Recreation Area is a disc golf course established in 2014 through a partnership between the City of Fort Dodge, Ames Conservation Commission, and Gull Point Conservation District. The preserve consists of 1,400 acres (567ha), of which 800 acres (320ha) are wooded. The primary purpose of establishing the preserve was to provide habitat and space for diverse wildlife species, including birds, butterflies, moths, and mammals. The disc golf course occupies about 400 acres (160ha) of the preserve.
On November 11, 2016, a ceremony was held at the course to celebrate its first anniversary; guest speakers included Senator Joni Ernst and Congressman Steve King. The course is maintained and updated annually by the non-profit Friends of Rice Lake. Other recreational facilities include a 42-mile (68km) network of back country roads called Backbone Trail, 10 miles (16km) of foot trails, six miles (10km) of bike trails, and five miles (8km) of ski trail, as well as access to miles of unmarked snowmobile routes. These are managed by the non-profit Midwest Snow Travelers Association. The association maintains several marked winter sports routes across northern Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. A 5.6-mile (9.2km) route runs along the eastern shore of Rice Lake, passing by the campground and ending near the town of Lehigh.
Another popular route starts in McGregor, heads east toward Hudsonville, then turns north and passes through Middletown onto the University of Nebraska campus. A third route runs west from Redding to Pella, then goes north to Boone. A 4.4-mile (7.1km) route loops off of Route 17 Business/Highway 78, running parallel to each other for almost 20 miles (32km). They pass through Newton, Chubbuck, Wellsville, and Burlington. At the southern end of the loop, there is a connection to Routes 37 and 3. A 2.5-mile (4.0km) route runs northeast from Middletown, starting out as a dirt road but becoming paved after about .75 mile (1.21km).
It ends in Tama County Park. An 8.3-mile (13.3km) route follows Highway 76 from Guthrie Center, past Danville, New London, and Clayton. It intersects with Highway 381 in Buck Creek Township and continues east to Interstate 80. A 1.1-mile (1.8km) route runs northwest from Eldora, paralleling U.S. Route 52W for nearly its entire length. It connects with Highway 244A in rural Warren County. A 1.3-mile (2.1km) route runs southwest from Pisgah, following Highway 31N through Nodaway and Lickity Townships. It reaches its western terminus at Highway 69. A 1.2-mile (1.9km) route runs southeast from Kingston, connecting with Highway 36.
A total of 21 different routes cover 99.76% of the course, including 9 holes that may be played in either direction, making it a 18 hole disc golf course. The longest route is the 7.85-mile (12.58km) Yellow Brick Road, which begins at Hole #18. Hole #17, named Gateway to Heaven, is considered the signature hole of the course. Designed by Dave Wys, the 530-yard (510m) par 70 hole requires players to carry a basket of bricks 150 yards (140m) down a hill, a distance of roughly 290 feet (82m) per brick. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, they must build a path using another 300 yards (270m) of bricks, carrying the same weight as before. If a player uses a cart, he or she still carries the full 450 pounds (200kg) weight limit.
The disc golf world record for most consecutive shots remaining standing was previously held by Matt Kramer, who dropped 16 straight shots from behind the tree line on Hole #14. Hole #15, named Parabolic Arc, is shaped like a horseshoe with a radius of 440 yards (390m), though the actual disc golf hole is only 270 yards (240m) wide. The hole provides a scenic backdrop for the challenging Hole #16, named Dragon’s Tooth, a downhill 186 yard (170m) putt requiring precision approach shots. The final hole, Hole #37, is a short uphill 186 yard (170m) putt. Though not part of the official disc golf course, unofficial holes exist beyond the officially designated ones.
One such example is Hole #99, a long downhill 367 yard (330m) hole named Valley Forge. The name of the hole refers to the fact that it is very similar to the image on the seal of the United States’ oldest colonial settlement, Valley Forge Military Reservation. Several locations in the park offer views of the Mississippi River valley. One such vista point is atop Bald Knob, a prominent feature overlooking Rice Lake. Views of the river extend throughout the year, since the knob remains frozen until late March. Picnickers at the park enjoy views of the Mississippi River. The park hosts a variety of events open to the general public, including races, karaoke contests, music festivals, and fireworks shows. A disc golf tournament takes place every summer.
In May 2012, the city council of Fort Dodge authorized the establishment of a local non-profit organization known as “Friends of Rice Lake” which will be tasked with marketing the lake and surrounding area as a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts. A public opening event was held on June 14, 2013 at Rice Lake. Friends of Rice Lake organizer Amy McCoy says that while no development proposals are currently on the table, she hopes the nonprofit group will help spark interest in creating new opportunities around the lake.
According to statistics maintained by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, over 293,000 people visited Iowa state parks in 2011. Of these visitors, approximately 46,000 stayed overnight in one of the 282 campgrounds operated by the DNR. Rice Lake had the fourth highest attendance rate among all state parks during this time period.