Long known as “Iowa’s Outdoor Gem”, Geode State Park joined the Iowa park system in 1937. The spot along the Skunk River had long been a local picnicking spot. Originally, local groups raised $4,800 to purchase 143 acres. Civilian Conservation Corps moved onto the grounds to begin clearing trees, creating roads and building structures. In 1947, civilian construction workers returned and building resumed. After 14 years of tireless effort, the lake, beach and CCC-reminiscent beach house were dedicated in 1951.
The lake was named after a local rock known as a ‘geode’, a hollow rock that when opened reveals a quartz crystal lined interior that resembles a miniature cave. The geode was designated the Iowa state rock in 1967 due to the efforts of E.N.Smith , Development Chairman of the park, and his son Earl Smith who right up until his passing in 2011 was an advocate of the park giving talks about geodes and the park despite being confined to a wheelchair. Iowa is now known worldwide because of the large number of rare and beautiful geodes found in this area.
Over the years the park has undergone changes, most recently the new beach house and playground, road improvements, modern restrooms and shower facilities in the campground and a new boat launch area near the beach. The lake and campground are scheduled for renovations starting in 2017 and scheduled to be completed in 2019.
The prime attraction of the 1,640-acre park is Lake Geode, a peaceful 187-acre lake that has become well-known for excellent fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, bullhead and red ear sunfish, and because it is a no-wake lake, it appeals to paddlers of all kinds also. The lake is scheduled to undergo major renovations in 2018 and will reopen in 2019 better than ever. Major work on the lakebed and underwater structure could make Geode one of the premier fishing destinations in the state!
The sandy beach is a great spot to catch some sun or go for a refreshing swim. It also has some good shade trees for those who just want to relax and take in the view without the need for sunscreen. A new playground is nearby as well as the new beach house that features open-air seating for gatherings, a kitchenette with serving windows and restrooms. The facility is available for use by reservation through the Park Manager Ulf Konig by calling 319-392-4601. Concessions along with non-motorized rentals is being explored through the Friends group.
The shady campground features 86 electric sites, 81 non electric sites as well as two modern restrooms with showers, a dump station and a new playground for the kids. The paved road through the campground is ideal for the kids to ride bikes and also a great place for an evening walk during the week when things are a little quieter! The campground is scheduled to undergo major renovations in 2018 which will make camping at Geode an even better experience. Reservations for campsites and shelters can be made online at www.reserveiaparks.com or call 1-877-IAPARKS (427-2757).
There are many hiking trails in Geode State Park to satisfy the outdoor enthusiast. The main trail starts at the north end of the lake and leads all the way to the dam, and is accessible from several picnic areas along the lake. Another trail starts at the dam on the lake's west side and ends at picnic shelter #1. Many hikers choose to follow the trail system in a trip around the lake.
For mountain bikers, the trails form a six-mile loop that makes for an interesting variety of single-track biking in a rolling, oak hardwood forest area. Mostly easy to moderate, the trails have a few difficult spots with short, steep climbs and rocky spots. For bikers looking for an afternoon of fun riding with some reasonable challenges, Geode is worth the trip. The forest cover means there is lots of shade during the hot summer months, and the beach offers another way to cool off after your ride. The park is also great during the maximum color season in mid-October. Bikers need to be respectful of hikers when riding the trail system for everyone's safety.
There are also four covered shelters in the park that have grills and picnic tables for gatherings and cookouts. Shelter #1 features a historic stone dual fireplace and is a popular spot for reunions and large gatherings with a very large parking area. There are also various pull-offs on the road that winds its way through the park with picnic tables and beautiful views of the lake.