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7 Great Things To Do At Lake Manawa

Lake Manawa State Park is nestled on the southern edge of Council Bluffs. Easily accessed off I-29, (about 3 miles from the exit), this 1,529 acre state park is filled with numerous outdoor adventures. From boating in the summer to ice fishing in the winter to playground fun in the summer to hikes in the spring, there is something to be done anytime of the year.  

The lake itself is over 700 acres and is surrounded by numerous areas to pull off to catch a fish, take in a view or spot some local wildlife. Check out this list of amazing adventures to be had at Lake Manawa State Park:

Girl running toward Lake Manawa in southwest Iowa

1. Water sports

 Bring a boat, ski jet, paddle board, canoe or kayak and enjoy the open waters. There is boat ramp access on the north, south and west sides of the lake. There is even sailing at Lake Manawa.

For more information on sailing visit The Lake Manawa Sailing Association

2. Go fishing

Pack those fishing poles and lures and head to the shores of the lake. The lake is stocked with all kinds of fish. Some popular species include bluegill, black crappie, yellow bullhead, largemouth bass, walleye, yellow bass, channel catfish and more.

A boy holding up the fish he caught at Lake Manawa Statte Park
Photo courtesy Tiffany Nation

Be sure you are legal when you are fishing as you are required to have a valid Iowa state fishing license. For more information on where to get your Iowa fishing license visit The Iowa DNR page

Need some fresh bait before hitting the lake. Stop by Woods Sporting Goods – there’s even a drive-thru!  

3. Take a hike or ride a bike

Lake Manawa has three trails that can be used for biking or hiking. The Lake Manawa Trail is 2.0 miles and estimated at a 48-minute hike. The Lake Manawa Loop Trail is .5 miles with an estimated hike time of 12 minutes. Then there is the Interior Trail that is .65 miles with an estimated hike time of 16 minutes.  

For a better look at the trails, and an overall look of the park, check out this map!

There is also access to mountain bike trails closer to the river. Signs are posted to direct you to access to the trails.

4. Go for a swim at Lake Manawa beach

Lake Manawa has its very own beach so grab your sunblock and beach towels and hit the sand!  The beach is open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. There is a $3 admission.

Be sure to keep up to date on what’s happening at the beach with their Manawa Beach Facebook page!

Another thing to keep your eye on is the water quality that is always being monitored. Visit the DNR monitoring page to be sure the water is safe to swim.

5. Spend a day playing

The Dream Playground at Lake Manawa is now the largest ADA accessible playground in Iowa. It was rebuilt in 2018 and is a playground of children’s dreams. The playground offers age appropriate play areas, all with fun and unique designs. 

There is a large parking lot right by it, making it nice and easy for anyone wanting to stop and play. Also right beside it is a shelter that also includes restrooms. 

One of my favorite aspects is how they even included mini Council Bluffs historic buildings such as City Hall/Police Station and a mini Squirrel Cage Jail play area.  

6. Take in the wildlife

There are so many amazing animals to be seen in and around the park. From coyotes, deer, owls, turkey, heron, eagles and so much more. 

Bald eagles can be spotted at the lake in the winter.

Photo courtesy Tiffany Nation

The lake is a bird watcher’s paradise with so many spots to stop and do some birding. Check out this Friends of Lake Manawa group for some amazing photos from around the lake.

7. Have a party or picnic

Lake Manawa has numerous picnic shelters that can be rented. Depending on the size of your group they can accommodate from 50 to up to 165 people. To reserve a shelter or see amenities and accessibility be sure to check out the reservation site here

Other amenities located throughout the park include sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and modern restrooms.   

The park also has numerous activities throughout the year which include an ice fishing derby, Fourth of July Fireworks and more!

Lake Manawa is located at 1100 S. Shore Drive in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The park is open year round.

About the guest writer

Tiffany Nation is a full-time working mother and wife. In her free time she loves creating, doing yoga, spending time with her family and enjoying all of what Iowa has to offer.

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