Hugging a bend in the gentle Des Moines River, Lacey Keosauqua State Park is comprised of beautiful hardwood forests, gently rolling hills and scenic bluffs. Visitors can utilize a lovely trail system and take a stroll or hike through some of the park’s over 1,600 acres of woodlands; old and stately oaks, basswoods and cottonwoods create a verdant canopy during the summer and offer vibrant colors during autumn. Swimmers can take a dip in the tree-lined Keosauqua lake to escape the summer heat; anglers can also toss a line in here, or in the Des Moines or even the nearby Lake Sugema. In winter, visitors can look for some of the many bald eagles which frequent the park’s waterways.
Lacey Keosauqua is steeped in history as well as natural beauty. The park is the location of a series of earthen mounds believed to be built by members of the Woodland Native American culture over 1,000 years ago. The Mormon Trail, a westbound pioneer route used by settlers during the 1800s, traveled through the park; the bend on the Des Moines where the park now sits was a key fording location.
The park has a picturesque and well-shaded campground complete with 64 RV sites. Reservations are taken for over half of the sites, and visitors traveling through during the busy summer and early-fall seasons should certainly try to reserve their spot.
Depending on the direction you’re coming from, you’ll most likely reach Lacey Keosauqua via a couple county roads that branch of off either IA-1 or IA-2 (which run to the east and the south of the park, respectively). Park Rd. runs straight through the park and connects up with the campground and most of the recreation areas and trailheads. Roads to and within the park are flat and paved; there are no sharp curves or steep climbs to worry about in this gently rolling part of Iowa.
Once you’ve reached the campground, access to the rest of the park is easy. The lake, trailhead, and recreation area on the river are all within walking distance. The park’s western trailheads and recreation areas are just a two-minute drive away.
Parking at the campground shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. Sites are long and there’s ample maneuvering space, even for larger rigs. There’s also plenty of additional parking available at day-use areas.
Lacey Keosauqua’s scenic campground is well-shaded stately hardwoods and is placed right next to the park’s beautiful 30-acre Keosauqua lake. There are 64 RV-suitable sites here, and they are arranged in a series of small, interlocking loops. Sites run the gamut with respect available hookups; some are totally primitive, others have just 30 or 50-amp electric, others have water and electric and a few are full-hookup, offering water, electric and sewage. For those who need it, there’s also a sanitary dump station available near the middle of the campground.
Several water spigots are interspersed across the campground, and there’s a modern restroom with showers located at the campground’s center. Firewood is available from hosts during peak-season (Memorial Day weekend through mid-October).
Reservations can be made up to three months in advance for about two-thirds of the sites, the rest are first-come first-served. The nearby town of Keosauqua offers amenities including groceries, camping supplies, ATMs, restaurants and additional camping areas.
Anglers have plenty of options at Lacey Keosauqua State Park. A pleasant hiking trail circles 30-acre Lake Keosauqua, offering easy access to shore fishing, while a boat ramp lets fishermen head out onto the water (note that only non-motorized and electric-motor vehicles are allowed). If the lake doesn’t suit you, you can also try casting into the gently flowing waters of the Des Moines, which arcs its way along the park’s northern boundary. Lake Seguma, just a few minute’s drive away, is said to offer some of the best fishing in Iowa. Anglers can pull smallmouth bass, channel catfish, goldeneye, northern pike and more.
The Scenic Drive Festival, taking place during the second weekend of October, is the last hoorah of the park’s busy season. Visitors can drive or stroll through the park while its foliage is at its most dazzling; oaks, maples, elms, aspen, cottonwoods light up the woodlands’ canopy with brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow. The state park hosts a 5K/10K fun run or walk, and the town of Keosauqua, just a few minute away, holds a carnival and other fun events.
Lacey Keosauqua offers several miles of hiking trails by which visitors can explore the area’s thick woodlands, rolling hills and scenic beauty. Follow the bend of the Des Moines, hike around the lake, or head out onto the Gate House Trail, which connects with other trails in the adjacent State Forest area. The forest understory is diverse, and some of the hardwoods stretching overhead may be a couple hundred years old! You may also come across some of the park’s plentiful wildlife, such as deer, red foxes, opossums, or colorful neotropical bird species during migration season.
Lacey Keosauqua is not only scenic but is steeped in history, both recent and ancient. The lush and fertile stretch of woodlands and fields along the Des Moines was home to a society of Woodland Native Americans, whose past habitation (occurring some 1,000 to 2,500 years ago) is evidenced today by a series of earthen mounds along the river. More recently, the area was used as a fording site for those traveling out west along the Mormon Trail. Engaging interpretive displays along the riverside trail help explain the historical significance of the park.
Surrounded by many miles of intensive agriculture, the park’s deep woods and calm waterways attract a wide variety of avian life. Over 250 species can be seen in the area, including American white pelicans, American bittern, peregrine falcons, blue-winged teals, canvasbacks, belted kingfishers, eastern and western meadowlarks, Baltimore orioles and much, much more. The section of the Des Moines which flows along the park’s northern boundary is also a very popular winter hunting site and nesting ground for bald eagles. Visitors can see dozens, or more, if they show up at the right time of the year.
Lacey Keosauqua’s gently rolling terrain and dramatic bluffs make for some excellent, scenic snowmobiling. Not all of the park’s trails are designated for snowmobiling, but those that are link up with trails in the adjacent Shimeck State Forest Wildlife Management Area, which adds some extra route mileage. The area gets about two feet of snow per year, meaning mid and late winter conditions can be hit-or-miss. Check in with the park ahead of time to see what snow coverage on trails is looking like.