Lake Keomah State Park is located in east-central Iowa just outside of Oskaloosa. The park sits alongside the 80-acre, artificial Lake Keomah and gives recreational seekers and RVers scenic views and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, year-round.
Lake Keomah State Park has ties to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an organization created during the Great Depression that helped give unmarried men jobs. The CCC built the Lake Keomah dam and spillway, and then constructed many of the buildings that still stand in the park today. Two areas, Lake Keomah State Park, Bathhouse-Lodge Area (Area A), and Lake Keomah State Park, Erosion Control Area (Area B), are registered as a part of Iowa’s National Register of Historic Places. Some of the original structures, like the bathhouse, don’t serve the same purposes they did when they first were built, but they remain an essential part of the park's history and now operate in a different capacity. Park guests can talk to a member of the park staff to find out more about the history of the CCC at Lake Keomah.
Lake Keomah earned its unique name by combining the letter of the two counties that helped finance the lake’s construction. The first syllables of the names Keokuk and Mahaska blended together to create the unforgettable moniker Lake Keomah. Like its name, visitors will have a memorable experience staying and playing at Lake Keomah State Park.
Lake Keomah is a short drive from many of Iowa’s larger cities. The park is located 68 miles southeast of Des Moines, and 82 miles southwest of Iowa City, Iowa. It is approximately 7 miles east of the nearest town, Oskaloosa.
Iowa state parks do not charge entry fees.
All state parks are open from 4:00 am to 10:30 pm. All guests who are not registered for overnight stays must vacate the premises by 10:30 pm.
The campground is located near the south end of the park, past the Park Office. Enter the gates and turn south to reach the camping area.
The Lake Keomah Campground is a pet-friendly, year-round campground. During the colder months, the park winterizes facilities that use water like hydrants, restrooms, and showers. If you wish to camp during this time, vault toilets and frost-free faucets are available. The campground offers two different types of sites, 50-amp electric and non-electric. All of the spaces have gravel driveways, and fire rings with grills.
The RV spaces are mostly back in and range in size from 15-31 feet in length. The campground has dumpsters, hydrants, a dump station, parking, modern restrooms and showers, and vault toilets available for registered guests. Please keep noise to a minimum during the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:00 am. Generators and other noise which can be heard from more than three campsites away are not permitted during quiet hours.
Fishing is one of the most popular water activities at Lake Keomah State Park. The park has two boat ramps, a fishing jetty, and a designated fishing shoreline, so anglers of almost every ability have an opportunity to fish. People commonly catch largemouth bass, channel catfish, black bullhead, bluegill, and black crappie in the lake and these fish are considered seasonal year-round. For more fishing information such as boating regulations, daily catch limits and other restrictions, contact the park. Anglers who are 16 and older must possess a valid fishing license to fish in the state of Iowa.
There is no better way to enjoy a state park than to spend it outside. Visitors to Lake Keomah State Park have opportunities for outdoor recreation in differing capacities. For those people who enjoy sitting on the beach or swimming, the swim beach is the ideal location to spend your time. The beach is close to restrooms, a picnic area, and rentable facilities for people who wish to host a large group of people. The beach does not have lifeguards, so always swim with a friend or family member to ensure everyone's safety. For more information on renting the park’s lodge or shelter area, contact the park.
Geocaching is an electronic scavenger hunt where cachers use handheld GPS units to search for hidden treasure. In Iowa, state park-approved cache locations are hidden within the boundaries of select parks, and Lake Keomah is lucky enough to have the state’s geocaching approval. Geocaching is generally an activity where participants research the locations through the world geocache website and hunt using the coordinates and specified geocaching rules. If you think geocaching is something you’d like to try, bring a GPS unit and see if you can locate the hidden treasure!
Whatever the season, you can take full advantage of the outdoors by hiking, snowmobiling, or cross country skiing on the multi-use trail that runs along the shores of Lake Keomah. The three-mile trail takes recreationists through the town of Keomah and provides plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and cross over the terrain that so many animals call home. Inside of the park, smaller footpaths lead to the main trail, so it is easy to access the path from different areas of the park. Before heading out on the trail, study the trail map, so you are familiar with scenic stops and other points of interest along your journey.
When the weather turns colder, and the snow starts to fall, many people stay inside where the weather is warm. Cold weather enthusiasts don’t feel like they need to stay indoors when there are plenty of opportunities to find fun, family-friendly recreation at the local state parks. Lake Keomah State Park isn’t just a warm-weather park, because there are plenty of opportunities to play in the snow here as well. Bring your snow tubes and your sledding gear, and ask about the sledding hill. If you don’t have sledding or tubing equipment, inquire where the best places to buy sleds and tubes in one of the neighboring towns.
Birdwatchers and animal lovers will enjoy the diverse animal watching opportunities at Keomah State Park. Wildlife viewing is a year-round experience for guests. Because of the grasslands and marshes, heron and other water birds use the forested wetlands as a place for resting and nesting. In the same wooded areas, a bullfrog’s sound can resonate through the trees, and hikers are often privy to the cacophony of frogs. The state of Iowa offers publications on wildlife watching and birding. Interested guests should stop by the park to find more about the wildlife in and around the park’s boundaries.