Welcome to the Clear Lake History Ride!

Take a journey through time as we highlight Clear Lake’s rich history while guiding you on an entertaining lake lap. Join us for a fun-filled, laid back adventure where you’ll have the opportunity to explore historic points of interest that showcase the charm of Clear Lake. From well-known landmarks to quirky sites and gorgeous landscapes, each stop along the way unveils a fascinating story waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply eager to soak in the beauty of Clear Lake, our History Ride promises an unforgettable experience for all. So, hop on your bike or start your engines and let’s head out on a journey through the past, present, and future! Begin at Clear Lake City Park, and make your way around the lake heading south. Click the pin icon on each stop below to learn more about each location.

Directions at-a-glance

  • From downtown Clear Lake, travel south along South Shore Drive five miles and merge onto Dogwood Avenue.
  • Continue to the stop sign and turn west on 235th St/B-35.
  • Connect with the Sisters Prairie Bike Trail or continue to the stop sign and turn north on Balsam Avenue/S-14). At the four-way stop sign in Ventura at the top of the hill, turn east on Lake Street.
  • Continue on Lake Street, which turns into North Shore Drive, and travel east until Mars Hill Drive. Turn left onto Mars Hill Drive, continue around DAR Park and turn right onto Fletcher Drive, at the bottom of the hill return to North Shore Drive.
  • Continue on North Shore Drive to return to downtown Clear Lake.

If you have historic or interesting tidbits to include in this experience, email info@clearlakeiowa.com with your suggestions.

Start Here: Clear Lake City Park Gazebo

City Park Gazebo

Welcome to Clear Lake City Park!

This iconic park, established in 1856, has been a cornerstone of community life for generations. In 1873, Clear Lake families came together on May Day to transform the park by planting 1,500 trees, creating a lush green oasis. Each tree bore the name of its owner, serving as a living monument to the community’s dedication to their park.

Among the park’s notable features is the open air gazebo, a structure that has been a focal point for gatherings and events since its inception in 1919. Band concerts in City Park had been popular since 1877, being held in a small wooden rotunda structure. Clear LAke’s Music Man John Kopecky played up to 14 concerts a week here, and also conducted the municipal band from this location. Kopecky was known for encouraging young musicians, including his flute & piccolo student Meredith Willson, creator of “The Music Man.” Kopecky created the Clear Lake Drum & Bugle Corps and was the creator of the Annual North Iowa Band Festival, first held in Clear Lake in 1932.  Five years later it was moved to Mason City, Meredith Willson’s hometown, where it continues today. Head to the historical markers on the west side of the gazebo to learn more about John Kopecky (1885-1986).

The small gazebo made for cramped quarters, so Municipal Band Director Ludvig Wangberg was the major force behind the construction of the current bandshell. Dedicated on June 19, 1955, the bandshell was designed by Edward Novak of Decorah, and was meant to resemble a sail.   The Lakeview Community Room was added to the rear of the bandshell in 1999. In July 2001, the band shell was renamed in honor of Wangberg (1923-2017), who in addition to directing the Municipal Band for 55 years taught music at Clear Lake High School, directed the Drum and Bugle Corps and choirs at Zion Lutheran and Galilean Lutheran. As the bandshell undergoes renovation in fall 2024, it stands as a testament to the park’s enduring legacy and ongoing commitment to preserving its historic charm.

On the west side of the bandshell, learn about Clear Lake in the Civil War and Iowa and the Battle of Pleasant Hill on the markers surrounding the stone in memory of Tom Howard and All Union Soldiers of the Civil War.

Today, City Park continues to host a variety of events and activities, from concerts and festivals to picnics and family outings. City Park boasts an array of playground equipment catering to all ages, from the brand-new structure with a ship theme at the top of the park to the vintage domed merry-go-round that evokes memories from generations still nestled beside the bandshell.

⏭️ Next Stop: Lady of the Lake
101 North Lakeview Drive
Cross North Lakeview Drive to the Lady of the Lake.

 

Lady of the Lake

Welcome to the Lady of the Lake!

Originally a ferry boat traversing the Missouri River, her transformation into a tourist attraction cruising the waters of Clear Lake since 1985 is a story of vision and dedication. Gary and Karen Geist embarked on a mission to rescue the Lady from obscurity. Purchasing her, they undertook extensive renovations, adding a top deck and refurbishing the interior. With meticulous care, they transported her to Clear Lake, supported by the community’s enthusiasm for tourism and the theme, “if you want to really experience Clear Lake, you have to get on the water.”  Over the years, the Lady changed hands, each owner contributing to her legacy. From Steve Ward’s interior upgrades to Roger Nordman’s drive system enhancements, each owner shared a common love for the Lady and the people she brought together. Today, under the stewardship of Scott Monson, the Lady continues to entertain visitors, and give them an opportunity to “get on the water.” Her double-decker design offers guests a relaxing 90-minute narrated tour of Clear Lake, accompanied by snacks and drinks from the onboard bar. Dockside nights on Wednesdays feature live music and lively atmosphere. Whether honking the horn for children or hosting special events, the Lady of the Lake embodies the spirit of Clear Lake: fun on the water!

Visit their cruise schedule online, or check the board where the Lady is docked.

⏭️ Next Stop: Seawall
North Lakeview Drive
The Seawall is next to the Lady of the Lake and across from City Park.

Seawall

Seawall plaque listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Welcome to the Clear Lake Seawall, a National Register of Historic Places location.

In the early 1900s, this location was home to the White Pier Dance Hall*.  A tornado destroyed the property in August 1931, around the same time President Roosevelt formed the Works Project Administration.  The seawall became a construction development for the WPA and was completed by workers from the Mason City Transient Farm in May of 1936 constructed with local granite fieldstone, lumber and fill dirt. Despite damage from Iowa winters, restoration efforts ensured its preservation. In January 2023, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, honoring its significance. The seawall is a popular gathering place for residents and visitors to the area, and is one of the most-photographed locations in Clear Lake.

The lawn and picnic area at the seawall is highlighted by a compass constructed as an Eagle Scout project by Trinity Benson, viewfinders for memorable scenic viewing around the lakeshore, and customized brick pavers.

The White Pier Dance Hall* once stood, a popular spot in Clear Lake’s entertainment scene. Built in 1910, it extended over the water and was cooled by the lake’s breezes. Known for its maple dance floor, it also offered fishing boat rentals and housed minnows for bait. Sadly, in 1931, a cyclone hit Clear Lake, overturning boats and damaging structures like the White Pier. Remarkably, during the storm, a man and two boys found shelter in the minnow tank and emerged unharmed afterward.

 

⏭️ Clear Lake Yacht Club
103 Main Avenue
Walk along North Lakeview Drive to the Yacht Club.

Clear Lake Yacht Club

Clear Lake Yacht Club Welcome to the Clear Lake Yacht Club!

Clear Lake, the highest point in Cerro Gordo County, offers ideal sailing conditions with its favorable winds. Established in 1935, the Clear Lake Yacht Club has utilized the lake’s resources to cultivate a vibrant community of sailors. Offering sailing classes, regattas, and racing events, they’ve introduced both youth and adults to the sport. Starting small, the club quickly embraced racing, which became central to its identity. Over time, interest in sailboat racing grew, and the club became a local fixture. With a marina downtown and a clubhouse boasting lake views, it welcomes sailors of all ages and skill levels. Investing in youth programs, the club aims to foster a lifelong passion for sailing. As a beacon of inspiration and dedication, the Clear Lake Yacht Club shapes the future of sailing, nurturing a new generation of enthusiasts. With its rich history and unwavering commitment, it leaves a lasting legacy in the heart of Iowa.

Clear Lake, the highest point in Cerro Gordo County, offers ideal sailing conditions with its favorable winds.

⏭️ Next Stop: Clear Lake Water Department & Aerator
110 1st Avenue South
Take South Shore Drive to City Beach.

Clear Lake Water Department & Aerator

Clear Lake Water Department

Welcome to the Clear Lake Water Department and Aeration System!

With a team of three, Clear Lake’s water management hub oversees 3,900-metered accounts through 52 miles of mains and 375 hydrants. Water is sourced from three shallow wells within the Cedar Valley Water Tower limestone formation, with three elevated storage tanks providing a total capacity of 2,225,000 gallons. The department’s average daily water pumpage stands at an impressive 925,000 gallons.

The Water Department Superintendent holds the responsibility of declaring the lake “Ice-In” and “Ice-Out.” Clear Lake’s freeze and thaw cycles are carefully monitored, with historical records reflecting the earliest ice-in on November 4, 1991, and the latest ice-in on December 24, 2001. The lake’s thaw, or ice-out, records include the latest on April 28, 1952, and the earliest on March 5, 1932.

Nestled within the Water Department’s facilities is one of Clear Lake’s two aeration systems. The aeration system plays a crucial role in ensuring the community’s water needs are met while preserving the ecological health of Clear Lake. Since its installation in 1986, the aeration system fights eutrophication marked by an excess of nutrients, can lead to the overgrowth of vegetation, subsequently depleting oxygen levels in the lake and causing harm to fish populations. The Clear Lake Aeration System addresses this challenge by increasing the concentration of dissolved oxygen, particularly during winter months. The aerators strategically create open areas where fish can thrive when oxygen levels are at risk of dropping. This preventative measure became crucial after the devastating sport fish loss in the winter of 1978-1979.

The strategic placement of the aeration systems considers the lake’s historical oxygen depletion trends, wind patterns, and proximity to deep water. To minimize noise disturbances, mechanical buildings are located away from residences, ensuring the efficient and effective operation of these critical systems. Strategically placed at this location downtown in addition to a second location on the northwest shoreline between Venetian Village and the Baptist Camp, the aerators have operated successfully since 1986. Their purpose is clear – to safeguard Clear Lake’s fish population from winter kill events, ensuring a balanced and thriving fishery. The aeration systems, running when the lake is fully iced over and temperatures consistently drop below freezing, utilize air pumps to force air into the water. This creates constant movement, preventing the formation of ice around the aerators. The resulting increase in oxygen levels not only benefits fish but also contributes to the overall health of Clear Lake.

A special Iowa State University CARD Survey in 2009 highlighted Clear Lake’s economic impact, estimating an annual generation of $66 million, with fishing being the primary reason for visitation. The installation of the aeration system was made possible through Sport Fish Restoration Funds, while the state Fish & Game Trust Fund covers electrical and maintenance costs. The Clear Lake Water Department and Aeration System ensures Clear Lake remain a thriving and sustainable ecosystem for generations to come.

⏭️ Next Stop: Clear Lake City Beach
Next to the Clear Lake Water Department & Aerator
South Lakeview Drive

City Beach

Welcome to City Beach!

Clear Lake City Beach is a hub of activity throughout the summer. With a boat ramp and splash pad nearby, this area is one of the most popular downtown locations for those looking for fun in the sun.

With a rich history of activity spanning generations, Clear Lake City Beach has long been a hub of leisure. Lifeguards were stationed along the shores until 2009.

In 2012, Clear Lake City Beach received notable recognition, earning a place among the “51 Great American Beaches” by USA Today. A standout feature of Clear Lake City Beach is the City Beach Splash Pad, operating from Memorial Day through Labor Day, offering a delightful water play area for visitors from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This modern addition enhances the beach experience, providing a safe and enjoyable space for children and families to cool off and have fun.

In July 2020, Clear Lake City Beach underwent a significant expansion project, enhancing its amenities for the community. This project included the enlargement of the splash pad, the addition of new restroom facilities, and the construction of a sheltered area, all aimed at enhancing the comfort and enjoyment of beachgoers.

What truly distinguishes Clear Lake City Beach is the incorporation of artistic elements that reflect local identity and pride. Throughout the expanded area, water play features, themed graphics, and detailed tile work adorn the structures, showcasing waterfront murals and scenes reminiscent of oversized retro postcards.

⏭️ Next Stop: The Outing Club
1011 South Shore Drive
Continue on S Lakeview Drive to South Shore Drive. Turn right on South Shore Drive and continue for 10 blocks.

The Outing Club

The Outing Club

Welcome to the Outing Club!

The large rambling white building, one of Iowa’s first cooperative housing arrangements, launched in 1895 as a get away for professional and businessman of Mason City.  By the next summer, the wives and families of the founders realized this wonderful vacation opportunity and moved themselves in while the husbands and fathers commuted back and forth.  This early form of condominium living began as a series of two room family summer cottages connected by a common roof, and fronting on an enormous veranda offering a spectacular view of the lake.

All residents still eat at assigned tables in a common dining room just as their predecessors have for over 100 years.  Transfers of property are only made with the consent of all property owners.  Many, or perhaps most, of the original cottages have grown to be two stories, creating an interesting roofline medley of lines and angles.  The street side view of the private complex does not do justice, the best view is from the water, either aboard a boat or walk down to the public access dock on the north side of the property.

One of the famous visitors that once graced the Outing Club was Marlon Brando.  Legend says that his family was asked not to return to the exclusive club in the future.

⏭️ Next Stop: The Outlet
South Shore Drive & 12th Avenue South
Continue one block along South Shore Drive and turn right on 12th Avenue South.

 

The Outlet

The Outlet Clear Lake Iowa

Welcome to the Outlet!

The very waters beneath your gaze have witnessed a remarkable chapter in our community’s history—the Clear Lake Outlet Feud.

As you stand here, envision the late 19th century, a time when the serene waters of Clear Lake became the center of a clash between two essential forces – local property owners, seeking a consistent water level for their recreational pursuits, and downstream farmers, relying on controlled water releases for their crops.  On one side, imagine the property owners, drawn to the lake for leisurely boat rides and idyllic days by the water. On the other, picture the farmers downstream, their livelihoods dependent on precisely timed water releases for effective irrigation. The friction between these competing interests gave rise to legal battles and a palpable sense of discord within our community. The Outlet Feud became a poignant reflection of the challenges inherent in balancing the desires of recreation with the practical needs of agriculture.

Compromise prevailed in 1897 when a delicate agreement was forged, ushering in a regulated water flow that sought harmony between the desire for a consistent lake level for leisure and the essential demands of agriculture.

⏭️ Next Stop: Clear Lake State Park Beach
5999 South Shore Court
Bicycles: travel along South Shore Drive to South Lakeview Drive. Veer onto South Lakeview Drive and continue to the east entrance of State Park Beach.
Vehicles: travel along South Shore Drive past the campground entrance to Finch Avenue. Turn right on Finch and continue to South Shore Court and turn right into the parking area.

Clear Lake State Park Beach

Clear Lake State Park Sign at Beach Entrance

Welcome to Clear Lake State Park Beach!

Established in the early 1930s, Clear Lake State Park has become a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Its creation was part of a broader initiative during the Great Depression to provide recreational spaces for solace and community well-being.

Nestled on the shores of Clear Lake, the park spans over 1,600 acres, featuring woodlands, prairies, and the pristine lake waters. Well-maintained trails offer opportunities to explore the captivating natural landscape. Clear Lake State Park offers various camping options, from modern campsites to cozy cabins, providing a serene escape into nature for both seasoned campers and newcomers alike.

Clear Lake State Park Beach has been a leisure and recreation focal point since its early days, hosting generations of families and friends against the backdrop of Clear Lake’s waters.  Today, Clear Lake State Park Beach offers modern amenities like a beachside playground and well-maintained facilities, inviting visitors to enjoy water activities or simply relax by the water’s edge.

⏭️ Lekwa Marsh
5776 South Shore Drive
Continue on South Shore Drive 2 blocks to the Lekwa Marsh Access

Lekwa Marsh

Lekwa Marsh Access

Welcome to Lekwa Marsh!

Lekwa Marsh Wildlife Management Area is a pristine sanctuary nestled within the tranquil landscapes of Clear Lake, Iowa. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), this expansive area serves as a vital refuge for a diverse array of wildlife and offers visitors a chance to connect with nature in its purest form. Discover a vibrant tapestry of wetlands, woodlands and open water and take in the sights and sounds of a thriving ecosystem teeming with life.

Bird enthusiasts will delight in the abundance of avian species that call Lekwa Marsh home. From majestic herons and graceful egrets to colorful songbirds and elusive waterfowl, the marshlands provide an unparalleled opportunity for birdwatching enthusiasts to observe these winged wonders in their natural habitat.

For those seeking aquatic adventures, Lekwa Marsh Access offers access to Clear Lake. Cast your line into the tranquil waters of the marsh and reel in a variety of freshwater species, or launch your kayak from the designated access points and explore the scenic beauty of the marsh from the water.

As you explore Lekwa Marsh Wildlife Management Area, take a moment to appreciate the importance of wetland conservation in preserving biodiversity and protecting natural habitats. Interpretive signage throughout the area provides valuable insights into the local flora and fauna, as well as the efforts underway to safeguard this precious ecosystem for future generations.

⏭️ Next Stop: Woodford Island Viewing Area
Continue on South Shore Drive for 12 blocks and turn right on Bayside Avenue. Continue towards the lake, and veer left as you stay on Bayside Avenue until you reach the Island Viewing Area at the end of the road.

Woodford Island Viewing Area

Welcome to Woodford Island Viewing Area!

Resting tranquilly near Clear Lake’s Bayside region on the south side, the 3-acre island stands as a natural sanctuary, abundant with lush trees and thick brush, serving as an idyllic habitat for wildlife. Beneath the surface lies a massive rock reef, a fisherman’s paradise, where anglers seek to reel in the catch of a lifetime.

But the island’s serene ambiance belies its bustling past. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln granted the island land to Mason City pioneer resident Flavius J. Turnure, setting the stage for its colorful history. Over the years, the island changed hands several times, witnessing Clear Lake’s transformation into a resort destination with the arrival of the Milwaukee railroad in the late 1860s.

One of the island’s most remarkable features is the construction of the Island Home Hotel in 1870. Adorned in a Maltese Cross style, the hotel exuded opulence and elegance, attracting elite patrons who arrived via the steamboat “Lady of the Isle.” Grand catered parties and late-night dances made the hotel the epitome of Clear Lake’s social scene.

However, tragedy struck in 1875 when the Island Home Hotel succumbed to fire, leading to the construction of a smaller hotel that met a similar fate shortly after opening. Subsequent owners, including CR Woodford, transformed the island into a rustic summer retreat, complete with a renovated home and amenities like a bowling alley and ice cream parlor.

Esther Woodford Ashland, daughter of CR Woodford, fondly recalled her childhood spent on the island, where she learned about nature and shared cherished moments with family and friends. In 1971, the Ashlands gifted the island to the State of Iowa, ensuring its preservation as a public natural space for generations to enjoy.

Today, the island stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of community and the natural beauty that has captivated visitors for generations. With its trails and open areas maintained for public use, the island continues to be a cherished retreat where memories are made and stories are shared, enriching the legacy of Clear Lake, Iowa.

Accessible by kayak from Ritz Access, your next location, Woodford Island has trails and a geocache to discover.

⏭️ Next Stop: The Ritz Access
15406 Crane Street
Continue along Bayside Avenue one block until it turns into Crane Street.

The Ritz

Picnic benches and shelter at the Ritz Access.

Welcome to The Ritz Picnic Area!

The Ritz Club opened in 1924 as the Ritz Hotel. It was named for its original owner, Charles “Charlie” Ritz. The main body of the Ritz was the 1882 Oakwood Park Hotel, moved to its Bayside location in the early 1920s. Bayside amusement park was operated on an adjoining property.

In the early days of the Ritz, the only way to South Shore was by water. Large docks for boating clients to park their craft became an early fixture of the Ritz. The tradition of boating to the Ritz continued to the end. Known for steaks, Charles Ritz introduced the refrigerated glass-fronted meat case from which customers could choose their dinner as they walked in the front door, a tradition that was maintained by all subsequent owners.

In 1936, the second story of the Ritz was converted from sleeping rooms to a key club. Until 1963, when liquor by the drink was legalized in Iowa, cage lockers in this area were used to store members’ bottles of liquor, for which they each held keys. The Ritz provided them the mix. After 1963, the upstairs was used primarily as a lounge in which diners snacked on their signature onion rings while waiting for a table downstairs to open up for their dinner.

The panoramic view of Clear Lake on the west was always a part of the Ritz experience.

After succumbing to a devastating fire in 1999, the land where the Ritz Club once stood was purchased in 2001 by the Department of Natural Resources for the creation of the picnic area, beach and public boat launch area you see today.

⏭️ Next Stop: PM Park
15297 Raney Drive
Continue along Crane Street for two blocks, then take a right to merge onto Lambert Avenue and continue west to connect with Raney Drive on the east side of the PM Park property.

PM Park

Welcome to PM Park!

Located on a sandy beach under mature oak trees, PM Park was originally a private park built for the Patriarchs Militant of the Odd Fellows. They acquired the property in 1914. The group built dining hall, now restaurant, in 1917.  Individual seating at tables has replaced the original long cafeteria style tables and benches, but the original floors and knotty pine plank walls remain. The room seats about a hundred guests, and a large ballroom upstairs provides even space for groups. Venture outside for additional outdoor lakeside seating along the sandy beach, a pirate ship stage and the Tiki Bar, added in 2007. At first, the only way to get to PM Park was by boat, which you can still do today.

After South Shore Drive was constructed, the small hotel was built next to the PM Park dining hall in 1922.

At one time there were 117 PM Parks in the U.S. Now, Clear Lake has the only one. The patriarchs still use it one week per year.

⏭️ Next Stop: “Rishbomporosni Lodge” Sign
South Shore Drive & Dodge Avenue
Continue along South Shore Drive a half mile to Dodge Avenue.

Rishbomporosni Lodge Sign

Rishbomporsni Lodge

Welcome to Rishbomporosni Lodge! (kind of)

History and a touch of mischief collide at the iconic “Rishbomporosni Lodge” sign. Originally christened as the “Bishop Morrison Lodge,” this landmark took an unexpected turn in the late 1960s when a group of spirited kids decided to play with letters, creating a whimsical alteration that has endured through the decades.

As the late 1960s rolled in, the quietude of Bishop Morrison Lodge faced an unexpected twist. A group of imaginative kids, fueled by the exuberance of youth, decided to rearrange the letters on the sign. In a clever stroke of wordplay, “Rishbomporosni Lodge” emerged, a delightful concoction that defied the conventional and sparked laughter along the lakeshore. A Clever and Memorable Welcome: The mischievous act turned into a clever and memorable welcome for Dodge’s Point. The playful alteration not only amused the locals but also became a distinctive landmark along the lake lap route.

“Rishbomporosni Lodge” serves as a whimsical nod to the irreverent spirit of those creative kids who, in their playfulness, inadvertently created a lasting legacy. Despite the passage of time, the altered sign has resisted attempts to revert to its original form. It stands as a testament to the enduring power of creativity, playfulness, and the collective chuckles shared by those who encounter the charming “Rishbomporosni Lodge” along the lakeshore.

⏭️ Next Stop: Girl Scout Camp Tanglefoot
14948 Dogwood Avenue
Continue along South Shore Drive two blocks to the entrance of Camp Tanglefoot.

 

Girl Scout Camp Tanglefoot

Welcome to Camp Tanglefoot!

Clear Lake Girl Scout Camp Tanglefoot is a place where generations of girls have found friendship, adventure, and lasting memories. Formerly known as Camp Gaywood, this camp has been a cherished part of the community, offering girls an enriching outdoor experience.  Established in 1947, the camp was a small cow pasture with a few farm buildings. In 1948, campers chose the name Camp Gaywood, and the site quickly became a hub for Clear Lake Girl Scouts who enjoyed rustic camping with a cot, orange crate night stand, straw mattresses, grass floors, and kerosene lamps to light the way. While still a traditional camping experience with canoeing, sailing, games, stargazing, crafts, archery and campfires, amenities have expanded throughout the years including a ropes & obstacle course, a rock climbing wall and tree climbing. The dock was updated for the camp’s 75th year, and hosts a fleet of boats including a pontoon, kayaks, paddle boards plus round boats called corcls.

Rabbit Hill is on the east end of the property, with Frontier Hill on the west. In 1967, the camp purchased 20 acres on the south boundary, which is still called “The New Land” generations later. The New Land features reconstructed prairie, a wetland area, and restored hilltop Council Fire ring.  

Transition to Camp Tanglefoot In a move towards inclusivity and diversity, in 1995 Camp Gaywood embraced a new name: Camp Tanglefoot. This change reflects the camp’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment for all.

Camp Tanglefoot holds a special place in camper’s hearts. It’s where lifelong friendships were formed, leadership skills were nurtured, and memories were made. The camp has seen generations of girls transition from campers to counselors, passing down its legacy.

Camp Tanglefoot invites you to experience the magic and is open for Girl Scout and public group rentals.

⏭️ Next Stop: Farmers Beach & Clausen’s Cove
*This is gravel, if you wish to continue on, go to Sisters Prairie Trail
Cedar Avenue
Continue along Dogwood Avenue to the stop sign. Turn right on 235th Street/B-35 and turn right on Cedar Avenue, follow the gravel road to the shoreline.

Farmers Beach & Clausen's Cove

Farmers Beach Access

Welcome to Farmers Beach & Clausen’s Cove!

The cove is considered a Northern Tall grass Prairie and is a Nature Conservancy Preserve. Along the lake there are dunes and a sedge meadow. A significant portion of the parcel is still in agricultural production and will remain so for the near future.

Clausen’s Cove stands as a testament to one man’s vision of preserving the past while shaping the future. Although Max Clausen, the late proprietor, never resided on the 250-acre expanse nestled along Clear Lake’s shores that now bears his name, the land had been a cherished part of his family’s heritage since 1891. Fond memories of his youth spent exploring the property fueled Clausen’s determination to safeguard its natural splendor.

Despite the temptation to profit from the land’s sale, Clausen made a pivotal decision to donate it to The Nature Conservancy, ensuring its perpetual preservation. His reasoning was simple yet profound: “I wanted to preserve what I had. Anyone would have sold by now. I saw what they did to the rest of the lake and wanted this property to stay in its natural state. There is no other place in Clear Lake where you can see grassland, farmland, forest and lake in one view—an unspoiled world that I wouldn’t sell for any price.”

Clausen’s Cove, with its unique blend of grassland, farmland, forest, and lake, emerged as a sanctuary untouched by commercial interests. Its intrinsic value transcended monetary worth, becoming a cornerstone of a broader conservation initiative just two years after its protection.

In migration, watch the surface of the lake for loons, grebes, and other divers. The trees in this vicinity are a good migrant trap for warblers, vireos, flycatchers.  Common and Pacific Loons have been spotted here, all of the grebes, scoters and Long-tailed Ducks, Avocets and phalaropes, Common and Forster’s Terns. In spring migration, passerines can concentrate along this southwestern shoreline of the lake.  This is the best access to the last section of Clear Lake that has not been compromised by development. It gives good views of a part of the lake used heavily in migration by waterfowl, loons, grebes, gulls, terns. There also is a nice trail heading west from the parking area that follows the shoreline closely and then slips into a little-disturbed wooded area.

Check out the Alltrails Farmers Beach loop hike.

⏭️ Next Stop: Sister’s Prairie Trail
235th Street
Take Cedar Avenue south and turn right on 235th Street/B-35 to connect with Sister’s Prairie Trail.
Vehicles: You will pass the bicycle entrance along 235th and continue to the parking area for vehicles at the trailhead on 237th Street. From Farmers Beach, continue along 235th Street, turn right at Balsam and continue to 237th and turn right into the parking area.

Sisters' Prairie Trail

 

Welcome to Sisters’ Prairie Trail!

Experience the diversity and expanse of an Iowa prairie on the Sisters’ Prairie Trail. The ever-changing panorama of Iowa native wildflowers and grasses, in addition to wet lands and prairie potholes, provide a glimpse of what pioneers and Native Americans saw in Iowa. The over 190-acre prairie and wetland restoration of this family farm benefits lake water quality as well as wildlife with more habitat. It filters from 60-80% of the approximately 900 acres of surrounding farmland which drains through this area to the lake.

The plaque reads, “A sister’s dream of regaining some ecological balance in Iowa’s landscape resulted in this 2003 prairie and wetlands restoration. The prairie now filters area farmland before it drains to Clear Lake and provides diverse wildlife habitat. It is dedicated to Susan K. Connell-Magee and all “sisters” and “brothers” who work for balance with our natural world. Please be respectful of this private property and stay on the public trail. Enjoy this glimpse of what pioneers and Native Americans experienced in Iowa.”

Sisters’ Prairie Trail connects with the Ventura Cove Trail at 242nd Street and heads north to Ventura Marsh. The area was created to protect natural lakeshore features, create safer recreational opportunities, and contribute to water quality improvements and the restoration of Clear Lake.

⏭️Next Stop: Ventura Jetty
309 Park Drive
Bicycles: continue along Sisters’ Prairie Trail, connect to Ventura Cove Trail until you reach the Ventura Jetty.
Vehicles: From the trail parking area on 237th Street, turn right onto Balsam Avenue/Park Drive and continue a quarter mile to the Ventura Jetty.

Ventura Jetty

Ventura Jetty

Welcome to the Ventura Jetty!

The Ventura Marsh Access and fishing pier is the former site of the Harbor Inn restaurant.  The Iowa DNR purchased the land in 2004 for $551,500, and created a parking area, handicap restroom, an angled L-shaped jetty going in at the Ventura grade to offer more access for anglers and help with lake restoration. These ongoing efforts compliment the $11 million dredging project that was completed in 2009, where 2.3 million cubic yards of sediment was removed from Clear Lake. The dredge increased the water depth in the western part of Clear Lake from 5½ to 6 feet to more than 20 feet.

A pump station was added in 2011. Capable of pumping 20,000 gallons of water a minute, the pump station allows the DNR to to eliminate any carp that may get into the lake and to restore vegetation and habitat so the water traveling through the marsh comes out a much better quality as it enters into Clear Lake.

⏭️ Next Stop: Ventura Consolidated Historic School District
110 South Main Street
Continue north one quarter mile.

Ventura Consolidated Historic School District

Ventura School National Historic Register

Welcome to Ventura Consolidated Historic School District!

Ventura Consolidated Historic School District, located at the junction of Main and Park Streets, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The auditorium and gymnasium was designed by architect Thorwald Thornson in 1940. It is one of the last structures in the State of Iowa that was build in the Art Deco style.

During the 1986-87 Girls High School Basketball season, Ventura High School student Lynne Lorenzen set the national high school girls’ career scoring record with 6,736 points playing 6-on-6 basketball.  Ventura schools consolidated with Garner-Hayfield in 2015, and use of the building was phased out over the years. It was purchased by Clear Lake Classical private school in 2023 and will welcome students in fall 2024.

⏭️ Next Stop: Lynne Lorenzen Park & Ventura Access
East Lake Street
Continue along Main Avenue to the stop sign. Turn right on Lake Street and travel down the hill to the entrance to the park and boat ramp.

Lynne Lorenzen Park & Ventura Access

Ventura Access & Lynne Lorenzen Park

Welcome to Lynne Lorenzen Park!

During the 1986-1987 school year, Ventura High School 6-on-6 basketball player Lynne Lorenzen set the national high school girls’ career scoring record with 6,736 points.  Her senior year saw her leading the Ventura team to an undefeated season, culminating in a state championship victory against Southeast Polk. The record setting moment came on February 16, 1987, when Lynne Lorenzen netted an astonishing 54 points in a 6-on-6 basketball showdown between Ventura and Meservey-Thornton, setting a new national record for high school scoring.

Her amazing high school career ended with a flawless 31-0 season, crowned by yet another state title and solidifying her tally of 6,736 points. Recognized as the Naismith women’s high school basketball player of the year in 1987, Lorenzen continued to shine at Iowa State University from 1987 to 1991. Inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame, Lorenzen’s legacy serves as a reminder of the glory days when 6-on-6 girls basketball captivated Iowans across the state.

Formally known as Ventura Access, the park that bears her name has a reservable shelter house, boat launch, and seasonal restrooms and water fountain. During the winter months the snowy hill is a delight for sledding. Kids can bring their own sled or borrow one from the sled library that sets up across the street when it snows.

⏭️Next Stop: McIntosh Woods State Park
1200 East Lake Street
Continue along East Lake Street for 3/4 mile to McIntosh State Park entrance.

McIntosh Woods State Park

Stone and wood monument sign at the entrance of McIntosh Woods State Park.

Welcome to McIntosh Woods State Park!

This area of land was once owned by a Chicago widow name Rose McIntosh. After 20 years of negotiations, the farm was purchased by the State of Iowa in 1943. The park, founded in 1944, is a popular northern Iowa outdoor destination for fishing, boating, kayaking and more. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular winter activities at the park. The shoreline offers picnicking and magnificent views of the sunsets to the west and south. This 60-acre natural refuge is home to the only two yurts in the state park system. McIntosh is also the anchor for anglers with a large boat ramp, parking, and fish cleaning station. Visitors enjoy the forest and trails, sandbar & beach, playground, and hiking the 1.5-mile boardwalk trail through Mallard Marsh leading to a wildlife viewing blind, where spring and fall migration viewing is popular among bird watchers.

⏭️ Next Stop: Veterans Memorial Golf Course
2200 North Shore Drive
Continue along North Shore Drive for 2.5 miles.

 

Veterans Memorial Golf Course

Golf course drone photograph showing fairway with golf cart and lake in the background.

Welcome to Veterans Memorial Golf Course!

The golf course came into existence in 1922.  As World War II began to draw to a close, almost every community searched for a proper memorial to honor those who died as well as those veterans who returned.  Ironically, the man who owned the golf course was about to have his mortgage foreclosed for the very reason that too many young men, his customers, were away in war. Many towns constructed monuments of brick and stone and mortar or renamed and dedicated parks to the servicemen.  Community consensus was that the nine hole golf course and club house would be an ideal living memorial for the veterans.  In 1945, more than $147,000 was raised under the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce and the complex was purchased.  The Chamber dedicated the course to Clear Lake’s war veterans and named it All Veterans Golf Club. Every veteran who had a Clear Lake address was automatically a member, and it was operated by an elected board of veterans.

In the early 1950’s, Highway 18 was constructed, eliminating two of the original holes. All Vets purchased an apple orchard to the west of the course, where holes 3 and 4 now sit. In 1962, a new clubhouse was constructed and is still in operation today.  The original clubhouse was was torn down in 1999 due to the elements of time and weather.

Acquired by the city of Clear Lake in the spring of 2011 and re-named Veterans Memorial Golf Club, the 9-hole par 36 course is situated lakeside on 61 acres of land. Named Iowa Golf Association’s 9 hole course of the year in 2014, the length of the course is 3049 yards from the championship tees, 2936 yards from the regular tees, and 2767 yards from the ladies tees.

⏭️ Next Stop: Fish Hatchery & Aquarium
1203 North Shore Drive
Continue along North Shore Drive for about 1/2 mile.

Fish Hatchery & Aquarium

The brick DNR fish hatchery building with a sign out front that says Aquarium Open.

Welcome to the Fish Hatchery & Aquarium!

The State Fish Hatchery opened in 1920. Once the ice is out and water temperatures climb into the upper 40s, walleye spawn and the fisheries team begins walleye egg collection. Netting crews are on the lake from sunset to 1am collecting walleye.  The crews bring the fish back to the hatchery, measure and tag them, and then strip the eggs from the walleye ready to spawn. The eggs are transported to either Spirit Lake or Lake Rathbun Fish Hatcheries for fertilization and incubation.  Two to three weeks later, the eggs hatch, and 16 million walleye fry return to Clear Lake.

Get a good look at several species of fish found in North Iowa at the DNR Aquarium. Browse the tanks featuring walleye, perch, muskie, largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish, plus rough fish species and panfish including crappies, and yellow and white bass.  The aquarium is open April to October, Monday-Friday 8am -4:30pm.

⏭️ Next Stop: D.A.R. Park
Wesley Drive
Continue along North Shore Drive for about 1/2 mile and take the second left turn onto Mars Hill Drive, travel up the hill to D.A.R. Park.

 

D.A.R Park & Chautaqua

D.A.R. Park

Welcome to D.A.R. Park & Chautauqua!

Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) Park is where the Chautauqua Pavilion once stood.  In 1874, at Fair Point, New York, a meeting of Sunday School teachers conceived the idea of assemblies purely religious that would be uplifting for the mind, body, and soul.  They called it Chautauqua.  It swept the country like wildfire. This campground location was originally founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church of Iowa in 1875 as a place for people to camp and to hold tent meetings, and in 1876, civic minded people of Clear Lake formed the Chautauqua Association.

Some of the famed speakers whose presence graced the stage of the Clear Lake Chautauqua Pavilion were Carrie Nation, the Kansas temperance firebrand, minus her hatchet.  Amanda Smith, a noted African American Evangelist, Booker T. Washington, President of the Tuskegee Institute, and famous elocutionist Williams Jennings Bryan.  Clear Lake had a “W.J.Bryan Day” to celebrate his arrival, and on August 2, 1909, he delivered his famous Prince of Peace oration. With his tongue in his cheek, Jennings’ agent paid Mr. Bryan his $200 fee in silver dollars.

⏭️ Next Stop: Three Stars Plaza
North Shore Drive
Take a right on Glen Cove Drive and travel downhill to the south to return to North Shore Drive.

Three Stars Plaza

Three Stars Plaza Clear Lake Iowa

Welcome to Three Stars Plaza!

The City Park that remembers Rock ‘n’ Roll icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

This one of a kind, 15-foot structure represents the heart and soul of Clear Lake… Rock ‘n Roll.  The space, aptly named The Three Stars Plaza, is a tribute to our three fallen stars, Buddy Holly, J.P. The Big Bopper Richardson, and Ritchie Valens.  The art feature was erected to honor the stars’ final performance at the Surf Ballroom before the tragic plan crash that took their lives on a snowy, winter night in February of 1959.

The unique feature for the Plaza came about years later, in August of 2008, when the Clear Lake City Council voted to purchase the North Shore Amoco Service Station.  Having been abandoned for a few years, the dilapidated building had become a bit of an eyesore.  As the Surf Ballroom attracts countless visitors from across the globe annually, having this rundown, empty business nearby was a concern due to the proximity of such a high-traffic tourist attraction.

Thus, the City Council voted to turn the space into a park which honors the legacy of these music legends, keeping their story alive for rock ‘n roll fans to enjoy for years to come.

It was an extensive process, one with many intricate stages and intense collaboration to ensure it was built correctly and done with style.  The structure itself is a unique piece, designed to pay homage to the Rock ‘n Roll legends.  A spindle sits in the center of the Plaza, with three stacked records on top.  If you stand directly under the records and look up, you’ll see the inscription of their names etched into the material.  A few years after it was built, with funding from the Iowa great places grant program, the interactive music and audio feature was added. With just the push of a button, you can hear the story, listen to snippets of their songs, and learn about the legacy of these music icons and how they shaped the music industry forever.

At night, the Plaza is illuminated in the glow of blue neon from the structure.

⏭️ Next Stop: Surf Ballroom & Museum
460 North Shore Drive
Continue one block to the Surf Ballroom.

Surf Ballroom

Surf Ballroom

Welcome to the Surf Ballroom!

One of Clear Lake’s premier attractions is the Surf Ballroom.  The ballroom is best known as the site of Buddy Holly’s last concert, Feb. 3, 1959.  Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, died in a plane crash north of Clear Lake following their Surf concert. Tour the Surf Ballroom Monday-Friday 8am-4pm year round with expanded weekend hours Memorial Day through Labor Day. Self-guided tours are $5, groups 30+ can arrange for a guided tour.

On April 17, 1933 the original Surf Ballroom was built on the shores of Clear Lake and was destroyed by fire on April 20, 1947.  The current Surf Ballroom reopened across the street on July 1, 1948.  On February 2, 1959, the Surf Ballroom entered music history as the original “Winter Dance Party” tour made what would be it’s final stop. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion & The Belmonts, and Frankie Sardo played before an estimated 1,100 enthusiastic fans. Unfortunately, the plane carrying Holly, Valens, Bopper and their pilot Roger Peterson crashed early the next morning. The tragic death of the three stars is often referred to as “The Day the Music Died,” from the notable song American Pie by Don McLean.

On February 3, 1979 the first Winter Dance Party tribute is organized, beginning a beloved tradition held each year during the first weekend in February.

In 1994, the Dean Snyder family of Clear Lake purchased the Surf Ballroom and historically rehabilitated it, reopening in time for the 1995 Winter Dance Party tribute. The Surf Ballroom was inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Ten years later, the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum was established to operate the Surf Ballroom as a 501c3 non-profit organization.

In 2009, the Surf Ballroom was dedicated by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH) as a Historic Rock ‘n’ Roll Landmark, identifying it as an American location significant to the origins of rock ‘n’ roll.

On September 16, 2011 the Surf Ballroom was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and on January 13, 2021 was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of only 16 in the State of Iowa.

The Surf Ballroom continues it’s impact with a multi-million dollar Music Enrichment & Immersive Center project that is being constructed on the corner of 7th Avenue & North Shore Drive and slated to open in 2025. The new facility will complement the Surf Ballroom & Museum and have a visitor center, box office, gift shop, expanded lesson studios, conference space for 100 guests with a catering kitchen, and an immersive exploratory space spanning 1,800 square feet using virtual projection technology similar to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. This immersive space will be dedicated to showcasing the Surf Ballroom’s influence on music history, spanning from the golden era of big band sound to the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, and its ongoing impact on modern-day musicians. The development of this center enhances the Surf Ballroom’s enduring legacy in shaping the musical landscape. A streetscape project is also underway for the entire Surf District which will include an archway, bronze sculptures, and lake access to the district.

The Surf Ballroom continues it’s legacy by hosting live music events. Visit their calendar for a list of upcoming concerts & events!

⏭️ Next Stop: The Fox House
449 North Shore Drive
Across the street from the Surf Ballroom.

The Fox House

The Fox House

Welcome to The Fox House!

Prominent Dance Hall Operator and original owner/builder of the Surf Ballroom, Carl J Fox, lived across the street from the Surf Ballroom for many years until his passing in 1966. He built the house in 1948 out of necessity-the Fox family was living above the original Surf Ballroom at the time of the devastating fire that claimed the structure on April 20, 1947. The home remained in the Fox family until 2017, when purchased by the Snyder family of Clear Lake.

Lovingly restored, this vintage home features many unique furnishings and characteristics. Much like the Surf Ballroom, it is as though time stood still in the home – many artifacts having remained here throughout the years, giving visitors a glimpse of life in the 1940s and 1950s.

Tours of the Fox House are available by appointment only. Make it a full Surf experience with a Deluxe Tour, which includes: Surf Ballroom tour, an exclusive tour video, a walking visit to the Three Star’s Plaza, and a look inside the historic Fox House.

This is the last stop on the Clear Lake History Ride. Continue on North Shore for 5 blocks to return downtown.

Thank you for participating in the Clear Lake History Ride! We hope you had an enjoyable time learning more about Clear Lake’s history.

For more fun activities, explore Surf, Sand and Rock ‘n’ Roll, your All-In-One Adventure!

Pin It on Pinterest