If you haven’t been to Lake Darling, you are missing a gem. Lake Darling State Park, in southeast Iowa, was named for Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, Ding Darling. Darling spent much of his life in Iowa, was a strong advocate for environmental issues, and founded the National Wildlife Federation. The park is 1417 acres and includes a 302 acre lake with 18 miles of shoreline.
The campground is in two sections. Both sections are on hillsides, with the sites tiered so that all have a view of the lake. Each section has a modern bathhouse. There are 16 sites with full hookups, 51 50-amp electrical sites and 13 tent sites. The sites are gravel surfaced and most are fairly level. Both sections have sites right on the lake. The west facing situation of the campground gives view to some beautiful sunsets. Campsites are $16 per night from May 1-September 30 and only $11 the rest of the year.
Lake Darling is a great place if you have friends or family who don’t camp but want to join in your fun. There are five ‘camping cabins,’ next to the campground that rent for $35 a night. They sleep four and are equipped with microwaves and mini fridges but have no running water. Residents use the campground bathhouses. Nearby are six recently completed year-round cabins with heat, AC, and running water. Each has an equipped kitchen, two private bedrooms, accessible bathrooms, and sleep six. All of the cabins have porches facing the lake and firepits.
There are some great hiking trails in this park. A paved biking and walking trail runs along the east shore of the lake. A paved trail leads from the cabin area down to the lodge. A short trail takes hikers through a restored prairie and there is also an ADA fishing trail along the lake. The lake loop goes completely around the lake. One trail leads to an old cemetery.
Lake Darling is a popular fishing and boating lake. There are several fishing piers and jetties. Catfish and crappies are the most common but there are also bullheads, bluegills, largemouth bass, and carp. Power boats are allowed but must be operated at “no-wake” speeds.
The Friends of Lake Darling operate a boat rental from Memorial Day to Labor Day on the weekends. There are paddle boats, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, single kayaks, and double kayaks available.
Besides two beautiful, large picnic shelters, a lodge, completed in 2008, is available for rent and also used for special events such as Ding Darling’s birthday. We attended a niece’s wedding there; several of us stayed in the campground and the entire wedding party plus other guests were housed in the year-round cabins. It was a perfect setup. The wedding was outside on a hill overlooking the lake; the reception was in the lodge, as well as a wedding breakfast the next morning.
Near the lodge is a beach and a new playground for summertime family activities. Lake Darling has benefited immensely from a very active and award-winning Friends group. This organization has been instrumental in raising funds for the lodge, the year-round cabins and a new pedestrian bridge. They have also help sponsor wildlife camps and activities such as stand-up paddleboard yoga.
Brighton, three miles east of the park is the nearest town. Washington is 14 miles northeast and offers a historic courthouse square surrounded by restaurants, quaint shops, and an excellent city library. Fairfield is 17 miles southwest of the park. Review by Karen N.
|Park Map and Flyer|
|Lake Darling State Park
111 Lake Darling Road
Brighton, IA 52540