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Things move slowly at Saylorville Lake. They always have.

Congress authorized construction in 1958 but excavation didn’t start until 1965. The lake opened in 1977 and the master plan for the use of the land surrounding it wasn’t finalized until 1984. That plan, which specifies how Saylorville’s recreational facilities are managed hasn’t been updated since.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it’s high time.

“Back then almost 30 years ago," says lake supervisor, Jeff Rose, "the master plan was more about building recreation areas, building the Saylorville product as we see it, today.”

The new plan will focus on what is already here.

The Army Corps says most people who’ve taken the time to comment want things better, not bigger.

“They want to see things improved--modernized, Rose says, "but I think the over-arching theme is protection of our natural resources."

When it was built, Saylorville was well outside the metro.  Now, it’s surrounded by urban sprawl. Preserving the land and the relative seclusion are priorities.

“As long as I got the fire ring," says one camper, "that’s about all I need.”

The new plan won’t meet every concern.

It won’t address policies or usage fees. It can’t do anything about declining water quality. It won’t call for dredging Saylorville. That would cost $100 million.

“I’d like to see a restroom facility down in this loop of the campgrounds,” says camper, Kirby Jones of Des Moines.

The plan will propose improving campgrounds and trails.

“Disc golf is always fun," says Tony Davis of Ankeny, "something for the kids, too, a little disc golf course.”

It could add new facilities like playgrounds and dump stations.  But the plan won’t be finalized this season, so don’t expect changes soon. After all, this is Saylorville, where things move slowly.

Follow the link to take part in the Saylorville Lake questionnaire.


  • Sondra Carter

    The Saylorville Lake questionnaire is on the link but not the email address to send it in. Please add the USACE email address. Thanks.

  • Coffee Pot

    I camped at this place a few times, got told we would have to leave if we were talking after 9 p.m. And we were being as quiet as we could. The boat ramps, for some reason everybody thinks they should go first. On the lake are too many pests. Too many kiddies spending daddy’s money out there.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    They need to include an annual payment to the DNR to pay for the cost of cleaning up Ledges from the flooding caused by Saylorville and the attempts to save Des Moines from it’s own stupidity.

    • Micheal Hanson

      what are you talking about?This place has many low spot and has been flooding before saylorville was even there. My family has lived in the area since 1920’s and visit the park every year for work or family reunions.

      • Troy Hendrickson

        If your family has lived there for that long, why are you not aware that flooding has not only increased, but thanks to the dam, it stays flooded longer allowing more silt to fall out in the park? Why are you not aware that there were lawsuits filed in regards to this before the dam was built, and the state and army corp swore it wouldn’t happen?

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