Clear Lake, Iowa, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Iowa - North Central -

Clear Lake is located in Cerro Gordo County in northern Iowa. At 3,684 acres it is one of the largest natural lakes in the state. Clear Lake is one of thirty-four naturally occurring glacial lakes in the state of Iowa and was formed by the movement and melting of huge sheets of ice approximately 14,000 years ago. Today, the lake is home to a thriving community of nearly 8,000 residents and is a popular destination for fishing, sailing, and camping.

Local residents long ago discovered the appeal of Clear Lake, and homes have been built on the lake’s shores since the late 1800s. The Des Moines Register has awarded the town of Clear Lake the title “Best Iowa Lake Town.” The population of Clear Lake nearly doubles during the summer months with the influx of tourists and seasonal residents looking to enjoy the cool lake waters. The town of Clear Lake is also known for being the site of the 1959 plane crash that claimed the lives of rock-and-roll greats Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. The three performed their last concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, still in operation as a musical venue and reception hall.

Boating is a popular pastime at Clear Lake. The elevation of the lake, which is the highest point in Cerro Gordo County, provides the lake with plenty of wind and makes it one of the best spots for sailing in the Midwest. The Clear Lake Yacht Club regularly hosts events at the lake, and in the summer months races are held each weekend on the five-mile long lake. The lake is also a great place for windsurfing, water skiing, and jet skiing. And what would a day at the lake be without fishing? Clear Lake is home to 30 species of fish and is stocked regularly with walleye, channel catfish, northern pike, muskie, and flathead catfish. The lake has a total of fifteen public docks, as well as commercial marinas providing boat rentals, so visitors have no shortage of ways to take to the water. Visitors can even take a scenic tour of the lake on the local double-decker ferry boat.

Adjacent to Clear Lake are two state parks that are perfect places for camping, hiking, picnicking, and swimming. Clear Lake State Park, on the southern shore of the lake, offers 55 acres of grassy hills dotted by majestic oak trees. There are 10 acres of dedicated picnic areas equipped with tables and grills. Campers can take advantage of the 215 campsites with restrooms, showers, and electric hook-ups. The 900 foot sandy swimming beach is a perfect place to take a dip when the weather is hot. Nature lovers will appreciate the park’s undisturbed woodland areas, home to owls, squirrels, rabbits, songbirds, and deer. The 3 acre Woodford Island is a dedicated wildlife area and is also a scenic spot for fishing. On the northwestern end of the lake, McIntosh Woods State Park is one of the most-used boating accesses for the lake. This park also has designated areas for camping and swimming, as well as a one-mile nature trail. A unique feature of this park is the availability of two yurts for rent. These dome-like structures are patterned after those of nomads in Central Asia and provide campers with an alternative to the traditional tent.

In addition to lake related activities, the town of Clear Lake offers its visitors several venues for golfing, shopping, and dining. Residents here are proud of their town, and extend a warm welcome to those who come to visit. With its family-friendly activities and Midwestern charm, Clear Lake is sure to captivate all who travel there.

Things to do at Clear Lake IA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Clear Lake IA

  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye

Clear Lake IA Photo Gallery

Clear Lake IA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,684 acres

Shoreline Length: 14 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,227 feet

Average Depth: 10 feet

Maximum Depth: 19 feet

Water Volume: 34,800 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 4.7 years

Drainage Area: 14 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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