Coralville Lake, Iowa, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Iowa - East Central -

Also known as:  Coralville Reservoir

Star of east-central Iowa’s recreation opportunities, Coralville Lake has led the pack for the 60 years of its existence. Originally built to control flooding and regulate fluctuating water levels on the Iowa River, the Coralville Reservoir quickly became the go-to destination for water-based fun. The massive reservoir impounds a 23-mile stretch of the Iowa River with a dam built in 1958 near Iowa City. The process took many years from planning stage to eventual completion, with the Korean War’s costs drying up the funding for a period of time. The reservoir was finally completed and filled, pre-planned recreational projects begun, and area residents and visitors welcomed their new lake.

Because periodic flooding had devastated the area around Iowa City several times in the past, the reservoir was designed to hold a huge amount of flood water. During normal operations, Coralville Lake spans 5,430 acres and stores 28,100 acre-feet of water (9.16 billion gallons). At maximum flood capacity, the reservoir expands to 24,800 surface acres with a 100-year flood storage capacity of 421,000 acre-feet (137.18 billion gallons). Even that amount of excess storage has proven insufficient on two occasions in recent years as rainstorms in 1993 and 2008 dumped more water on the watershed than the lake could hold and release. Iowa City and surrounding areas suffered massive flooding, only partially alleviated by Coralville Reservoir. Without the reservoir, flooding would have been much worse. Because only a low dam separates Coralville Lake and Lake Macbride, the two merged on both occasions. Most of the time, however, Coralville Lake is calm, refreshing and a welcome haven on hot summer days.

Coralville Lake has over 50 miles of shoreline and numerous arms and branches along its curving path. The lake offers boating, waterskiing, tubing, jet skiing, pontooning, windsurfing and paddle sports opportunities. One activity that is common on the lake is houseboating, with designated houseboat slips with electricity, making it convenient to actually stay on the water for days at a time. Winter storage docks and dry storage are available for lease. Three concession marinas supply boaters’ needs including gas, groceries, sports equipment, boat repairs and fishing supplies. At least one has a restaurant and camping space available. Boat rentals are offered, including pontoons. Visitors explore the coves and sandbars with kayaks, canoes and small sailboats.

Fishermen also appreciate Coralville Reservoir; its waters hold white bass, walleye, northern pike, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, sunfish, smallmouth bass, freshwater drum and bigmouth buffalo. The coves and shallows offer good structure for spawning fish, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources monitors fish populations, stocking several varieties regularly. In winter, the ice often becomes thick enough to support ice fishing, particularly in the coves. An Iowa fishing license is required, and care should be taken to obey any special fishing regulations. A nominal fee is charged for launching at the ten boat ramps.

Several swimming beaches are provided at Coralville Lake, some to all comers and a couple strictly for campers occupying the adjacent campgrounds. A small fee is charged day visitors to use the beaches. Campsites are centered in three areas along the lake and can be found to meet nearly any needs. RV spaces and RV dumps are available, as are some sites with water and electricity. Other spaces are suitable for tent camping, and some have no amenities except picnic tables. Sugar Bottom, Sandy Beach and Dam Complex campgrounds offer a total of more than 500 campsites. Reservations are taken for most of them. Restrooms are located throughout the large recreation area, as are playgrounds and game fields. Two disk golf courses are located within the USACE recreation area and growing in popularity. Along with a network of trails, the recreation area is nearly as popular off-water as on-water. In late autumn, certain areas are open for hunting.

Ten miles of one-way mountain biking trail begins at the Sugar Bottom Day Use Area. The Cedar Valley Nature Trail in the same area is immensely popular. The multi-use Woodpecker Nature Trail and the Squire Point Trail meet to form a five-mile year-round trail at the Linder Point area of the Dam Complex. These trails are popular among bird watchers who can identify many native birds in their natural habitat. The Veterans Trail and the Tailwater Riverwalk are both accessible to the disabled and wheelchairs. The trails get heavy use in winter from cross-country skiers and snowshoe fans. All areas are available for the cost of an annual pass, making this one of the best recreational bargains around.

The Coralville Lake Visitors Center provides an informative introduction to the wildlife and geology of the area. Visitors can watch a movie about the 2008 flood and take a short hike to see what the rushing flood waters uncovered at the Devonian Fossil Gorge. The Center is open year-round. The Gorge displays thousands of fossils embedded in the limestone substrata that were uncovered during the 1993 flood and expanded by the 2008 flood. The rushing waters scoured away several feet of sand and limestone, exposing the long-extinct denizens of the sea that once covered the area about 375 million years ago. Coral formations discovered in 1866 are the origin of the Coralville name.

If the many miles of wooded shoreline aren’t enough to satisfy one’s thirst for nature and knowledge, the Macbride Nature Recreation area across the dam at Lake Macbride holds the Iowa Raptor Center for the rehabilitation of injured birds of prey. Other exhibit areas there include a hummingbird garden, prairie area and a bird watching blind. The home of the University of Iowa, Iowa City and the nearby town of Coralville hold all types of lodgings, including hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, guest cottages and inns, along with all types of entertainment, museums , restaurants and shopping.

A few private homes and condos with a view of Coralville Lake can occasionally be located for short-term rental. Several historic destinations can be found within a short drive of Coralville Lake, including the famous Amana Colonies. In Coralville, one can hear the tales of the original pioneers who left their river transport behind and built human-drawn carts to haul their families and goods on the next leg of their long journey to the beckoning West. If you haven’t explored east-central Iowa, there’s no better excuse that Coralville Lake.

Things to do at Coralville Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Coralville Lake

  • Bass
  • Bigmouth Buffalo
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Freshwater Drum
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Coralville Lake Photo Gallery

Coralville Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 5,430 acres

Shoreline Length: 50 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 683 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 717 feet

Maximum Depth: 30 feet

Completion Year: 1958

Drainage Area: 3,084 sq. miles

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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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