Lake Macbride, Iowa, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Iowa - East Central -

One of east central Iowa’s best recreation lakes is Lake Macbride. Construction of the lake was first recommended in 1932, with the project adopted by the State Conservation Board. A $50,000 federal grant was secured to pay for the dam, with labor provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The State Conservation Board aided in development of what became Lake Macbride State Park, with the land donated to the state once it was completed. The new 200-acre lake opened in 1937.

The building of the Coralville Dam and Reservoir in the late 1950s for flood control along the nearby Iowa River forever changed Lake Macbride. Originally, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) plan called for making Lake Macbride a part of larger Coralville Lake, but the State of Iowa wasn’t in favor of losing their lake and park. It was necessary to raise the height of the Lake Macbride Dam to keep the two lakes separated. In doing so, the USACE raised the lake level by 28 feet, enlarged Lake Macbride to 812 acres, and reconfigured the popular state park to accommodate the new shoreline. The USACE purchased the additional land to expand the lake and donated the surrounding acreage to the state. Most of the shoreline of the new, larger lake is part of the state park. The new lake was full by early 1960.

Lake Macbride offers a full complement of water-based activities along its two long ‘arms’. The 2,180-acre Lake Macbride State Park provides a swimming beach, picnic areas, playgrounds, two camping areas and seven boat launch locations. Picnic shelters are located around the park, some built by the Civilian Conservation Corps before the original park opened. A boat rental concession rents pontoons, motorized boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats to visitors. The park is divided into two units. The North Unit on the Mill Creek arm has the beach, modern campsites, boat launch, boat rental and park office. The South Unit along the Jordan Creek arm has a primitive campground with fewer amenities, boat ramp, picnic areas and a Frisbee Golf course. A Day Use Lodge is available by reservation for group events, as is a group camping area.

Sailing has long been a favorite at Lake Macbride. Several sailboat shelters can be reserved along the shoreline, with restrooms nearby. The University of Iowa Sailing Club has called Lake Macbride home since 1961. The club’s facilities and docks are located within the University of Iowa’s Macbride Nature and Recreation Area along the south arm of the lake. The lake has a 10-horsepower speed limit, making it pleasant for non-motorized craft to maneuver the water safely. The pontoon rental facilities are also immensely popular, and dry storage space can be rented for privately-owned sailboats and pontoons. Lake Macbride is separated from Coralville Lake only by the dam and a narrow spit of land, so the park also adjoins the neighboring reservoir. A boat ramp accommodates those wishing to boat Coralville Reservoir.

Fishing is always a big part of the action on Lake Macbride. Channel catfish, muskie and walleye are stocked annually. Crappie and bluegill are abundant, and this is likely the only Iowa lake where the Kentucky spotted bass may take the bait. A stocking program several years ago planted the prized fish, and they are reproducing naturally. With seven boat launch sites, there is never a problem with access. Proper fishing licenses must be obtained and all regulations followed. The lake regularly gains enough ice for ice fishing in the winter months, but because there are sometime winter draw-downs for construction purposes, it is best to check for warnings on the Lake Macbride State Park website before venturing onto the ice.

The Macbride Nature and Recreation Area holds a third small campground amid its many nature trails. Over 10 miles of trails within the Nature Center focus on the flora and songbirds native to the area. A hummingbird garden, birdwatching blind and prairie exhibit make a visit to the Nature Center enjoyable for all ages. Affiliated with the Nature and Recreation Area, the Raptor Center rehabilitates injured birds of prey, which are generally released once they are in good condition. Picnic areas and the University’s programs for children-a Day Camp and Macbride Wildlife Camp-are also included. Two competition archery ranges are located near the entrance. The Lake Macbride State Park Trail along the south side can also be accessed from the Recreation Area.

Seventeen miles of trails are located in Lake Macbride State Park. The trails are popular year round, with cross-country skiers and snowmobilers enjoying the trails in winter. A five-mile trail leads from the park entrance along the lake to Solon. The limestone-surfaced trail is very popular with cyclists and walkers. A mile-and-a-half pedestrian trail facilitates travel between the beach and the dam. The popular trail system makes Lake Macbride State Park an easy-access jogging and hiking destination from the nearby towns. Iowa City is less than 25 miles away-an easy drive on a hot summer day.

Those not interested in camping will find plenty of other activities nearby. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa, and this college town has a full complement of cultural and entertainment venues. The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk features a series of bronze insets containing the words of famed authors with a connection to Iowa. An annual Jazz Festival, arts festival, free concerts and summer outdoor movies mean there is usually some special event. Nearby, the famous Devonian Fossil Gorge with its thousands of fossils embedded in limestone will delight children and adults alike. Long known for its fossilized past, and the reason Coralville received its name, Devonian Fossil Gorge was discovered in 1993 when flood waters eroded the surface. The newly-exposed gorge revealed a huge collection of 375 million year old fossils of sea creatures-inhabitants of the shallow sea that once covered much of the Midwest.

Iowa City, Coralville and the surrounding areas hold plenty of lodgings, with facilities such as hotels, inns, bed & breakfasts and guest cottages. Private rentals may be found near the shore of Lake Macbride, with an occasional property on the lakefront offered for short-term rental. Real estate is sometimes found for sale at the lake, with other offerings in the nearby area. The area holds a number of commercial campgrounds and RV parks, with restaurants, cafes and shopping galore in historic downtown Iowa City. So, come wet a line or dip a paddle in Lake MacBride.

Things to do at Lake Macbride

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Macbride

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Spotted Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Lake Macbride Photo Gallery

Lake Macbride Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources

Surface Area: 812 acres

Shoreline Length: 20 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 730 feet

Average Depth: 17 feet

Maximum Depth: 47 feet

Water Volume: 13,548 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: .8 years

Drainage Area: 25 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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