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Lake Darling State Park
Lake Darling State Park © James Graham
View from the dam
Eastern Goldfinch ©
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111 Lake Darling Road
Brighton, Iowa   52540

Phone: 319-694-2323
Reservations: 319-694-2323
Email: park email button icon
Lake Darling State Park was dedicated on September 17, 1950. J. N. "Ding" Darling, for whom the park was named, "set the gate," a ceremony in which an honored guest closes the valve on the spillway, completing the impoundment process. Ding Darling was the editorial cartoonist of the Des Moines Register and was a champion of conservation during the early part of this century. Through his efforts, the conservation movement was fostered in Iowa. In recognition of his contributions, Lake Darling State Park was named in his honor.

Lake Darling State Park is 1,417 acres in size, including a beautiful 302-acre lake with almost 18 miles of shoreline. The park, with its beautiful wooded hills and valleys and lovely lake, offers something for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, young and old.
History of the Area
Named after Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, a champion of conservation and editorial cartoonist, the park was established in 1950. The land's prior uses included agriculture and hunting grounds for indigenous peoples before European settlement. In its early years as a public space, it primarily served for outdoor recreation like fishing.

The centerpiece is an artificial lake created by damming Honey Creek to enhance recreational opportunities such as boating and swimming. Over time, facilities including campgrounds, picnic areas, trails were developed to accommodate visitors seeking nature experiences.

Historical features include Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures built during the Great Depression that reflect rustic design aesthetics typical of CCC projects across America at that time.

In recent decades there have been efforts towards environmental restoration; these include shoreline stabilization projects and habitat improvements aimed at supporting local wildlife populations while maintaining visitor amenities.

Climate change impacts necessitated water quality initiatives due to increased runoff affecting aquatic ecosystems within this area known for diverse fish species.
 Hiking Trailyes
 Swimming Beachyes
BoatingLaunch Rampsyes
Lake Darling has a large and well equipped campground. A total of 118 campsites are present, 81 with electrical hookups. The campground has 2 modern rest room buildings, as well as a conveniently located trailer dumping station. Starting February 13, 2006 advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is playground equipment in the campground.
1. Lake Darling State Park offers a designated swimming beach for visitors.
2. The lake's clear water makes it ideal for swimmers of all ages and abilities.
3. Lifeguards are not provided, so swim at your own risk.
4. Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only in the marked area on the north shore of the lake.
5. No diving or jumping from bridges, boats or trees into the water is allowed due to safety concerns.
6. The park also provides changing rooms near its sandy beach for convenience after swimming activities.

Lake Darling is a popular boating lake for both power and non-power boats. The concession offers boat rental opportunities. Any size motor may be operated on Lake Darling at "no wake" speeds.

Lake Darling is an angler's delight. Catfish and crappies are probably the most prevalent catch for most anglers. However, bullheads, bluegills, largemouth bass, carp, and tiger muskies are also plentiful.

Lake Darling State Park is located near Fairfield, Mount Pleasant

Lake Darling State Park is a great place for a family cookout. A number of scenic picnic areas overlook the lake. An Open Picnic Shelter is available for use and may be reserved for a fee through the park manager.
Hikers will find plenty of opportunity at Lake Darling State Park. Several trails are present and hikers will see a variety of plant, animal and bird species. One of the trails extends through a re-established prairie and another winds through heavily wooded timber to a cemetery dating back to the 1800s.
Biking enthusiasts can explore a 4-mile trail, but be aware it's shared with hikers. Helmets are recommended for safety.

The terrain is mostly flat and paved, making the ride relatively easy. However, always stay alert to avoid accidents.

For those seeking more challenge, off-road biking options exist too. But remember these trails require advanced skills due to uneven surfaces.

Rental bikes may not be available on-site so bringing your own equipment is advised. Always check bike conditions before riding out.

Remember that park rules must be followed at all times including respecting wildlife and other visitors' space while cycling.

Nighttime bicycling isn't encouraged as there aren't sufficient lighting facilities along the paths; daytime rides are safer.

In winter months or after heavy rainfalls when pathways might get slippery or muddy - refrain from biking until conditions improve.

Birding enthusiasts can explore a variety of habitats, including woodland and wetland areas. The park is home to numerous bird species such as warblers, woodpeckers, waterfowl and raptors. Birdwatchers may also spot migratory birds during spring or fall seasons. A checklist for Iowa's common bird species is available online for reference.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
September 9 A true Iowa treasure! by okbotto
park review stars; one to five We love this park! Beautiful! The most serene camping and fishing location. This is the most underused park in Iowa. It is a true Iowa treasure.
March 26 AWESOME by lovesoccer_lez or green
park review stars; one to five THis park is AWESOME LOVE IT -GREEN
February 20 Our Favorite! by John & Deb
park review stars; one to five We have been going there for years and love the place. The water quality has always been an issue but love the layout and views.Try to camp there 3-4 times a year!
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Nearby Hotels

- Head west on W Burlington Ave toward N Court St.
- Turn left onto S 6th St.
- Continue straight to stay on S 6th St.
- At the traffic circle, take the second exit and continue on Libertyville Rd for about six miles.

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Iowa State Parks