A site about half way between Eldridge and Princeton in northern Scott County was selected in 1987 from about a dozen other potential locations to become a lake on Iowa’s eastern border, and after 26 years, the project is nearing completion.
For anxious anglers, the wait to fish Lost Grove Lake is almost over.
“I’m excited about this lake,” said Chad Dolan, fisheries management biologist for southeast Iowa. “I fail to see how this lake won’t produce fish with all this habitat. You’re talking about a panfish and bass mecca.”
Work on Lost Grove Lake began almost immediately after the site was selected.
The DNR began purchasing land in 1988 and by 1995 had nearly every piece, but it wasn’t until 2003 when the final parcel was secured.
While the DNR was negotiating land purchases, homes began to appear in the area downstream from the lake. This turn of events required the dam to meet a higher design standard, changing it from a medium hazard dam to a high hazard dam.
“The dam had a few delays because of the redesign and having to allow the soil to dry out because of too much moisture,” Dolan said. Construction began in July 2010 and the gate was officially closed on July 11, 2012.
Once the gate was closed, Lost Grove Lake almost immediately began impounding water as a series of heavy rains filled the lake to within 13 feet of full pool. What was supposed to take 2 to 3 years to fill based on its watershed size, took only a fraction of that.
“We didn’t have the ramps in so we needed to open the gate to dewater the lake,” Dolan said. Eventually, 16 feet of water was released before the gate was shut. An estimated 33 feet of water at the dam remained.
Construction crews are installing boat ramps and parking lots: the three lane main ramp near the dam, the two lane middle ramp almost half way up the lake on the south side, and the single lane west ramp on the north side near the causeway at the upper end of the lake, and adding rip-rap on the north and south side of the lake in close proximity to the dam. Restrooms will be added to all three boat ramps in coming years.
Work progressed in stages and during the late summer 2011, contractors were busy placing riprap along the shoreline and installing fish habitat.
The following July as the dam was nearing completion, two four-foot risers were added to culverts under Utica Ridge Road that will slow down and filter sediment, nutrients, and chemicals from runoff before the water enters the lake.
The DNR partnered with Scott County Secondary Roads who designed the structures and expedited the construction. One riser will back up water 1,600 feet and the other about 3,000 feet.
“This was probably the best $90,000 we spent on the whole project,” Dolan said. “And Scott County Secondary Roads has been an excellent partner.”
The project took less than a month to complete.
“These protections will keep silt from entering the lake and as they do their job and fill up with silt themselves, it will be easy and cost effective to dig out the sediment and get them back in working condition,” Dolan said.
For now, anxious onlookers drive by checking on the progress as heavy machinery is preparing the final touches before the parking lots, ramps and access roads are paved.
Fishing is available in the 22-acre causeway at the upper end of the lake. Once the work is finished, all that remains is for the main lake to fill. Dolan expects fishing will be good for some species in 2014, but excellent for most in the summer of 2015.
Lost Grove Lake has three ADA compliant fishing trails accessible by wheelchair. One trail follows the lake shore from the middle ramp parking lot 2,000 feet to a significant pine tree covered point developed for boat and shore angling, a second from the main fishing access about mid lake on the north side 1,000 feet to the east and west, and the third on the south side at 230th Ave. that runs 350 feet to the west. Fish attracting habitat has been placed within casting distance of the trails.
Three, 50-foot parallel fishing structures extending 12 feet from shore are located around the lake providing access to deeper water. The structures are built with sheet pilings driven in to the ground, filled with dirt and topped with gravel. These structures are also ADA compliant.
Special canoe and kayak accesses are located along the shore fishing accesses.
A 12 foot by 9 foot cement culvert will serve as a boat passage allowing anglers access to the lake north of 220th Avenue. The boat passage will have about three feet of water in it for boats to pass under the road.
A Community-wide Project
The construction of Lost Grove Lake involved many local partners, including the Hawkeye Fly Fishers and other local fishing clubs, local quarries that donated rock, local haulers that donated rock hauling, the Scott County Waste Commission for assistance with tire removal, local landowners for various assistance, Scott County Secondary Roads and more.
“A lot of people have a stake in the final outcome of this lake,” said Dolan. “Their efforts have played an important role in making this a successful project.”
• July/October 2012: Bluegills
• Fall 2012: Redear Sunfish, 5-inch largemouth bass
• Spring 2013: 11-inch muskies, channel catfish, walleyes and largemouth bass
• Crappies were previously stocked in the pool above the causeway and passed through to the main lake when conditions allowed.
• Adult crappies will be added in 2014 to allow the fishery time to mature.
• Fall 2013: 7-inch channel catfish.
Lost Grove Lake is three miles long and covers 400 acres. It collects runoff from a 5,000-acre watershed. The lake at maximum depth is 62 feet, with most of the area in front of the dam at least 50 feet deep. The average depth is 24 feet.
The cost to purchase the land and build Lost Grove Lake will be $12.5 million.
Iowa State University Center for Agriculture and Rural Development research indicates that a lake of this size with good water quality will annually provide for 350,000 visits and create about $20 million in local spending, supporting 175 jobs.