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Fogle Lake Wildlife Area is Southern Iowa’s outdoor recreation secret

  • 5/26/2020 1:11:00 PM
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Diagonal, Iowa - Tucked away on the northwest corner of the small town of Diagonal, sits a nearly 400-acre recreation destination that is part lake, part park and a whole lot of wildlife area.

Fogle Park was the product of visionary leaders in the small Ringgold County community of fewer than 400 people, who felt there was a need for outdoor recreation and worked hard to get it done.

Fogle Lake Wildlife Area has been developed and managed through a partnership between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the City of Diagonal. The lake and wildlife area are managed by the Iowa DNR and the park is managed by the city.

Wildlife biologist Chad Paup and his crew with the Iowa DNR’s Grand River Wildlife Unit, recently removed cottonwood, ash, elm and hackberry trees and hedges from the drainage on the north portion of the wildlife area as a habitat improvement project geared towards benefiting grassland birds.

Standing at the north parking lot, the familiar sounds of pheasants crowing and of bobwhite quail whistling comes from all around.

“Our goal here is to promote grassland bird nesting and brood rearing and those trees are not really desirable for a grassland area,” he said. “Cutting trees is a never ending challenge. We’ll be back again in seven to ten years when the trees return.”

Paup said the trees will remain in the ravines to provide habitat for other bird species, snakes and for rabbits. “We get rave reviews from hunters from Michigan, Pennsylvania and around Iowa who travel here to hunt rabbits,” Paup said.

Improving the grassland area not only benefits game species, but many non-game species as well.

The sounds of dickcissels, bobolinks and meadowlarks fill the air. This parcel was acquired from the Park family in 2010, which was important for the wildlife area development not only to create quality habitat, but it was the final piece of the lake’s watershed.  

The Fogle Lake dam was scheduled completion on Nov. 30, 1995. The dam created a 45-acre quality fishery that started off strong and continues to do well today.

Anglers from across southwest Iowa include Fogle Lake in their rotation either targeting a hot bite or looking to get away from the crowds. The lake offers good fishing for largemouth bass of all sizes with lots of 12-17-inch fish and some over 20-inches, bluegills up to 8-1/2-inch, 9-10-inch crappies and redear sunfish, with a few walleyes and channel catfish mixed in. Local lake supporters’ purchase and stock fingerling sized walleyes from a private hatchery and stock them every other year.

Fisheries biologist Andy Jansen said anglers should target in-lake habitat for the best success. “Focus on the brush piles – there are quite a few on the lake, the rock reef and two gravel spawning areas,” Jansen said.  

The local convenience store offers night crawlers and a few camping supplies for sale. The closest full service bait shop is about 21 miles north, in Afton. Boats are restricted to operating at less than 5 miles per hour (no-wake).

Staying where you play

Fogle Lake’s 45 site campground traditionally fills a week or more before major holidays. The four primitive cabins are busy all year and are popular with hunters in spring and fall, and with ice anglers in the winter. Steve Newton, who is a member of the City of Diagonal Parks Board, estimates 20-25 percent of the fall to spring use comes from nonresidents. The parks board is in the process of adding the first modern cabin to the park. It will feature a bedroom, shower, small kitchen and more.

While each holiday is busy, the Diagonal Lions Labor Day Celebration is the largest event in the community.

The celebration includes tractor pulls, pedal pulls, bike races and a “glow” run at dark through the park, attracting runners of all skill levels. Money raised from the events and concession is used for park improvements.

“We have a lot of campers who come straight from the State Fair to Fogle Lake without going home,” Newton said.

The park has one playground with a second in process of being added, a basketball court, sand volleyball court, grass hiking trail with benches and picnic tables set along the way. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats area available to use free of charge from the storage building, but users are responsible for their own lifejacket.

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