Easter Lake Park is a 469-acre park with a beautiful 172-acre lake on Des Moines’ southeast side. Once a coal mine, this large urban park has exceptional trails, a historic bridge, and boat rentals to boot. For a fun day on water or land, head over to beautiful Easter Lake Park!
A Brief History of Easter Lake Park
Before Easter Lake became a recreation area, it was farmland and home to the area’s last coal mine. After the coal mine shut down in 1959, the South Town Lake and Development Society advocated for a new park. Construction of the Easter Lake Dam and Spillway began in 1965, and the park opened in 1967.1
Things To Do at Easter Lake Park
Paddle the Lake
Bring your own boat to paddle the 172-acre lake. Or rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard at the Easter Lake Boat Rental!
Boat rentals are available at 2816 Shoreline Drive, on the north side of Easter Lake. For reservations, call 515-418-0837. Rentals are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 am to 7 pm, daily. In September, rentals are only available on the weekends.
Rent a Pontoon or Motor Boat
Easter Lake is one of the few lakes in the Des Moines area to rent motorboats and pontoons. Motorboats are perfect for fishing with seating for four people. And the pontoon boats are great for a leisurely day on the lake. 8-passenger and 11-passenger pontoon boats are available. We recommend making reservations ahead of time.
Hike the trails
The Mark C Ackelson Trail is a paved, 6-mile trail that loops around Easter Lake (and through Owens Covered Bridge!). If you include the Easter Lake Spine trail, it’s over 6 miles long, with several bridges and a mix of hills and flat areas. The trail links to Ewing Park on the lake’s west side. And it connects to the Carl Voss Trail on the north side of the lake.
The Apple Orchard Trail is a short 0.2-mile nature trail on the park’s southwest corner, near Shelter #4.
The Wymore Trail is a partially paved, 1.4-mile nature trail. It winds through the woodlands on the lake’s southwestern shore (between Shelter #3 and Shelter #4). Access the path off the main park road, west of the park’s south entrance.
Bike the trails
Bring your bike, or rent a bike at BCycle near the Easter Lake Boat Rental.
The Mark C Ackelson Trail is the perfect place to ride your bike. And if you want to peddle more than the 4-mile loop, there are options in all directions. Take the connector trail on the west side of the lake to get to Ewing Park. Or take the Carl Voss Trail on the north, which heads to Downtown Des Moines. There you can access miles and miles of trails in all directions. See this interactive map for details.
Check out Owen’s Covered Bridge
Owen’s Bridge was built in 1878 and originally located east of Carlisle, Iowa, on the North River. In 1967, Polk County Conservation bought the bridge for $1 and committed to its restoration. The 94-foot bridge was (carefully) moved to Easter Lake Park in 1968. It’s the only covered bridge in Polk County—one of twelve remaining in Iowa.2
Visitors can find the bridge near Shelter #1, on the park’s south side. The Mark C. Ackelson Trail goes through Owen’s Bridge.
Easter Lake is stocked with various species of fish and offers choice fishing! From the pier, boat, or shoreline, anglers can catch catfish, bluegill, walleye, crappie, and bass.
Bring your boat and access Easter Lake at the boat ramp on the south shoreline. Or rent a fishing boat at Easter Lake Boat Rentals.
Have a Picnic
Five shelters and three playgrounds make Easter Lake Park perfect for picnicking! Shelters are reservable and otherwise available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Shelter #1 is to the right (east) of the park’s south entrance and has a nice view of Easter Lake. A playground is next to this shelter, with a sand volleyball court nearby.
Shelter #2 is not far past Shelter #1, to the right of the park’s south entrance. It offers lake views and is close enough that visitors can fish from shore.
Shelter #3 is just inside the park’s south entrance, to the left (west) at the Y. While this shelter doesn’t have lake views, it’s near the woods and nature trails.
Shelter #4 is on the park’s southwest side of the park, off the main road, left (west) from the park’s south entrance. It’s one of the newest shelters and has a deck that sits right on the bay.
Shelter #5 is the smallest shelter, accessed from outside of the park. It’s east of the park’s south entrance. Located on one of the lake’s bays, it has lovely views, electricity, and a playground.
The Swimming Beach
The beach is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Summer hours are 8 am to sunset, and it’s free to swim. Note that there is no lifeguard on duty.
Easter Lake Park Map
Things To Do Nearby
Visit Ewing Park, across the road from Easter Lake Park, and is accessible by trail. Ewing Park has something for everyone! The lilac arboretum, mountain bike trails, and incredible children’s playground are just a few of the highlights.
Three miles southwest of Easter Lake is Fort Des Moines Park. Here you’ll find excellent fishing, modern picnic shelters, and some great trails.
Need a bite to eat after being at the lake all day? Head over to SE 14th Street to find several restaurant options. Notable restaurants include Applebee’s, Culver’s, IHOP, and Tasty Tacos, to name a few.
Or drive over to Blank Park Zoo, about 4 miles west of Easter Lake Park. Kids and adults alike will be entertained for hours at this 22-acre zoo!
Visit Easter Lake Park Today!
Easter Lake Park is at 2830 Easter Lake Drive, Des Moines, Iowa 50320.
From I-235, take Exit 9 and head south on E. 14th Street (Hwy 69). Turn left onto Indianola Avenue (just past Buffalo Wild Wings), and follow it southeast. Next, turn left onto Easter Lake Drive. Easter Lake Park is on the left (north) side of Easter Lake Drive.
From Highway 5/U.S. 65, take Exit 70B and head north on SE 14th Street (Hwy 69). Turn right (north) on Indianola Avenue. Next, turn right (east) onto Easter Lake Drive. Easter Lake Park is on the left (north) side of Easter Lake Drive.
Summer park hours are 6:30 am to 10:30 pm. Winter hours are sunrise to sunset.
Find free parking throughout the park at the shelter areas, covered bridge, boat rental facility, and fishing pier. Restrooms are at each shelter, the fishing pier, and boat rental facility. Note that some are pit toilets.
1. History of Easter Lake. Easter Lake Watershed Project. 2. Owens Covered Bridge at Easter Lake - Des Moines, Iowa. Waymarking.com.