George Wyth State Park is the perfect urban retreat in Northeast Iowa. It’s a designated National Urban Wildlife Sanctuary nestled along the Cedar River in the heart of the Cedar Falls & Waterloo areas. And with four lakes, miles of trails, a beach, and a campground, the park offers tons of fun outdoor activities.
A Brief History of George Wyth State Park
This Iowa state park was dedicated in 1940 and first named Josh Higgins Parkway, after a fictional radio personality. In 1956, the Iowa State Conservation Commission voted to rename the park George Wyth State Park after a local business person that was instrumental in creating the area park system.
Things to do at George Wyth State Park
Hike or bike the trails
Over 10 miles of trails wind through the park. There are over seven miles of multi-use dirt and grass trails. And the park’s trail system connects to over a hundred miles of paved trails in the Cedar Valley Trail network. See the park’s trail map for details.
The Cedar Valley Lakes Trail is a paved trail that extends through the park and beyond. This 17-mile trail links Black Hawk Park to George Wyth State Park, continuing to downtown Waterloo. See the trail guide and interactive trail map for more on the Cedar Valley Trail network.
Explore the lakes
Brinker, George Wyth, Fisher, and Alice Wyth lakes are the four lakes at the park.
- At 180 acres, Brinker Lake is the largest lake on the park’s east side.
- George Wyth Lake is a no-wake 75-acre lake in the middle of the park with a beach and fishing pier. Visitors like to windsurf and fish at the jetties at this lake.
- Fisher Lake is a 40-acre natural oxbow of the Cedar River between George Wyth Lake and Alice Wyth Lake.
- Alice Wyth Lake is a 60-acre lake with a nice fishing jetty/pier.
All lakes at the park have boat ramps, and with four lakes, it’s a great place to boat no matter what type of boat you have.
Brinker Lake allows power boats after 9 am, George Wyth Lake is a no-wake lake, and Alice Wyth Lake allows motorized electric boats.
Rent a boat
Maxx Rentals at George Wyth Lake rents kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats. They also offer floating water mats and river tubes. Shuttles are also available.
Kayak or canoe
Kayak or canoe any of the lakes at the park!
Or paddle them all on the Cedar Valley Paddlers Trail. It’s a loop trail that includes all the lakes at the state park, the Cedar River, and two lakes at Hartman Reserve Nature Center. The trail totals 10 miles, with over one mile requiring portaging. But you can do as much or as little of the trail as you’d like! See the trail map here.
If you’re looking for a longer river trail, check out The Cedar River Water Trail. It’s a 47-mile water trail that also passes through the park and downtown Waterloo.
Spend the day at the beach
The beach at George Wyth Lake is a great place to spend a hot summer day! Park concessions offer refreshments, bait, firewood, and ice. And you can rent a boat or tube from Maxx Rentals.
George Wyth Lake is also a popular spot to go windsurfing – on the water or the ice in the winter.
Take your pick of lakes! All four offer excellent fishing spots by boat or shore! Black Crappie, Bluegill, Catfish, and Largemouth Bass are popular fish species. Also, Brinker Lake and George Wyth Lake are stocked with Hybrid Striped Bass annually. George Wyth Lake is also stocked with Channel Cats periodically.
Bait is available at beach concessions.
The prairie, woodlands, and wetlands offer diverse habitats at George Wyth State Park, making it a hotspot for birding! Over 200 species have been recorded there; spot a range of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors in and around the park! Visit the bird blind on the park’s west side.
Go camping at the large campground at George Wyth State Park! There’s no better way to experience all the park has to offer. Whether camping in a tent or an RV, there’s a campsite for you. And the great thing is that you can easily access Cedar Falls and Waterloo when you camp here. See the campground section below for more details.
Whether you stop for a lunch break or have a large get-together, the park has a suitable picnic spot! Several picnic areas are located throughout the park, with many along the north shores of Fisher Lake.
Also, four open-air shelters are at the park. Three are reservable and are otherwise first-come, first-serve. Plus, a day-use lodge is reservable for large events.
Winter activities at George Wyth State Park
The fun doesn’t stop when the temps drop and the snow starts to fly! George Wyth State Park is an excellent place for winter recreation.*
The Cedar Valley Association of Soft Trails (CVAST) grooms snow trails at the park when there’s enough snow on the ground. A good resource for up-to-date information and maps of routes is the Cedar Valley Nordic Skiing Facebook page.
Rent cross-country skis at CrawDaddy Rentals and from UNI Recreation.
What better way to experience the park’s beauty in the winter than on snowshoes?!* Rent snowshoes at the Harman Reserve Nature Center, UNI Recreation, and CrawDaddy Rentals.
*As a courtesy, avoid snowshoeing on groomed cross-country trails.
Fat tire biking
Fat bike trails are great fun in the winter! The park has even hosted Fat Bike competitions for the Winter Iowa Games.
All four lakes offer excellent ice fishing when the ice is thick enough.
Take the Polar Plunge
The Special Olympics hosts the Polar Plunge each spring at George Wyth State Park! Whether you’re a plunger or a chicken, it’s a fun event for a good cause. See the Iowa Special Olympics website for details.
George Wyth State Park Campground
The campground is situated in the woods on the north shores of the Cedar River. It’s an excellent place to go camping, with modern amenities and access to everything there is to do in the area!
- 69 campsites; 47 electric, 22 non-electric, including 3 walk-in tent sites
- Youth group campsite
- Modern restrooms/showers
- Dump station on site
- A few sites with river views
- See the campground map here
Things To Do Nearby
Since the park is so close to Cedar Falls & Waterloo, there’s a wide range of things to do nearby. Below are some of the top things to consider while you’re there.
Hartman Reserve Nature Center is a 340-acre nature area just five miles from the park. Visit the Nature Center, hike or bike the trails, or take in a program while you’re there.
Black Hawk Park is a county park about 8 miles to the northwest. It’s a vast 1500-acre park with campgrounds, fishing, hiking, biking, and more!
Hit the trails in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. Whether you want to hike, bike, or paddle, miles and miles of trails await. See the Cedar Falls Tourism website for maps and trail information.
Go to Lost Island Themepark & Waterpark for a ton of fun just 11 miles southeast of the park. Visit the theme park for amusement park rides, like coasters, spinning rides, and swings. Or head to the water park for water slides, the lazy river, and a round of mini-golf.
More Area Attractions
- Palmer’s Family Fun
- Grout Museum District
- Cedar Falls Historical Society Museums
- Waterloo Center for the Arts
- John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum
Visit George Wyth State Park Today!
George Wyth State Park is at 3659 Wyth Rd, Waterloo, IA 50703.