Honey Creek State Park is a scenic 828-acre park on a peninsula at Rathbun Lake in southern Iowa. You’ll love its rolling hills overlooking the picturesque 11,000-acre lake, also called “Iowa’s ocean.”
From swimming and hiking to boating and fishing, there are so many fun things to do at the lake—you’ll want to stay! Honey Creek State Park is a popular spot for camping and cabin rentals.
Table of Contents
- Things To Do at Honey Creek State Park
- Campground & Cabins
- Things to do nearby
- Visit Honey Creek State Park Today!
A Brief History of Honey Creek State Park
Native American burial mounds reveal that the Woodland culture once lived there. These indigenous people lived in villages by the rivers of the Eastern Plains. They raised corn and squash while also hunting and gathering. (Visit the Woodland Interpretive Trail for more history!)
When Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1954, it authorized the construction of Rathbun Dam and Reservoir on the Chariton River. The earth-fill dam was complete in 1969 and operational in 1970. Besides flood control and conservation, another goal was to provide outdoor recreation.
And since the creation of the 11,000-acre lake, Honey Creek State Park continues to draw boaters and nature lovers each year.
Things To Do at Honey Creek State Park
Hike the trails
Five miles of multi-use trails provide an ideal way to explore the park!
Several short paths on the park’s east end lead to the lakeshores. And there are a couple of trails near the campgrounds. See the trail map here.
Don’t miss the Woodland Interpretive Trail near the burial mounds. You can learn more about the Native American culture that once called the area home. An open-air shelter is near the trailhead.
And don’t forget your binoculars! Hikers often see a variety of wildlife, like turkey, quail, deer, and other woodland animals.
Boating is one of the most popular activities at Honey Creek State Park. That’s understandable since it’s right on the shores of “Iowa’s Ocean!” Another perk is the lake’s coves, channels, and beaches to stop and relax.
Rathbun Lake accommodates ski boats, fishing boats, and sailboats. Plus, kayaks and canoes are fun to paddle along the shoreline. Plus, you can rent pontoon boats nearby at Honey Creek Resort and Rathbun Marina.
The Honey Creek State Park south boat ramp is one of the largest boat ramps on Rathbun Lake, with plenty of parking. There’s also a smaller north ramp with 24-hour fishing access.
Several other boat ramps are around the lake too. Ramps operated by the Corps of Engineers require day-use fees.
If you want to kayak or canoe, there are two designated water trails on the lake.
- The North Shore Water Trail extends 5.3 miles from Honey Creek State Park to the Rathbun Marina. Want to make it an overnight? A primitive paddle-in tent area is at Paddler’s Pines Camp.
- The South Shore Water Trail is on the other side of the lake. The 14.5-mile trail has several access points, plus a wilderness trail. This one’s rated for beginners since it’s less affected by wind and waves.
Rathbun Lake is an excellent lake for fishing by boat or shore. There’s plenty of shoreline at the park and two boat ramps. Plus, a fish cleaning station is near the south boat ramp.
Anglers often catch Crappie and Walleye at Rathbun. Other popular species include Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, White Bass, and Wiper. See the Iowa DNR Rathbun Reservoir page for fishing reports and regulations.
You might also consider visiting the Rathbun Fish Hatchery for a self-guided tour! It’s open Monday through Friday during limited hours. See the Iowa DNR Fish Hatchery page for details.
Honey Creek has no shortage of quaint and scenic picnic spots! So if you’re there for a day – or a week – make a picnic part of your plan.
Two open-air picnic shelters at the park are reservable and otherwise first-come, first-serve.
Go camping or rent a cabin
There’s something for everyone at this park when it comes to camping! From full hookup RV sites to primitive tent camping and even log camping cabins, you’re sure to find what suits your needs!
See the campground and cabins section below for details.
Bike the park
Over two miles of the main park roads have a bike lane, so you can bike throughout the park!
Visit Honey Creek State Park for cross country skiing or snowshoeing in winter.
And if you like to snowmobile, you’re in luck. There are a couple of short snowmobile trails in the park (Bay View Trail & Deer Run Trail). But that’s not all! The 47-mile(!) Paris Snowmobile Trail circles the lake. See the trail brochure for details.
Campground & Cabins
Honey Creek State Park has two campgrounds, 149 campsites, and four camping cabins.
- 91 campsites; 28 full hookups (pull-through), 21 electric only, and 42 non-electric sites
- Gravel pads
- Modern restrooms & showers
- Dump station
- It’s on the north side of the park road.
- Many campsites are reservable; reserve a site at Reserve America.
- 58 campsites; 54 electric, 4 non-electric (including one youth group site)
- Gravel pads
- Some campsites have lake views
- Modern restrooms & showers
- No dump station – use North Campground
- It’s on the south side of the park road.
- Many sites are reservable; reserve your spot at Reserve America.
Four log cabins for up to four to six guests are in a secluded area at the North Campground.
Each cabin has a covered porch, electricity, a microwave, a small fridge, heat, and a/c, but no running water. Vault toilets are nearby. And guests are welcome to use the modern restrooms and showers at the campground. And you must provide your own pillows, linens, cooking equipment, dishes, soap, and toiletries. Reserve a cabin at Reserve America.
Things to do nearby
Honey Creek Resort is northeast of the park, just across a lake inlet. By car, it’s an eight-mile drive. The 850-acre resort has an indoor water park, beach, golf course, and accommodations! Day passes are available for the indoor water park and outdoor aquapark.
Rathbun Lake Marina is 9 miles from the park on the lake’s east side. It’s a full-service marina with fuel, slips, pontoon boat rentals, a ship store, a cafe, etc.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has two public swimming beaches on the shores of the lake. Find them at Buck Creek Park and Island View Park. Day-use fees apply.
Rathbun OHV Park is 11 miles from the resort on the lake’s southeast side. It’s a 125-acre park with dirt and gravel trails for UTVs and ATVs. Cruise through the woods, catch a lake view, and climb challenging hills at a former rock quarry! See the Iowa DNR website for more.
Centerville is a 30-minute drive and a place to get camping, fishing, and boating supplies. While you’re there, ride a trolley, tour a coal mining museum, and grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant.
Lelah Bradley Park & Reserve is southeast of the park in Centerville. The 165-acre park has 10 miles of trails, plus scenic fishing and picnic spots!
Sharon Bluffs State Park is five miles east of Centerville. Stop at the nature center (with wildlife enclosures!), hike the trails, and go camping along the Chariton River.
Red Haw State Park is 27 miles northwest of the park near Chariton. This 650-acre park is popular in the spring for viewing Redbud trees blooming around the lake. Red Haw is also a wonderful place to hike, fish, boat, or camp!
Visit Honey Creek State Park Today!
Find Honey Creek State Park at 12194 Honey Creek Pl, Moravia, IA 52571.