There are many opportunities for camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities in the Aurelia area. One such opportunity is to take advantage of the approximately 1000 acres of land devoted to parks provided by the CCCB (Cherokee County Conservation Board). These parks vary in development from modern camping sites with electricity to natural areas with no facilities at all. Following are examples of three of the CCCB’s parks. For a complete description of all the parks visit the CCCB’s website at www.cherokeecountyparks.com.
Larson Lake is a former gravel pit converted to a 5 acre lake within this 12 acre park located two miles east of Aurelia. A portion of the lake is devoted to Iowa’s Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program. These majestic waterfowl can be observed from their days of spring courtship through nesting and raising cygnets. They are present year-round and are fed and monitored by Conservation Board staff. The remainder of the lake is available for fishing. Bluegill, bass, crappie and catfish can be caught year round. Facilities include three picnic shelters, six charcoal grills, restrooms, a drinking water pump, and playground equipment.
Silver Sioux Recreation Area consists of 160 acres located approximately 20 miles from Aurelia. Amenities include a campground with modern and primitive campsites, including limestone camper pads and several pull-through sites. Water is currently available from hydrants and restrooms are limited to handicap-accessible pit toilets. Plans are well underway, however, for construction of a modern comfort station with showers.
Silver Sioux Recreation Area features two facilities available for rental by larger groups. A large open loafing barn, built in the early 1900s for a dairy operation, is popular for reunions and weddings or other special events; and the Lodge, a smaller enclosed building with a large central fireplace.
In addition, trails wind through the woodlands, over footbridges crossing natural springs, and through tallgrass prairie for breathtaking views of the Little Sioux River valley. Fishing access is available along nearly a mile stretch of the Little Sioux River. Fishing here is excellent for catfish and walleye due to the spring-fed flow of Silver Creek into the river. The area also features a concrete boat ramp on the Little Sioux, and is a designated stop on the regional Inkpaduta Canoe Trail.
Hunting is permitted from October 1 through April 30. All state and federal hunting regulations apply.
Martin Area consists of 202 acres of beautiful river valley habitat in northeastern Cherokee County, approximately 10 miles from Aurelia. The area contains three primitive camping areas, additional individual picnic shelters, river access for anglers and canoeists, along with scenic hiking trails through prairie, savanna and woodland habitats. Water pumps and handicap accessible pit toilets are available throughout the park. Snowmobiling and horseback riding are permitted on roads within the park. Martin Area is excellent for bird watching, mushroom and berry picking, and cross-country skiing.
Hunting is permitted from October 1 through April 30.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation continue at Storm Lake, approximately 20 miles east of Aurelia. Two hundred acres of beautiful city parks give residents and visitors access to the biggest playground of all, the 3,200 acre lake. The Lake Trail through the parks allows walkers, joggers, bikers and more to enjoy the spectacular view of the waterfront scenery. Some of the best walleye fishing in the state can be found in Storm Lake, and catfish comes in a close second. Sailing, water-skiing, and boating are also very popular. For more information visit the Storm Lake Chamber’s website at www.stormlakechamber.com.
Seven miles west of Aurelia, another opportunity for outdoor recreation is scenic Koser Spring Lake Park at Cherokee. Spring Lake is approximately 18 acres and is surrounded by a popular 1.1 mile blacktopped walking trail. Campsites with full trailer hookups are available as is the enclosed Yacht Club shelter. Fishing for pan fish, catfish, and bass is a favorite pastime. Boating is limited to paddle boats, row boats, canoes, or electric motors.
Appoximately 60 miles north of Aurelia, more opportunities exist in the Iowa Great Lakes region. Although smaller lakes are found in this region, the major ones are West Okoboji, East Okoboji, and Spirit Lake.
West Okoboji is Iowa's deepest natural lake at 136 feet and at 3,847 acres, second in size only to Spirit Lake. The lake's 39 feet mean depth is greater than most of Iowa's lake's maximum depth. There are no motor size restrictions with boat access provided at two locations on the lake. Access is also available from a East Okoboji. Besides being a great fishing lake it is also a true water playground with motor boating, water skiing, sailing, swimming and just about anything else you want to do in or on water.
There are 47 different species of fish in the lake with 11 of these species showing up in the creel. Species that make up the majority of the catch are yellow perch, bluegill and walleye. The lake also produces some excellent large and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskie, crappie and white bass fishing. West Okoboji holds more Iowa all-time big fish records than any other lake in the state.
East Okoboji is a 1,835 acre natural lake. A universally accessible fishing pier is located at the north end of the lake. The Elinor Bedell State Park provides shore fishing access, camping and day use facilities. There are three boat ramps on the lake, and access is also available from West Okoboji and Upper Gar Lake. There are no restrictions on boat or motor size.
Bullheads are king in this lake, with buckets full caught during their spring run. Besides bullheads, there are 37 species of fish present of which 10 species are annually creeled. The other species of fish caught include walleye, bluegill, channel catfish, and yellow perch. Northern pike, crappie, muskie and white bass are also caught in lesser numbers.
Spirit Lake is the furthest north member of Iowa's Great Lakes and at 5,684 acres it is Iowa's largest natural lake. Considering its size it is a fairly shallow lake with a maximum depth of 24 feet and a mean depth of 17 feet.
The lake contains some 40 species of fish with 13 of these typically caught. Most of the walleye and yellow perch fishing is done from boat or through the ice. Bullhead fishing is a land lover’s sport and during the spring run buckets full of bullheads are taken from shore. This diverse fishery also has some good fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskie, crappie, and bluegill. Spirit Lake holds all-time big fish records for freshwater drum and muskellunge.
For more information on the Iowa Great Lakes region, visit the Iowa Great Lakes website www.iowagreatlakes.com.