Hickory Grove Lake Restoration

The lake is currently partially drawn down. 

The interior of Hickory Grove Park, including some facilities, will be closed to allow large machinery to work safely. Camping will be available only between Thursday, May 23 - Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at the Breezy Bay and Primitive campgrounds. Shelter rental are only available at Snow Bunting Lodge, although the stairs and lake access will be closed off. 

The overall goal of this restoration project is to improve water quality and recreational opportunities at the lake and remove the lake from the Impaired Waters List. Construction will include in-park watershed improvements to stabilize areas that are actively eroding within the park and rehabilitation of existing sediment catch basins to prevent nutrient and sediment pollution from entering the lake. Planned in-lake restoration work includes the removal of excess sediment from arms of the lake, shoreline stabilization, fish habitat improvements, and updating the lake’s outlet infrastructure. A partial lake drawdown began August 6, 2018 and the entire restoration will likely be completed in the next 2-4 years. The south boat ramp will remain open for medium-sized boats throughout the partial drawdown period. Click here to view a tentative timeline

The most notable amenity changes include a foot bridge to the island. Expanded truck and boat trailer parking will be added at both boat ramps. The north ramp will not have room for two trucks and trailers to back in at one time and will also have two separate docks to ease boat traffic. Large fishing jetties will be added to the southwest corner of the lake. The east lake and portions of the main lake will be mechanically dredged, and the fishery will be renovated. Fish will thrive with added habitat. Rock piles, reefs, structure, and lake-edge benches will be added throughout the 98-acre lake. The current timeline shows construction beginning winter 2019 with the lake refilling in the spring of 2020. Timing of the closer to lake access will be announced as construction begins. 

View the restoration plan.

The following temporary regulations are in effect for Hickory Grove Lake:

Anglers with a valid fishing license will be allowed to harvest any size or number of all fish species from Hickory Grove Lake. Any number of fishing poles or jug fishing will be allowed. Anglers must remain in sight of these lines at all times and follow all fishing regulations and area rules. Trot lines will be allowed (name and address must be attached); however, lines may not be set across the entire water body. Nets, dynamite, poison, electric shocking devices, or any stupefying substances will not be allowed. It is illegal to sell fish or to stock captured fish into public waters. Normal park hours of 5:00am until 10:30pm will remain in effect. Liberalized fishing regulations for Hickory Grove Lake will remain in effect until in-lake construction begins.

If you are interested in receiving quarterly updates on this project, subscribe to blog postings here. Updates will include photos, maps, updated fishery information, and more specific details on what, where, and why the work is happening.


Hickory Grove Lake is a 100-acre constructed lake in Story County, Iowa, with a lake to watershed ratio of 40:1. In recent years, the lake has experienced a number of rain event-driven water quality problems that are negatively affecting this resource. Sedimentation in arms of the lake has impacted recreation and surface run-off has led to gully erosion, debris, and nitrogen spikes in samples collected from the watershed.  Additionally, the beach at the lake has been listed as impaired due to high concentrations of indicator bacteria. While the fishery remains relatively healthy, carp have limited vegetation in the lake.  Aquatic vegetation is important fish habitat and helps keep water clear by removing nutrients from the water column and minimizing sediment re-suspension due to wind and wave action in nearshore areas.

Starting in 2008, a watershed technical advisory team was formed to discuss water quality improvement efforts at the lake. The NRCS received a development grant in 2008 to determine critical areas within the watershed for restoration and complete a land use assessment. In 2011, Iowa State University also received a planning grant to develop a watershed management plan for Hickory Grove Lake. This plan outlined strategies for managing bacteria levels at the beach and included recommendations for goose control, lake draw-down, sediment removal and a fishery renovation. View the Hickory Grove Lake Action Plan here (PDF). 

Watershed Improvements

SCC received a WIRB grant and partnered with DNR Lake Restoration to complete a livestock exclusion project and streambank stabilization project on the main tributary of the lake. The project was completed in 2016 and helped minimize new sediment and nutrients being delivered to the lake.


In summer 2016, DNR and SCC worked to complete a preliminary assessment of the park grounds to determine where additional practices could be placed to mitigate gully erosion in the park and improve existing sediment ponds in the park. Currently, DNR Engineering is designing elements of the project for completion in the 2017 construction season. Included in the project plan are BMPs to address critical gullies in the park, as well as improvements to the wetland located at the upper end of the lake.

Additionally, the County provided a cost-share program for watershed residents in need of updated septic systems. All unpermitted systems in the watershed have been improved to reduce nutrients delivered to the lake.