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Lake Information for Saylorville Lake


Saylorville Lake is a man-made reservoir on the Des Moines River in Iowa. It is located 11 miles (18 km) upstream from the city of Des Moines, and 214 miles (344 km) from the mouth of the Des Moines River at the Mississippi River. It was constructed as part of a flood control system for the Des Moines River as well as to aid in controlling flood crests on the Mississippi, of which the Des Moines is a tributary.

At its normal level of 836 feet (255 m) above sea level, Saylorville Lake covers an area of 5,950 acres (24 km2) or 9.3 square miles (24.1 km2) and reaches some 17 miles (27 km) upstream. At full flood stage the lake can reach 16,700 acres (68 km2) or 26.1 square miles (67.6 km2) and reach 54 miles (87 km) long. At this point any further flow into the lake is channelled over an emergency spillway to the west of the main dam structure. The record high stage for the reservoir was 892.03 feet (271.89 m) above sea level set on July 11, 1993 during the Great Flood of 1993.

Construction of the Saylorville Dam was authorized by Congress in 1958. Excavation began at the site in July 1965, becoming fully operational in September 1977. The dam itself is 6,750 feet (2,057 m) long, 105 feet (32 m) tall, and 44 feet (13 m) wide at the top.

The lake is utilized for many recreational activities in the central Iowa area as well, as there is a large state park infrastructure surrounding the area of the lake, notably Jester Park and Big Creek State Park. Boating and swimming are very popular here, as are camping, deer and game bird hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and disc golf. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 4 provides boating safety education and free vessel safety checks to boaters in the area.

Fishing Description: 

Major species include bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass, walleye, and white bass.

Fishing Tips, Tactics, How-To info: 

Saylorville Lake has channel cats up to 20 pounds and largemouth bass over 5 pounds.

Saylorville has excellent numbers of 16 to 17-inch white bass, willing to hit any shad-like spoon. Watch for shad busting the water surface—chances are white bass or wipers are in pursuit. If shad are not jumping, look for humps or structure rising above water as places to hold fish.

Channel Catfish
Largemouth Bass
White Bass
Optional Information
Maximum depth: 
Surface area: 
Saylorville Lake
Lake type: 

Businesses Located Nearby

Bait & Tackle

    Polk City Bait & Tackle
  • 301 Walnut St - Polk City, IA
  • (515) 984-6711
    Johnston Bait & Tackle
  • 6148 Merle Hay Rd - Johnston, IA
  • (515) 254-1976

Boat Rental

    Ahquabi Boat Rental & Bait
  • 16510 118th Ave - Indianola, IA
  • (515) 962-0013
    Lakeside Performance Marine
  • 800 E Southside Dr - Polk City, IA
  • (515) 984-7055

Vacation Rental

Bar and Restaurant

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