Rathbun Lake










Rathbun Lake

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Rathbun Lake was dedicated July 31, 1971 with President Richard Nixon being the keynote speaker. Iowa Governor Robert Ray, Senator Jack Miller and Congressman John Kyl also attended the dedication.

The construction of Rathbun Dam and Reservoir was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1954 (Public Law 83-780). Construction of the dam and embankment began in September 1964. Operation as a multi-purpose unit began November 1969 and the top of multi-purpose pool (904 msl) was reached on October 10, 1970.

Rathbun Lake Pioneers (people who were dedicated in establishing Rathbun Dam) are honored north of the Rathbun Lake Visitor Center with stone markers and trees.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the responsibility for managing the 55 square miles of land and water at Rathbun Lake.

Lands around the lake are managed by the Corps of Engineers to preserve their natural value. Land management practices such as prairie restoration, prescribed burning and tree planting help conserve soil and benefit wildlife.

Rathbun Lake provides flood protection for 149,300 acres of land along the Chariton River downstream from the dam and is part of a network of Corps Lakes that help control flooding on the Missouri and Mississippi River.


Rathbun Lake was constructed and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Located at Chariton River mile marker 142, approximately 7 miles north of Centerville Iowa, in Appanoose County, it is one of the largest lakes in Iowa. The lake was constructed to control flooding, provide recreation opportunities, abate stream pollution, fish and wildlife enhancement, and maintain minimum stream flow on the Chariton, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers.

The Chariton and South Fork of the Chariton River are the major sources of water flowing into Rathbun Lake. The Chariton River Basin drains a total or 2,309 square miles, of which 549 square miles are located above the dam. The basin runs generally from north to south. The drainage area has a maximum width of 25 miles and an average width of 12 miles. Rathbun Lake has a flood control pool of 20,948 surface acres and a multipurpose pool of 11,013 surface acres. Rathbun Lake averages about one mile in width and has 155 miles of shoreline at the top of multipurpose pool elevation. At full pool elevation, the lake has 319 miles of shoreline and extends generally westward a distance of about 21 miles into Lucas, Wayne, and Monroe Counties.

The dam consists of a rolled earthfill embankment with an uncontrolled spillway located approximately 3,000 feet westward of the right abutment. Discharges enter a concrete stilling basin.


Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(R) website





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