Editor's note: This is the 17th in a 10-week series, "50 Ways to Say Muscatine," that will look at the people, places and things that tell the tale of the Pearl City. Today's topic: Deep Lakes Park.
MUSCATINE, Iowa — Deep Lakes Park used to be known as the "gravel pits." Now it's known as one of the area's most popular destinations for fishers.
The 435 acres of land were donated by W. G. Block Co. to the Muscatine County Conservation Board in 2013 and have since become a popular spot for fishing. Its 17 lakes and ponds cover about 140 acres. The former gravel pits are located between 41st and 57th streets, Stewart Road and Pettibone Avenue. There are four parking entries: At 57th St. by Lake Jewel, Pettibone Ave. by Lake Chester, 41st Street by Ray's Pond, and 41st Street by Belle's Pond.
In addition to the fishing, The Muscatine County Conservation Board has offered canoe, kayak and fishing classes at the lakes. Although the park has only been open for recreational fishing since April 2013, Muscatine County naturalist Dave Bakke said the lakes have become the most popular park in the area for fisherman. Just this week, the lake was stocked with more than 1,500 channel catfish, which should reach 10 inches in length by summer.
While Saulsbury Bridge Recreation Area is the largest county recreational area at 674 acres, Deep Lakes Park — when completed — will be the most developed.
Under a proposed plan that was floated last year, the park could one day have cabins, a campground, picnic areas, a play area for children, a half- or three-quarter-mile paved trail along with several miles of trails covered with gravel or shredded wood, two boat ramps, an overlook, a swimming beach, at least eight parking lots, a shelter — and a unique system of signs.
Until then, smaller projects are already being undertaken. This fall, area Eagle Scouts are helping to wrap cottonwood trees to protect against beavers, create more fish habitats and develop portage trails. Maps of water depths and topography are also in the works. Larger projects, such as a swimming beach and handicap fishing dock, will hopefully be available in the next two years. Eventually, the park will have a maintenance building, cabins, modern campgrounds and restrooms, trails and the silos will be removed.
And just how deep are lakes are Deep Lakes Park? Bakke said that while most areas have not yet been mapped, deeper areas of Lake Chester have been measured 30 to 40 feet deep.
As for the names of the lakes, some of the came naturally, such as Goose Pond, Hidden Pond, Deer Lake, Beaver Pond and others. But some of them, such as Lake Patricia and Lake Chester, took their name from family members of Chris Rayburn, president of the W.G. Block Co.
In fact you could say that some of those lakes are like a chip off the old block.