Warm up to Winter
Iowa’s newest resort joins several Midwestern state park
lodges and cabins that are perfect for cozy winter escapes.
B y D e n n i s R . H e i n z e
W When you turn off the road at the entrance to the new Honey
Creek Resort in south-central Iowa, the resort is nowhere in sight.
You meander up and down hills as you pass meadows, wetlands
and quiet stands of oak and maple trees before finally arriving at
the sprawling resort nestled along the shores of Rathbun Lake.
It’s as if the long entryway was designed to emphasize your sep-
aration from the highway, the rest of the world and the pull of your
Settling into the resort for a winter retreat, it’s easy to forget
your cares amid the warm decor and even warmer fireplaces.
cedar timbers, richly stained wood and gleaming glass. In the lobby,
a massive mosaic fireplace rises 60 feet to the roof, and guests can
enjoy the warmth of the fire from overstuffed arts-and-crafts chairs.
The resort itself rises only three stories, so it virtually hugs the
landscape that gently slopes to Rathbun Lake, the second-largest
lake in Iowa at 11,000 acres. The lake was formed in 1969 when the
Chariton River was dammed for flood control, and the state park
opened along the lake’s shores. Almost immediately, state officials
Honey Creek Resort State Park is the latest to join state parks in
Missouri, Indiana and Illinois in offering lodge and cabin accommo-
dations, some of which date to the 1930s and were beautifully craft-
ed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
While these resorts are popular year-round, they are particular-
ly appealing in the winter when their natural charms virtually glow.
Some rustic and others refined, these destinations exude a comfort-
able and relaxing atmosphere that envelopes visitors when the
weather turns cold. During the day you can hike snow-covered
trails or go antiquing at area towns and then return to the lodge or
cabin for a hearty meal and finally to slip snugly under the covers.
You won’t have to venture far from home to find these serene
getaways. Winter can be long and tiresome, but a stay at one of the
following destinations will recharge your batteries long enough to
get you to spring.
INSPIRED IN IOWA
Tucked amid rolling hills and small towns, Honey Creek Resort
became Iowa’s first destination resort state park when it opened
about a year ago not far from the Missouri border. The distinctive
lakeside lodge’s design impresses with a wonderful mix of stone,
Top: Hikers enjoy a brisk winter’s day at Indiana’s Brown County
State Park. Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau photo
Right: The new Honey Creek Resort in south-central Iowa has a
sprawling 105-room lodge and 28 cabins (inset) spread around
the grounds of the state park. Dennis R. Heinze photos
envisioned a resort to attract guests who didn’t want to camp. Resort, guests can rent a variety of watercraft, including canoes,
Across the bay from the existing state park, the Department of kayaks, pontoon boats and power boats. A sand swimming beach is
Natural Resources purchased more property in the 1970s and being developed at the resort and will be open in the spring.
leased additional land from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Although it’s too cold to fully appreciate the lake in winter, visi-
resort, located on 850 acres. In addition to 105 rooms in the lodge, tors can still have some water fun. Families will enjoy the
there are 28 cabins around the property ranging from one-bedroom Buccaneer Bay Indoor Water Park in the lodge, to which guests
to four-bedroom models, and each is furnished with arts-and-crafts receive free access. Children can float on the relaxing lazy river, slip
decor. They all have kitchens, gas fireplaces, decks and picnic down the body slide, splash under a watery geiser or stand guard
tables, and if you can’t live without technology, there are flatscreen on the interactive pirate ship.
televisions and wireless Internet access in each. The resort also has a championship 18-hole golf course, The
Before construction began on the resort just west of the town of Preserve, on the property. To provide guests with even more to do,
Moravia about three years ago, Park Manager Mike Godby began the Department of Natural Resources offers interpretive programs
building nearly four miles of nature trails around the resort proper- and activities, including guided hikes, cooking classes, bonfires,
ty, which features a diverse array of habitats and wildlife. Hikers craft workshops and more. If all of the activities give you an
might spot a whitetail deer in the forest or a great white egret wad- appetite, the resort’s Rathbun Lakeshore Grille serves up classic
ing in the lake. American fare, with choices ranging from an applewood smoked
“Some parks are created around woodlands, prairies or lakes. turkey sandwich to pesto-crusted walleye.
Here at Honey Creek Resort State Park, we have it all,” Godby said. If you feel like venturing away from the resort, there are several
“This allows for the survival of many different species of plants, small towns around the lake for shopping and dining. Just north of
insects, snakes, mammals and more. The lake attracts many migra- the resort on state Route 5 is Albia, whose town square circling the
tory birds in spring and fall. All of these things together make it stately Monroe County Courthouse is a National Register Historic
interesting because there is always something to see.” District. A collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century buildings now
The lake is popular among anglers for crappie, walleye and house shops and restaurants, including an old-time soda fountain.
channel catfish, and visitors can tour the Rathbun Fish Hatchery About 10 miles south of the resort is Centerville, which features
nearby to learn how it produces more than an even larger town square with
50 million fish for stocking rivers and reser- 119 buildings on the National
voirs statewide. Apart from fishing, others Register of Historic Places. In addi-
use the lake for sailboating, skiing and tion to shopping around the
sightseeing. From a marina at Honey Creek square, there are two other choices
about a block away. The Columns
is a restored 1880s white-columned
mansion that is filled with
antiques, gifts and decorative
items for sale. The Shoppes at
Bradley Hall is a three-story,
10,000-square-foot mansion built in
1909 that is brimming from top to
bottom with thousands of antiques, gifts
and home decor items from more than