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Fish, Swans and Bison – Oh, my!
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Fish, Swans and Bison – Oh, my!

Swan Lake State Park, located a couple of miles south of Carroll, is a well-maintained park consisting of 510 acres, including a 110-acre lake stocked with catfish, crappies, bluegill and largemouth bass.

There’s even a fish house built on piers extending out from the shoreline. You can cast your line from the wraparound deck—or through a hole in the floor inside the house in bad weather. Too bad we didn't bring our rods and a few night crawlers!

Up the road in the park is an enclosure where a pair of trumpeter swans is kept as part of a breeding program to help rebuild the once nearly extinct population of these magnificent birds. They’re the largest waterfowl in North America, with a wingspan of as much as eight feet.

Nearby is a 1920s farmstead that’s now a museum of the area’s agricultural heritage.

But the thing we found most impressive was the park’s Education Center—one of the best we've seen as we've traveled around the state. Kudos to the Carroll County Conservation Board and the folks who work there.

There’s a full-mount American bison on display, as well as mounts of many smaller animals common to the area. Exhibits and timelines tell the story of how the Iowa landscape has changed from the early 1800s, when it was mostly tallgrass prairie and wetlands.

If you’re a hiker or a cyclist, there’s a 33-mile Sauk Rail Trail that connects Swan Lake with Blackhawk Lake to the north at Lake View.

With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day at Swan Lake.


This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine and has been reprinted here with permission. Learn more about the publication by visiting

*Photo: Swan Lake Fish House submitted by Our Iowa Magazine.

More about State, Park, Swan, Lake, Carroll, Iowa, Museum

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