Iowa is a state with a lot to offer. The state has the world’s curviest road called Snake Alley in Burlington, Iowa, with two complete back-to-back ‘S’ curves. The state also plays home to the most prominent Danish settlement in the U.S., in Elk Horn, Iowa. Boasting a rich history and perplexing roads like Snake Alley, I thought I’d look a little deeper into the state’s potential for metal detecting.
Iowa has a rich cultural history and many stories of gold, hidden treasure, stolen loot caches, and historical treasures. The combination makes Iowa a potent target for many a metal detectorist.
While traversing the United States on our adventures, I planned out a route to take the family through a series of seven of the state’s parks. Some of these parks allowed us to camp, park the RV, and all of the parks allowed metal detection at the time of writing. Note the laws for metal detecting in Iowa; however, you’ll find them after we talk about my seven favorite state parks in Iowa to metal detect.
1. Lake of Three Fires State Park – Equestrian Activities & Camping Fun!
We traveled through Bedford, Iowa, and decided we wanted to rent a cabin for a night. Well, as luck would have it, there was one available at Lake of Three Fires State Park. My family knew I’d be off to the beach with my metal detector, but there was plenty of activities in the park for my family to enjoy. My kids love horses, so they were in heaven when they found out about the potential for equestrian activities at the park.
There is much more than just staying in a cabin and doing some equestrian activities at Lake of Three Fires. Some of the great things you can do at this park are:
- Boating (they have two ramps)
- Camping (2 campgrounds on site)
- Playground for the youngsters in your group
Here’s how to find the Lake of Three Fires State Park – https://goo.gl/maps/NUfpq8ejk95G7giJ7
I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.
- My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
- I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
- When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
- Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.
2. Lake Macbride State Park – Paddlesports And Metal Detecting Adventures!
I haven’t had as much fun as I had at Lake Macbride in some time. The park is stunning, scenic, and family-friendly. Lake Macbride boasts some incredible trails that span quite a distance as they wind their way through the forests surrounding the lake.
Here are some of the park’s highlights:
- RV Campsites
- Boat rental
- Paddlesport rental
- Swimming beach
- Boat ramps (7)
- Firewood and ice sales on site
You can find this incredible park here – https://goo.gl/maps/MZfKvwBTzQEnCXZPA
3. Lake Keomah State Park – Beach and Camping!
Lake Keomah is another of Iowa’s state parks that I had to include on our travels. The park has a scenic beach, offers a couple of boat ramps and plenty of campsites, so you’ve got somewhere to spend the night. That is, as long as you book the site in advance, these days, it can get booked up fast.
Here are a few of the park’s amenities and activities:
- Swimming (beach)
- Boating (2 ramps)
- Hiking trails
You can find the Lake Keomah State Park here – https://goo.gl/maps/fLKMp6FhHAHGQDnT9
4. Lake Anita State Park – Newer Park with New Adventures!
You can find over 5 miles of hiking and biking trails at Lake Anita. The trails are beautiful with plenty of wildlife, not necessarily what you would think I would lead with when talking about a state park with a name like Lake Anita. However, the beautiful trails stood out in my memory when my family and I went for a hike after I finished the morning metal detecting on the beach.
Here are some of the park’s activities and amenities:
- Swimming beach
You can find the Lost Dutchman State Park here – https://goo.gl/maps/hxbDZjsNt3r6YSUW8
Are you looking for MORE Places to Metal Detect in the Mid-West U.S.A? READ BELOW
- 15 Places to Metal Detect in Michigan – Amazing coin shooting on the beach!
- The Best 15 Places to Metal Detect in Ohio – Discover some incredible history!
- 7 Places to Metal Detect and Find Treasure in Indiana – Digging treasure was never easier!
- 11 Places to Metal Detect in KANSAS – Swim and find TREASURE!
- 15 Places to Metal Detect in Wisconsin – Wilderness Relics!
5. Lake Wapello State Park – One of the Best Beaches in Iowa!
Traveling through Drakesville, Iowa, we couldn’t resist but book a night at one of the 13 cabins available at Lake Wapello. After all, they have one of the best beaches in all of Iowa. One of the backup plans we had was to stay at one of the park’s 15 full hook-up sites, but my wife was happy to get a cabin instead. Some days you just want to do a proper room instead of the RV, you know?
Lake Wapello has a variety of things to do and make use of, including:
- Hiking trails
- Boat ramp
- Swimming beach
- Fish cleaning station
- Modern restroom and showers
Metal Detecting Tip: Keeping a journal of your equipment isn’t a bad idea. It might seem silly, but what happens that one time you are distracted and either leave a tool behind or forget to bring one with you on your adventures. Digging up coins or other items with your bare hands because your shovel is at home in the garage can be pretty discouraging. For more great tips on detecting and more, read this article: https://metaldetectingtips.com/metal-detecting-tips/
6. Lake Manawa State Park – One of Western Iowa’s Premier Parks!
In 2018 the state park Lake Manawa went through a massive facelift. The park had a Dream Playground constructed that my kids had to be pulled out of kicking and screaming. It is a child’s playground dreams come true, and it’s massive. It will keep the kids busy while you’re on the beach metal detecting.
Lake Manawa boasts amenities like a volleyball court, hiking trails, boat and paddlesport rentals, a fishing pier, and jetty, and more. It’s worth visiting if you are near Council Bluffs, Iowa.
7. Lake Darling State Park – A Darling Place to Visit!
Lake Darling is another great park in Iowa that features cabins, full hook-up campsites, and a swimming beach where you can metal detect. The park offers lots of other activities and amenities such as fishing, hiking, a playground, and boat rentals. You can even rent paddlesport equipment if you are so inclined. The park is usually busy, which is great for your chances of finding lost treasures on the beach.
Metal Detecting Laws for Iowa
Iowa State Parks
Iowa State Parks are your best bet for legal metal detecting. However, the parks come with a few regulations that must be adhered to within the state. The use of metal detectors is prohibited within the park except where these regulations alter its allowance. Read more about Iowa laws HERE.
- May 22nd to September 7th: Designated beach areas allowed between 4:00 am to 11:00 am each day.
- September 8th to May 21st: Designated beach areas allowed between 4:00 am to 10:30 pm, each day.
- Drained lakes are allowed but only after a survey is completed for archaeological and historic resources and items. Check with the park to ensure these were complete before you enter the area with a metal detector.
Digging Tools Allowed:
A digging probe no more than 12” long, 1” wide, and ¼” thick dimensions. In other words, a good screwdriver is about as big as you are allowed for digging tools. You can also use a sand scoop or sieve that is less than 10” in diameter.
Digging and metal detecting go hand-in-hand. Read about the different digging implements in this article: Selecting a Digging Tools to Metal Detect
Iowa State National Forests
Only permitted with a special permit from the US Forest Service. Typically only awarded to surveyors for mining, environmental studies, et cetera.
Quick Law Recap:
- National Forests: Permit required from US Forest Service
- National Parks in Iowa: Not permitted.
- Iowa State Parks: Metal detecting is permitted in specific areas with conditions. See the Iowa State Parks PDF for more info here.
Metal Detecting Clubs in Iowa
There do not currently appear to be any active metal detecting clubs in Iowa. However, I was able to find a couple of active groups on Facebook.
- Central Iowa Metal Detectives – Des Moines, Iowa – This Facebook group boasts 936 members in writing. They don’t appear to have a website but are active. The group was started in May of 2013.
- Metal Detecting U.S. Only – United States – This Facebook group boasts 24.9k members and appears to be active. The group was started in May of 2013.
Metal Detecting Tip: A part of being a great treasure hunter is respectful of the environment. That means if you find trash, put it in its proper place, ergo dispose of it properly. Don’t be a re-litter bug and simple toss or re-bury found debris. Hold yourself to a higher standard and clean up any junk you see on your treasure hunt. For more great tips, take a look at this article: https://metaldetectingtips.com/metal-detecting-tips/
Metal Detecting Treasures Found in Iowa
Iowa has a history of historic robberies, loot caches, hidden treasures, and gold. There is no shortage of valuable things being found day in and day out. One such find was in Melvin, Iowa, in a small town filled with serenity and community.
One member of the community, Dan Spengler, was out with his metal detector when he got a pretty decent signal. Dan had done his homework, using old photos of the town from a century before. He pieced together that the townfolk used to hang on at a particular farm, given there were no official parks in the area back in those days. Dan went on an adventure and got permission from the farm’s current owner, and the detector started going off.
Dan had found coins, jewelry, and other items all dating back a century or so. The farm turned into Dan’s cache of the past and it’s been a great destination for him to return and find more and more items as the years slowly churn the soils beneath, revealing new treasures.
Read the full story here – https://www.weareiowa.com/article/news/local/man-uses-metal-detector-to-uncover-historical-objects-left-buried-in-the-ground-over-a-centruy-agi-on-family-farm/524-c06e6f9b-f7d7-44fb-905a-9eb6dccfb196
Metal Detecting Resources in Iowa
- MDHTALK forum has a decent page with links to the various locations you can find information on the laws for metal detecting within the state. – http://www.mdhtalk.org/cf/city-regulation.cfm?st=IA
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources – State Parks Rules Pamphlet (PDF) – https://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/parks/park_regs.pdf
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources – List of all State Parks – https://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Iowa-State-Parks
Metal Detector Stores in Iowa For Expert Advice
- K&S Detector Sales – Waterloo, IA – http://knsdetectorsales.atspace.com/
- Hobby Haven – Urbandale, IA – https://www.hobbyhaven.com/misc/metal.html
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.