Pine Lake State Park was established in part to preserve a tract of old growth white pine trees growing unusually far south along the Iowa River.
In 2009, a massive storm with softball-sized hail and 100 mph winds tore through the park and stripped every tree of its leaves in a matter of minutes. The deciduous trees survived, but the storm ultimately wiped out the majority of white pines in the park, upwards of 85%. These pines happen to be a very rare population pocket of "southern" white pines, as well as the park's namesake. Today, visitors see standing snag pines, which, in even death, provide home, food, and perch to many bird and mammal populations.
"..What does Pine Lake do for us? She embraces our family and friends as we celebrate time together. Her majestic trees and soothing waters give us peace in a hectic world. She nurtures our bodies with scenic trails for exercise and inspiring views for rest. She gives us quiet paths and peaceful shores for reflection and prayer. She restores our minds, bodies, and souls. Pine Lake gives us so much. She is a special place and we love her dearly. Because of all she does for us, we dedicate this book to our beautiful friend, Pine Lake State Park." - Pine Lake State Park archive, Eldora, Iowa
Much of Pine Lake State Park, including the second lake, cabins, shelters, was built by 250 Civilian Conservation Corps workers from 1933 to 1943.
A brief history reminder: the CCC was started by FDR in 1933 as an antidote to the millions of young men unemployed by the decrease in farming jobs and later by the Great Depression. Men earned $30/week, were provided 3 meals a day, and were housed in camps across the country to work on government land and government-only projects, so as not to interfere with the private sector.
A CCC camp (which was transformed in 2012 into a CCC Museum by a 16-year high school girl and included on the Historic Registry a mere four years later, but that’s another story) was located in Eldora. CCC labor transformed this park, and parks across Iowa and the nation. Millions of acres of land preserved, and the beloved Appalachian Trail improved and completed. Annual park visitors tripled from 1 to 3 million a year, mainly due to increased access roads and more amenities built by the men, such as picnic shelters, docks, and cabins. The legacy of this program is in every corner of the US, and is often unnoticed by us, as it’s become such a part of our cultural landscape.