Saylorville Lake


Natural Resource Management

   The Saylorville Lake Project encompasses 26,000+ acres of land and water along the Des Moines River corridor. This land is collectively managed with multiple state agencies including the Iowa DNR and Polk County Conservation. Through cooperative efforts, the Saylorville Lake Natural Resource Team and its state partners have restored and maintained this public land for multiple user groups to enjoy now and in the future. The majority of visitation to Saylorville Lake is for the extensive day use opportunities provided including: hiking, biking, bird watching, hunting, and fishing.


    Iowa is a state of altered landscapes with only less than 1% of its original habitat remaining. The state is known for its agriculture and has very little public lands. That is why it is so important to restore and maintain the small pieces of native ecosystems that remain. The Saylorville Lake Project contains hundreds of acres of restored tall grass prairie and oak savanna habitat. These areas are essential to the perseveration of local flora and fauna. Restoration sites also provide an outdoor classroom for students ranging from elementary school to college classes. An opportunity to study native species, restoration techniques, and glance into Iowa’s past.


    Forestry at Saylorville Lake is not focused on timber sales but on timber stand improvements and reforestation efforts. The natural resource department has planted hundreds of acres of trees throughout the river corridor in an effort to encourage native forest ecotypes at a variety of sites. Tree plantings range from direct seeding projects to the planting of two year old container trees. These efforts generally take place in old agricultural fields that are no longer in use and in danger of being overtaken by invasive and undesirable species. Forest plantings provide critical habitat for many wildlife species and once trees mature they will supply a large food source.


     What is a prescribed burn? A prescribed burn is a planned fire, conducted by trained professionals, used to achieve specific natural resource objectives. Many types of plants and wildlife need fire to survive.  Periodic fire stimulates growth, helps reproduction of plants, provides wildlife habitat, and ensures healthier natural areas around the lake. Safety is the number one concern during all prescribed burns. Well before a match is struck, the fire team considers the safety of people, property, and the natural areas they are managing. The natural resource managers with the US Army Corps of Engineers conduct prescribed burns for a number of reasons. Prescribed burns help to reduce the hazardous buildup of vegetation, known as fuel, which if left unchecked could lead to a devastating wildfire that would threaten the local communities. Furthermore, many plant and animal species need fire to thrive. Prescribed burns can help reduce competition, release seeds, add precious nutrients into the soil, and promotes beneficial plant species that attract wildlife. Prescribed burns also play a large role in forest management where they are used for understory control, disease containment, and site preparation.

Free Firewood Permit Program

Saylorville Lake offers a free firewood program for excess wood we have from completing timber stand improvements and removal of hazard trees. Collection for firewood is for personal use only.

If you are interested in obtaining a free permit to collect firewood, please contact the Saylorville Lake Administration Office, at 515-276-4656. Monday through Friday, anytime from 8am to 4pm.