Off the Beaten Path – the Lost Towns under Lake Red Rock, Iowa

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If you are up for a fascinating and chilling read you would be interested to hear about the Lost Towns of Red Rock which is about 20 minutes from where I now live in Iowa. I will give you the condensed version and show you some incredible photos I took this morning to go along with this chilling tale.

Lake Red Rock, now the largest lake in Iowa, once had six towns there….that are still there today….under the lake. What you see here is all that is left of the town of Fifield. The lost town of Cordova is not too far away. We were out for a drive this morning and saw this dirt road that appeared to end into Lake Red Rock so we pulled over and walked down the road. We noticed that seagulls seemed to be just standing on top of the water. That’s when we realized we had found one of the lost towns.

Back in the mid 1900’s a dam was created to help re-route river waters back to neighboring towns. Things went wrong, the river flooded too fast and 6 towns were lost forever.

The dirt road that we walked down on took us to what was left of a road in one of these lost towns.

If you look carefully out over the water you can see something sticking up in a few places. Whether it’s just debris or remnants of the old town I don’t know. Someone in the area had told me it was pieces sticking off of the tops of buildings but I’m not sure if that’s true.

It was a bit eerie but an interesting history lesson for our kids to learn this morning.

What made it even more eerie is that we had incredibly dense fog which blocked most things from our vision.

This is on the same bridge that I pictured above covered by fog. It was so weird to drive on it. We couldn’t see where the road was going and there was no one around.

So if you’re up for a good read and an interesting history lesson you should read the brochure from Marion County about the 6 lost towns under Lake Red Rock. The brochure is informative but not extensive. I would love to learn more about this tragedy and scout out the areas of the lost towns!


  1. Julia White says

    This is a really interesting article. I traveled through this area today on my way home (south of Ottumwa) from Ames. I teach Iowa History to sixth graders at Cardinal Community Schools,and I will be sure to share this article and pictures with them. They will love it! Living in southern Iowa my entire life, I’ve heard stories of this, but never seen the brochure. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Christopher Scholl says

    The town of Red Rock Iowa now Long forgotten and often out of veiw as it sits under the muddy water. Back in late 2009, I was on my way north from Corydon, and came over the long bridge, Rivers were very low then, you could see the old main road going down to town to the broken concrete road once Main Street to Red Rock. At the time you were able to cross the small bridge which looked to have fair well over the years of being submerged, beyond that as you would have been going to what i assume is down town, youll cross a rail raod crossing, see a few foundations from old building and continue straight back into the river. Its really pretty cool and useto have sever pictures. Its rare for the water to get low enough that you would be able to actaully walk the main streets of the old town, which several were doing when they had the chance. If I can find the pictures id love to share them, it was just unreal how the town basically got swallowed up nearly over night after the dam redirected waters.

  3. Treasa Cooney-Lizotte says

    I was just talking today with my dad about Red Rock the town. My mother was born and raised in the area near Red Rock. He has the brochure with the lost towns. I noticed a book written by Grace Karr called The Best of Grace Karr’s Cordova News. That’s how I found this sight of yours. My moms maiden name is Karr. I found your pictures very interesting. I plan on taking my dad out to see some of those old roads. I think it will bring back a lot of memories and some good stories. Today he told me about a man called The River Rat. If you know of any books with pictures and stories about that area lost under water please let me know. Thank You

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