September 12, 2012

Des Moines’ Hidden Gem: Maffitt Reservoir Park

In 1935, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) started to consider storing Raccoon River water as an alternative water source when river levels were low.  Following substantial drought conditions in 1939 and 1940, DMWW identified a sight for construction of a reservoir.

In 1942, Neumann Brothers Construction of Des Moines received the bid and surveying and construction began immediately.  With the assistance of DMWW’s Grounds staff, Neumann completed construction of the lake and dam nearly a year and a half later.  It was named the Dale Maffitt Reservoir in honor of the then General Manager of Des Moines Water Works.  In 2000, DMWW began operating the L. D. McMullen Water Treatment Plant at Maffitt Reservoir in effort to produce enough water for Des Moines and surrounding areas’ growing population.

In addition to the land used for the lake itself, DMWW purchased hundreds of acres surrounding the lake, in an effort to protect the watershed and ultimately the drinking water to the best of its ability.  Today, Des Moines Water Works owns and maintains nearly 1,500 acres in and around the reservoir and river.

The park is a nature lovers dream. Fishing, picnicking, and hiking are favorite pastimes at Maffitt Reservoir. For the general public’s convenience, several docks that extend nearly 20 feet into the lake are located along the shore. A nature trail of approximately 4.5 miles leads hikers around the lake.

In 2001, DMWW constructed permanent restrooms, installed wild flower areas and seal coated the park roads.  Dale Maffitt Reservoir and Park is truly a hidden gem in the Des Moines area.

Maffitt Reservoir Park is located southwest of Des Moines – take Army Post Road west, across Interstate 35 and follow the signs.

Maffitt Reservoir Park hours are 7:00 am-8:00 pm (Standard Time) and 6:00 am-9:00 pm (Daylight Savings Time). For a complete list of park rules and regulations, visit

Photo by Christopher A. Knisley – Freelance Wildlife Photographer

Posted by: Scott Atzen 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in History, Maffitt Reservoir, Parks, Source Water

3 Responses to “Des Moines’ Hidden Gem: Maffitt Reservoir Park”

  1. September 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm, Jimmy Buffet said:

    I suggest the Waterworks allow canoes and kayaks on the lake.


  2. February 17, 2016 at 10:40 am, MIschelle said:

    Have enjoyed Maffitt Reservoir Park for years now. Am grateful for the new road surfacing but would add a suggestion. Walkers can no longer hear cars approaching from behind and the smoother surface seems to have prompted faster speeds in the park. Perhaps a few speed bumps would be in order for the safety of walkers?


    • February 17, 2016 at 11:33 am, Laura Sarcone said:

      Thank you for your suggestion. I forwarded it to our Facility Supervisor.


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