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Posted on: December 8, 2021

Big Hollow Boat Ramp to be Renovated in Spring

Boat Ramp View - looking up

As soon as the weather allows it to happen this coming spring, the boat ramp at Big Hollow Recreation Area will be rebuilt. The project is expected to take a week or two and will prevent boat access to the lake during construction. 

Since the lake was built in 2008, the steepness of the boat ramp has been the number one complaint from boaters and anglers looking to recreate on the 178-acre lake. The slope, exceeding 18 percent on the bottom half, was just too much for some visitors. Generally, boat ramps such as those found at state parks, are built with 12-15 percent slopes. The reconstruction of the Big Hollow ramp will reduce its slope to about 15 percent. 

"Three percent doesn't seem like much when you look at it on the engineer drawings," said Chris Lee, Des Moines County Conservation Executive Director. "But it will make a significant difference."

The ramp will be rebuilt with a single slope from the water to the parking area and will be made about ten feet longer. The project is slated to begin as soon as weather conditions allow for concrete to be poured. While the site is under construction, there will be no boat access to the lake as Big Hollow only has the one ramp. 

The roughly $40,000 project was made possible by two private donations totaling $10,000 which were used as match for a Water Recreation Access Cost-Share Grant. Administered by the Iowa DNR, the Water Recreation Grant program is funded by taxes collected on marine fuel. 

The boat ramp reconstruction project is the first of multiple projects the conservation department expects to complete in 2022 as part of the new park master plan that was recently developed for Big Hollow. The plan identifies several million dollars worth of park improvements that will be implemented over the next several years such as road paving, improved lake accesses and trails, an expanded campground, lakefront cabins, and eventually, a new park headquarters and outdoor education facility at the park's entrance. 

"This project is a perfect example of how private donations really make big projects possible," said Lee. "We were able to leverage these donations three-to-one. That's not uncommon for park and conservation projects. The grants are there, but most require a match. That's where private fundraising comes in. When we have the seed money, we can make big things happen."

For more information, or to contribute to future park developments, contact Des Moines County Conservation at (319) 753-8260 or via email at

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