The Past, Present, And Mystery: Manhattan Beach Okoboji

Manhattan isn’t usually associated with Iowa. You’d probably think of the boroughs of New York at the mention of the name. But not many people know that Iowa also has a Manhattan of its own. But it’s not a buzzing metropolitan area like its counterpart. It comes as a beach along the shores of West Okoboji Lake. Manhattan Beach Okoboji has a storied past. It all started when D. B. Lyon, Esq. of Des Moine, thought of building a summer resort. So he bought a large tract of land in 1893. His joint stock company made the construction of this development. The project included the building of a bunch of cottages and a multi-purpose pavilion. The name change didn’t come along until the Ben Lennox steamer purchase and the “Manhattan” was rolled out. Several plans to profit from the train connections didn’t pan out, and the hotel was unfortunately sold.


Featured image for Manhattan Beach Okoboji
Credit: Image by Roberto Nickson | Unsplash

Present Accommodations in Manhattan

Manhattan Beach today is part of a network of beaches along the Okoboji shores. It’s ranked as one of the best beaches in the area by the website Resort And Lodges. They’ve described it as a “year-round family escape” for its various activities and amenities. The resort attached to the beach rents out their one to two-bedroom suites by the season. So guests have plenty of opportunities to maximize the waters. Boats are also available for rent, so families and friends can explore the rich marine life on the surrounding lakes. On lazy days, you can also sit back and fish. Anglers can find Walleyes, Bluegills, Perch, and Bass. You can then head to the open-pit grills to cook your day’s catch. But if you want to spend some time away from the water, amusement parks are just a few miles away, right across the lake. And when you get home, the children can continue playing in the playground. You can then rest in your air-conditioned suite.

Myth About Manhattan Beach

A persistent myth has circulated for almost a century that West Okoboji is among the only three bluewater lakes worldwide. The other lakes were identified as Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and Lake Louise in Canada. Different versions of this information have been published in the Des Moines Register and the Spencer Daily Reporter. This story has no scientific backing and likely originated with some early gimmicks to attract tourists to Dickinson County. But it still begs the question of how the rumor started and why the other two lakes are often dragged into this myth. There’s been a theory thrown around in the community, though. The founders of the study of North American limnology conducted studies in the early 20th century on numerous Midwest lakes, including East and West Okoboji. They made constant comparisons of measurements between Lake West Okoboji and Lake Geneva. These data could have been the origin of the association between the two lakes. People probably took this further, thinking this comparison was a great way to impress tourists and bring in more visitors.


Let’s steer away from conspiracies for a minute. Click the link to view newer Okoboji Developments you might be interested in:

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