Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The high life on Honey Creek
The new Honey Creek Resort on the north shore of Lake Rathbun opened its doors over the weekend and I went down Monday (kind of a gray day) to nose around. Wow! If state legislators (via the Department of Natural Resources, which owns the resort as well as Honey Creek State Park) were going to spend $19.6 million on Iowa's first "destination resort" anyway, bless their little hearts for doing it in southern Iowa.
Lake Rathbun is in my back yard, dedicated by President Nixon in 1969 or 1970, I forget which --- when I was in Vietnam; and Honey Creek always has been my favorite spot along it because a lot of it is old-growth oak and hickory timber, the views out across the lake are among the best and it's prime wildlife-watching territory. And yes I complain sometimes about everything that went under when this stretch of the Chariton River valley was flooded --- but none of that today. The lake's there, it's not going anywhere other than gradually downstream through the dam and I've learned to enjoy it.
Anyhow, the resort's been on the back burner since the lake was built and when private developers politely declined to build as years passed the state decided to step in. It's in a previous undeveloped area east of the part of Honey Creek Park I've roamed around in for nearly 40 years.
A wet summer put construction far behind schedule, so a mad scramble is going on now to finish up --- and will continue through next spring I'd guess. The entrance just east of Iconium (or west of Moravia if you're coming in from that direction) is right through a paving plant that will go away when streets fanning out among as yet unbuilt cottages down by the lake are complete. But the heavy lifting's been done and the hotel, convention center and new 18-hole golf course are fully operational.
The final landscaping phase is just beginning, however, so workers were crawling like ants all over the park planting trees, shrubs, etc.
The long paved entrance drive twists and turns south and east through the lakeshore hills, where the golf course is located, but finally you get to the hotel itself, perched at a northeast-to-southwest angle so that lakeside rooms and all the public areas, including the restaurant and bar, look out across the Honey Creek bay to the main lake.
The hotel itself has 105 rooms on three floors, a soaring lobby, 6,500-square-foot convention center, restaurant, bar and indoor water park. There also is a 50-boat-slip marina and will be a fishing pier and beach. The golf course has its own club house, and once the cottages are built the complex will be complete.
The whole thing is built in that vaguely Prairie School style that's been increasingly popular in Iowa for the last few years and that's especially evident in the lobby with its national-monument-sized fireplace (although I was surprised at how small the two fire boxes were --- and of course they're gas, so you'll not be toasting your toes before a blazing wood fire here). Still, it's an impressive place.
I wandered around through oceans of lavishly carpeted spaces, poking around where I could without actually trying to open closed doors. Then stumbled around the as yet undeveloped lakeshore to see what I could see back there. Yea, I'd be delighted to spend a few days here --- even through it's not much more than half an hour from home, I don't golf and don't boat either. And I'll certainly go down (when dressed more appropriately) to try out the restaurant.
So you-all come down, too, and help support the thing. Appropriately marketed and managed, it should work. Here's hoping so.
Visiting with the clerk at the front desk, she asked me if I ever thought I'd see "anything so beautiful" in southern Iowa. Now them's kind of fighting words --- but I didn't tell her that. There's a multitude of far more beautiful places, people and things to see in southern Iowa, and always has been. And that kind of thinking kind of reflects the thought from more elevated places I've heard before: "Why would you put something like that there?" Just don't start with me on that!
But I've got to admit it's impressive.
Finally, I drove back around to "my" Honey Creek to hike down a trail to the lakeshore and take a photo from there.
On the way to the trailhead, you pass a series of 16 buial mounds from the Woodland era along the Chariton --- a quiet reminder that for all its glitz, Honey Creek Resort is not the first community here where the creek and the river join.