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Rathbun Lake
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The Rathbun Lake Destination is located on the border of Iowa and Missouri. To the west, the region is bordered by the state lines of Nebraska and Kansas, which were drawn along the course of the Missouri River. The largest city in the destination is St. Joseph, Missouri, which has an estimated population of 72,473 people, according to the 2020 census. The city is the eighth largest in the state and was the birthplace of rapper Eminem.[2] It is reported that the summers in the city are “warm, humid, and wet,” while the winter months are “short, freezing, snowy, and windy.” Due to climatic conditions, the best time to visit the area—according to those who have previously visited sites within the destination—is from May to mid-September.[4] Rathbun Lake itself resides in Iowa, and it was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1964. Various activities are possible on or around the lake, including fishing, boating, picnicking, and hunting. [1]

What Rathbun Lake is known for

Located in parts of Missouri and Iowa, the Rathbun Lake Destination features a variety of relatively small cities. Serving as the region’s western boundary, the Missouri River also acts as the border shared between Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. The namesake of the destination, Rathbun Lake, is situated in Iowa. Rathbun Lake itself is a manmade lake, built and currently operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is reported to be one of the largest lakes in the state of Iowa, with the water level being maintained by the Chariton, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. Construction of Rathbun Lake's dam and reservoir began in 1964 and was authorized for usage starting in November of 1969.[1]

The largest city in the destination is St. Joseph, Missouri. Near the city, there are a variety of activities that tourists of varied interests can enjoy. The Patee House Museum is one of these attractions and it pertains to the history of transportation and communication. In 1860, the building that is now the museum was used to house travelers on the Pony Express. Another notable site is the Missouri Theater, which has been operating since 1927 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Today, it is a performing arts center. Lastly, the Phil Welch Stadium may be of interest to tourists who enjoy baseball history. The stadium first opened in 1939, and it has been associated with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Browns, New York Yankees, and St. Louis Cardinals throughout its years of operation.[3]

Per the 2020 census, the city of St. Joseph has an estimated population of 72,473 people. The city is the eighth largest in the state of Missouri and was named after the founder of the town, Joseph Robidoux, and the biblical Saint Joseph. As indicated by the 2010 census, 87.8% of the city's racial composition is composed of white residents, African American individuals account for 6%, nearly 2.7% is constituted by those who are classified as more than one race, and less than 1% of the demographic accounts for Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander individuals.[2]

The western border of the destination is aligned with the eastern state borders of Nebraska and Kansas. The state lines were drawn based generally on the flow of the Missouri River, which is the United State’s longest river. Starting at Bozeman, Montana, the river travels 2,300 miles before joining the Mississippi River. The combination of the two rivers—Mississippi and Missouri—is the world's fourth-longest river system. Approximately a quarter of the United States agricultural land is found along the watershed of the Missouri River, and the river’s nickname, “Big Muddy,” comes from the sediment that is deposited along its path. The river is home to a diverse collection of about 150 species of fish and it additionally supports 300 species of birds and mammals. [6]


In the Rathbun Lake Destination, it is reported that the weather is “warm, humid, and wet” during the summer months, and the winters are “short, freezing, snowy, and windy.” According to the tourism score provided by Weather Spark, the "best time to visit" the area is from late May through mid-September. During this time, the average daily high temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. July is generally considered the hottest month, with temperatures ranging from 88 to 68 degrees for the high and low of each day, respectively. The coldest time to visit the region is from November through February, as the average daily high is below 47 degrees Fahrenheit.[4]

One of the most notable geographic features of the Rathbun Lake Destination is its namesake, Rathbun Lake. Including recreational areas, the lake encompasses approximately 34,000 acres of land. There are 10 recreation areas located along the lake at various points, and each offers activities such as camping, boating, swimming, and fishing. There are also two marinas operating on the shores of the lake. Some animals that are occasionally seen near the lake are whitetail deer, turkey, pheasants, and quail.[7]

The Rathbun Lake Destination is home to a variety of plants, fish, and insects. Specifically, near the lake, birds such as quail, turkey, and pheasants are commonly found. Whitetail deer may be seen as well.[7] Common watersnakes are also found in the lake. Some plants that grow near the lake include late boneset and biennial bee blossom. White crappie is a common fish that can be caught in the lake, and royal tern birds are also seen occasionally.[5]


The city of St. Joseph, located in the southern portion of the destination, was first incorporated in 1843. In its beginning, it was an outpost as a frontier town, primarily viewed as the last stop before travelers crossed the Missouri River and entered the “Wild West.” The name of the city comes from a Canadian fur trader who settled in the area, Joseph Robidoux. Over the years, it became one of the two endpoints of the Pony Express, which provided mail service by horseriders instead of by train. The outlaw Jesse James lived in the town for a period of time under the alias of “Mr. Howard.” Today, there is a museum in the town dedicated to him, the Jesse James Home Museum.[2]

St. Joseph has reportedly become the third largest exporter in the state of Missouri, due to its location near the cities of Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; and St. Louis, Missouri. Some of its largest businesses are from the agricultural technology, food processing, and healthcare fields. The Mosaic Life Care Center, in particular, was ranked 13th in Forbes Magazine's list of America's Best Employers by State for 2019. [8]

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Pony Express RV Park is south of Maysville, Missouri. Two of its most notable features are its on-site restaurant—Pony Express Pizzeria—and its petting zoo, which shelters ponies, goats, longhorns, mini mules, sheep, pigs, turkeys, donkeys, a yak, and a chicken. Another unique park feature is its amphitheater-style stage, which the owner has used to host live musical performances, motorcycle rallies, and other property events. A weekly corn hole tournament is hosted along with cardboard boat races at the campground's ponds. In addition to these features, the park includes restrooms, showers, a laundry facility, and a main office with five different game tables.

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