Grays Lake Park: A beautiful retreat in the Des Moines metro.

A few weeks ago, my 11-year old nephew was in town for the night. Not knowing how to entertain an 11-year old on a Friday night in a small town, I decided to think like a tourist. What would be something fun and different to go do that was cheap and spur of the moment? I decided the best place to visit was Grays Lake.   So far, I had only been there during the daylight hours.   I have heard so much about how the Grays Lake bridge looks at night with it’s rainbow-colored lights, so I thought we had to check it out for ourselves.

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Who knew this Pokemon Go thing was such a popular game?

We had some time to kill before it got dark out (those darn summer nights!) so our first stop was to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which I wrote about a couple months ago. It was a beautiful evening, and I knew he wouldn’t mind spending some time catching Pokemon. It was a definite hit, and judging by the number of people roaming around, we certainly weren’t the only ones with the same idea.

Note to self: Next time you bring an 11-year old to downtown Des Moines to play Pokemon, make sure you bring a phone charger. oops!

We walked around and I took photos while he “Pokemon’ed.” We then decided we were hungry and his phone was dying, so our next stop was to get a quick bite to eat before we headed to Grays Lake.

We got to the lake about 45 minutes before it got dark enough for the lights to show up well. We walked the path, visited the restrooms :-), walked some more, and took some photos as the sun was setting. There is truly nothing better than an Iowa summer evening. As you look through the progression of these photos, you’ll see how much more beautiful everything looks as it gets darker.

Grays Lake walking path

Prior to the floods of 1993, this area south of the lake used to be a Holiday Inn.   It had been there for years, and we had even stayed there before for a family weekend trip to Adventureland when I was a kid.  I remember how cool the Holiday Inn was because the pool/game area also had a miniature golf course.  I was fascinated by that.  That hotel, sadly, was ruined during the floods.  The flood waters reached the green light on the stoplights on Fleur Drive (no joke!).  Everything was ruined, including nearby Water Works Park.  

Over the years, Grays Lake Park has been revitalized thanks in part to a generous community of supporters.  Grays Lake Park now sits on almost 170 acres, with a 1.9 mile trail around the lake.  The trail is paved in parts, and black-topped in parts, and it is extremely well-lit at night.   There are also emergency phones scattered throughout the trail. 

In the photo below, you can see part of the Grays Lake bridge in the background.

Grays Lake dock

While waiting for it to get really dark, we walked the path.  It was full of bike riders, families out for an evening stroll, and lots of joggers.   This photo below was taken from the west side of the lake.  Gorgeous!

Grays lake trees

Here you can finally start to see some of the lights coming on across the bridge.  It’s not quite dark enough yet1

Grays Lake Bridge View

Yup, that couple is still sitting on the dock as we make our way back over to the bridge!

Grays Lake Couple on dock

Here you can see the lights just coming on and finally starting to show a little tiny bit of color.   I was getting so excited to see what it would look like when full darkness set in.   All along the second railing are plaques with people’s names on them.  These plaques were offered for purchase as part of a fundraising campaign for the park.  I’m happy to report that the response was so overwhelming, they have run out of room for plaques on the bridge!  

Grays Lake Bridge before dark

It’s getting a little darker now, and colors are starting to show up more.  This bridge is truly gorgeous!

Grays Lake Bridge - Side view

Finally it got dark enough for us to see this rainbow of lights.  The multi-colored lights cast diamond shaped  designs all down the length of the bridge.  These last three photos are my favorite.  I love them so much, that I’m actually thinking of getting one framed.   Which one do you like the best?

Grays Lake - Almost Dark!

Grays Lake - FINALLY DARK!

Grays Lake Bridge - gorgeous view

These are only a fraction of the photos I took.  I just kept snapping away because I was in awe of how gorgeous this bridge is!

Grays Lake Park is located on the southwest edge of downtown, right across the street from Water Works Park on Fleur Drive.   In addition to the trail, which can be used for walking, jogging, or biking, there is also a beach.  Grays Lake also offers canoe, sailboat and bicycle rentals.   

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