The Mormon trail across America passes through this corner of southeast of Iowa and this particular notch of the river known as Ely Ford. Visitors today to the park spend more time fishing than they do attempting to cross the Des Moines River as it winds its way to the town of Keosauqua.
Lacey Keosauqua State Park wasn’t always known by its current moniker. Up until 1921 it was known as Big Bend, for the massive U-shaped turn in the river nearby. But state officials wanted a more colorful name.
For the next five years the park was dubbed Keosauqua, a Native American term meaning the stream bearing a massive floating sheet of ice, snow or sleet. In 1926 the name changed again, this time in honor of one of Iowa’s foremost champion of conservation, Major John Fletcher Lacey.
Lacey fought in the Civil War and was elected to the U.S. Congress from Iowa in 1888. Congressional colleagues criticized Major Lacey for his early concerns about wildlife protection. He later championed landmark bills pertaining to parks dubbed Yosemite and Yellowstone.
Prior to the Lacey Bird Act of 1900, state and federal officials were powerless to stop poachers who carried their kills across state lines. Along with his federal legislative acumen, John Lacey was instrumental in the creation of the Iowa State Park System.
The Civilian Conservation Corp who worked here in the 1930s and 1940s, they built many of the, almost all of the stone structures in the park. I think there’s upwards to like 47 different structures they started. They did wonderful work and it’s there for generations to come.