Parks, Facilities & Trails

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 West Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department COVID-19 Information


Raccoon River Park, located in the southeast part of the city, is the "crown jewel" of the West Des Moines Parks system. The 631.61 acres of parkland provide active and passive recreational experiences, along with several hundred acres of natural areas for wildlife.

Click here to download a map showing how to get to Raccoon River Park.

Blue Heron Lake

Blue Heron is a 232 acre lake that is the center piece of the park, and provides boat access for area fishing enthusiasts and water lovers. The entire lake is designated a no wake zone, thus providing a more passive recreational experience. The lake is managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and home to a wide variety of species of fish.

Swimming Beach

The 500 foot long beach overlooks Blue Heron Lake and provides a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Swimming Beach

There are no lifeguards on duty, so the beach is a swim at your own risk beach. Swimming is allowed in designated areas (roped area at beach) only, except for organized activities approved by the director of parks and recreation. No swimming is allowed from boats. Inner tubes, air mattresses, or other beach toy type items are allowed in designated areas only.

An Open Water Swimming Permit can be obtained through an application system. Click here to learn more about the Open Water Swimming Permit for Blue Heron Lake and to apply online.

E. coli levels are tested approximately every three weeks from Memorial Day through Labor Day. If levels are ever too high for safe swimming, signs will be placed at the beach to notify swimmers.

Date tested


May 26, 2020 Permissible level 

The beach is open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 10:30am until sunset. Bring your blanket, beach ball, and picnic basket, and enjoy a day out in the sun!

Fishing Pier

Situated along the western bank, sits an accessible fishing pier. The 225 foot long pier provides excellent access for fishing enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.

With adjacent parking, and handicapped access to the pier, this park amenity is utilized heavily throughout the year. The pier is easy to find once you arrive at the park. Just take a left turn as you enter the park and you will see the pier on your right hand side.


Construction started at the end of summer 2019 on Raccoon River Park Boathouse. Click HERE for updates and more info about plans.

Boat Ramp 

Boat Ramp

Fish Habitat 2

The boat ramp and parking area just inside the entrance to Raccoon River Park provide lake lovers great access to Blue Heron Lake.

Fish Habitat

In 2011, volunteers with the Central Iowa Anglers fishing club installed underwater structures to enhance fish habitat diversity and

angler use at the lake. Click HERE for a map of lake contours location of fish habitat structures.  

Soccer Complex

The park is home to the West Des Moines Soccer Club. The soccer complex is located on the southwest side of the park and features a multi-field setup that provides a great setting for area youth of varying abilities to enjoy the sport. For information regarding joining a soccer team, please contact the WDM Soccer Club at 222-0079 or visit

Softball Complex

Raccoon River Park is also the home to WDM Adult Softball and Kickball Leagues. This five field tournament quality complex is available for league play, tournaments and rentals. The irrigated fields and state of the art facilities make this one of the nicest and most desirable softball complexes in the midwest. The Raccoon River Park Softball Complex hosts a variety of national, state and regional tournaments along with a full slate of local league play.

Picnic Sheltersview availability_request rental

There are four open air picnic shelters along the north end of the lake.  The shelters may be reserved beginning January 1st each year for private use from April 15 - October 15. Rental rates are $10 per hour with a 4 hour minimum.  Click HERE to learn more about reserving shelters in West Des Moines. When shelters have not been rented, they are available on a first-come first-served basis. 

 Click here to view an aerial map of the shelter locations.

Biddle Rotary Shelter

Picnic Shelter 1

The Biddle Rotary Shelter is located near the Nature Lodge in an open, grassy area and offers:

  • Capacity for 75 people
  • Picnic tables
  • Electrical outlets
  • Charcoal BBQ grill
  • A short walk from the large playground

Coneflower Shelters: A, B, C

Picnic Shelter 2

The Coneflower Shelters overlook the beach and playground at Raccoon River Park. This set of three shelters provides the opportunity for multiple groups to picnic together or to accommodate one large group.  Each of the three shelters offer:

  • Capacity for 50 people each
  • Picnic tables
  • Electrical outlets
  • Charcoal BBQ grill
  • Adjacent restrooms and playground


Raccoon River Park is home to one of the most unique playgrounds in the Greater Des Moines area. This half acre sized area provides entertainment for children and adults of all ages.

There are standard playgrounds for children as young as 2 all the way up to and including 12 year olds.

Multi-Use Trail

The park also offers a 3.2 mile crushed rock/asphalt nature trail around the entire lake. The trail winds its way between the lake and the Raccoon River providing a natural experience that can rarely be found in an urban environment. The trail is perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride around the lake.

Nature Lodge

The Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge sits on the northwest end of the lake. The lodge is a multipurpose facility that is used for Parks & Recreation programs. The building may be rented to host weddings, family reunions, business meetings and much more. The Lodge staff also offer many activities for schools or groups to learn about our environment. For more information please call (515) 222-3424.

Dog Park

The Raccoon River Park Dog Park provides a great space to take your dog and let them run off leash. Permits are required to use the Dog Park. Permit application forms can be downloaded online HERE, permits can be obtained in person during business hours at the Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge or the Parks & Recreation Administrative Office in WDM City Hall (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm).   For more information on the Dog Park please call (515) 222-3444.

Archery Facility

The Raccoon River Park Archery Facility is the first of its kind in Iowa and features 12 shooting lanes with targets up to 40 yards distance.

Ice Rink

The Raccoon River Park Ice Rink is an outdoor seasonal rink generously donated by the Iowa Wild and Wells Fargo in December 2016. The rink will be open for skating throughout the winter season, weather permitting.  An open/closed sign has been installed at the rink and will be updated by Public Services staff based on ice conditions.

Weed Control at Raccoon River Park

Visitors to Raccoon River Park during the spring and early summer are sure to notice the sea of dandelions-either brilliant yellow or fluffy white.  The growth of dandelions, along with other weeds in the mowed grass areas in the park, are the due to efforts to keep West Des Moines' drinking water supply safe.  The park is home to several shallow water wells that supply drinking water to our residents.  State regulations prohibit the application of chemicals, including fertilizers or pesticides, within 200 feet of the shallow wells and 100 feet of a deep well near the softball complex.  The softball complex and soccer complex located in Raccoon River Park were planned to be far enough away from the wells to allow chemical treatment of the turf in these areas.  Otherwise, the rest of the park is off limits to chemicals.

Birding at Raccoon River Park

Read a short article written for the Iowa Ornithologists' Union about the great birding at Raccoon River Park.

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