Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake, Iowa
Clear Lake, Iowa
—  City  —
Historic Downtown Clear Lake
Location of Clear Lake, Iowa
Coordinates: 43°8′11″N 93°22′48″W / 43.13639°N 93.38°W / 43.13639; -93.38Coordinates: 43°8′11″N 93°22′48″W / 43.13639°N 93.38°W / 43.13639; -93.38
Country  United States
State  Iowa
County Cerro Gordo
 – Total 13.0 sq mi (33.7 km2)
 – Land 10.4 sq mi (27.0 km2)
 – Water 2.6 sq mi (6.7 km2)
Elevation 1,237 ft (377 m)
Population (2000)
 – Total 8,161
 – Density 782.4/sq mi (302.1/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 – Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 50428
Area code(s) 641
FIPS code 19-14025
GNIS feature ID 0455465

Clear Lake is a city in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, United States. The population was 8,161 at the 2000 census. The city is named for the large lake on which it is located. It is the home of a number of marinas, state parks and tourism-related businesses. Clear Lake is also a major stop on Interstate 35 with many restaurants, hotels and truck stops.

Nelson P. Crabb was elected mayor of Clear Lake in 2005 and began his term as mayor in January 2006.



The region around the lake that would later be called Clear Lake was a summer home to the Sioux and Winnebago natives. During a land survey of northern Iowa done in 1832 by Nathan Boone, the son of the famous explorer, Daniel Boone a map was made showing the lake and other bodies of water in the area.[1]

In 1851 Joseph Hewitt and James Dickirson brought their families to camp on the east side of Clear Lake, soon building a cabin, and began a friendship with the Winnebago natives. By 1853 many more white settlers had also came to settle in the area. By the year 1855 the first Clear Lake school was built and the first steam saw mill. In 1855 a hotel was built by James Crow.[1]

By 1870 the town had 775 residents and by 1871 the streets were graded and sidewalks were made of raised boards, a sure sign of thriving new city.[1][2] The city of Clear Lake was incorporated on May 26, 1871.[3] The first bandstand built in Clear Lake was in 1877 at the City Park. The town grew and built its first library in 1889. In 1909 Bayside Amusement park opens for the first time. The first North Iowa Band Festival was organized by John Kopecky and others in 1932[1]

In 1933 the Surf Ballroom open up on the site of the old Tom Tom ballroom that had been destroyed by fire. The opening dance night had approximately 700 couples attending. In 1947 the Surf Ballroom burned down and a new Surf Ballroom was built across the street in 1948. The Bayside Amusement park closed down in 1958.[1]

The Day the Music Died

Monument at crash site

In the early hours of February 3, 1959, a Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, who had been performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, took off from the local runway in nearby Mason City, on its way to the next show in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The plane crashed soon after takeoff, killing all aboard. This event was later eulogized by folk singer Don McLean in his famous song, "American Pie", in which the death of these '50s icons serves as a metaphor for greater changes within American society as a whole.

In June 1988 around 600 people gathered to witness the dedication of the monument to the deceased rock and roll legends. Clear Lake also replaced street signs officially changing 2nd Place North to Buddy Holly Place in honor of the late singer.[1]


Clear Lake is located at 43°8′11″N 93°22′48″W / 43.13639°N 93.38°W / 43.13639; -93.38 (43.136479, -93.379927)[4].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.0 square miles (34 km2), of which, 10.4 square miles (27 km2) of it is land and 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) of it (19.95%) is water.


Clear Lake
Historical Populations
Census Pop.
1870 775
1880 1,095 41.3%
1890 1,130 3.2%
1900 1,706 51.0%
1910 2,014 18.1%
1920 2,804 39.2%
1930 3,066 9.3%
1940 3,764 22.8%
1950 4,977 32.2%
1960 6,158 23.7%
1970 6,430 4.4%
1980 7,458 16.0%
1990 8,183 9.7%
2000 8,161 −0.3%
Iowa Data Center [2]

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 8,161 people, 3,461 households, and 2,239 families residing in the city. The population density was 782.4 people per square mile (302.1/km²). There were 4,156 housing units at an average density of 398.4 per square mile (153.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.99% White, 0.27% African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.92% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.86% of the population.

There were 3,461 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,097, and the median income for a family was $45,589. Males had a median income of $30,266 versus $21,356 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,213. About 5.0% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.0% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.

Clear Lake is part of the Mason City Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Arts and Culture

  • Surf Ballroom- Site of Buddy Holly's last concert, the Surf Ballroom still has concerts and can be reserved as a convention hall or reception site. It is also a tourist attraction, and every February has a tribute to Buddy Holly.
  • Lady of the Lake- The stern wheeler ferry boat takes passengers on a scenic cruise around Clear Lake. The Lady of the Lake has an enclosed lower level and an open upper level.[6]
  • Clear Lake Fire Museum- Designed to resemble an early fire station, this museum's highlights include a 1924 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck, the city's 1883 hand-pulled hose cart, and the original fire bell used by the department. Also there is a memorial dedicated to honor all the firefighters who have served Clear Lake.[7]
  • Guardian Angel Roadside Chapel- Built by Jack Kennedy, The Guardian Angel Chapel overlooks Interstate 35 and is open to the public daily.[7]
  • Fort Custer Maze- The maze covers nearly two acres and has over two miles (3 km) of trail. The design is changed weekly during the summer season and prizes are given weekly for the fastest times.[7]
  • Clear Lake Arts Center- This non-profit organization, the Arts Center displays local and regional artists' work along with a sales gallery and art classes open to the public.[7]
  • PM Park, Clear Lake, Iowa- Site of The Patriarch Militants camp established in 1914, turned into a historical eating and lodging venue.
Downtown Clear Lake Rowhouses



Clear Lake School District has five schools[3]

  • Sunset View Elementary: Temporarily holding 6th Grade students until Middle School renovation is over
  • Lincoln Elementary: sold.
  • Clear Creek Elementary: pre-k to 5th grade.
  • The Middle School: 7th Grade, currently in the 6th Grade wing while renovation is in progress
  • The High School: 9th to 12th grades. Also housing 8th Grade students due to Renovation

North Iowa Christian School: pre-kindergarten-8th grade [3]

Other Topics


  •, Agapé Christian Family Church
  • Church of Christ
  • Clear Lake Christian Church
  •, Clear Lake Evangelical Free Church
  • Clear Lake Regular Baptist Church
  • Clear Lake United Methodist
  • Community of Christ
  • First Church of Christ Scientist
  • First Church of the Open Bible
  • n First Congregational Church
  • Galilean Lutheran Church (ELCA)
  • Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS)
  • Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  •, St. Patrick's Catholic Church
  • Ventura United Methodist
  •, Zion Lutheran Church (ELCA)

Notable people

See also


External links

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