Authorized by the River and Harbor Flood Control Act of 1954, Rathbun Dam construction began in 1964. The dam was completed in 1969 with multi-purpose operation beginning in October 1970.
Rathbun Dam was dedicated by President Richard Nixon on July 31st, 1971. The Dam, which is located in Appanoose County, Iowa, is 142.3 river miles north of the confluence with the Missouri River. Rathbun Dam is a constructed earth-fill embankment and measures ~2 miles in length at a height of ~101 feet. Rathbun Project is approximately 34,000 acres of water (~11,000 ac) and land (~23,000 ac). Rathbun Lake, which has 155 miles of shoreline at full pool, extends westward approximately 18 miles into Lucas, Wayne, and Monroe Counties, Iowa. The Chariton River and the South Fork tributary of the Chariton River are the major water sources into the Lake.
The US Army Corps of Engineers constructed and operates Rathbun Lake. Rathbun’s authorized purposes include: Flood Risk Management, Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Management, Water Quality, Water Supply and Navigation.
There are 10 parks located around Rathbun Lake for camping and day use activities. Six parks are operated directly by the US Army Corps of Engineers.