Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park, Iowa’s newest state park, is nestled in the rolling landscape between Des Moines and Indianola on Highway 65/69, within minutes of the state’s largest metro area.
Many locals remember the area as Banner Pits, when the area was mined for coal by the Banner Coal Company in the early 1930s. According to an article dated September 15, 1932 in the Des Moines Tribune, “...the coal mining operation was the largest strip mining operation to take place in Iowa. The coal--an unusually good grade of Iowa product--could not be mined in the ordinary way because of the poor 'roof' and the proximity of the four-foot vein to the surface. It was covered by about 40 feet of earth and shale. The concerned decided to mine the coal by the open pit process and has been operating one of the largest electric drag lines in the country there since last Janaury.” The article went on to say that in order to get the coal, it was necessary to dig a “young Panama canal” 115 feet wide at the top and 80 feet wide at the bottom. The huge drag line equipment used in the operation drew hundreds of spectators to the mine.
In 1954, the Department of Natural Resources purchased the 222-acre setting as a wildlife management area. As the years went by, recreation demands changed. Through the vision of the DNR and with encouragement from a host of supporters, a plan was developed in 2002 to transform “Banner Pits” into a state park with new and enhanced recreation opportunities. The park was officially dedicated October 7, 2004 with more than 250 people in attendance. Only the second state park established in the last 27 years, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park is a great addition to Iowa’s state park system.