About Us

Who We Are

Lakeside Lab is owned by the state of Iowa and operated through the Board of Regents. Its mission is twofold: 1) to provide science classes and research opportunities for university students, and 2) to offer Outreach Programs and provide services through the state universities.

Lakeside's 147-acre campus is located on scenic West Okoboji Lake, on Little Millers Bay. The bay and adjacent natural areas are used as outdoor classrooms for Lakeside's university courses and Outreach Programs. The campus is open year round, and visitors are welcome to visit during daylight hours.

The Vision and Mission of Lakeside Lab

Vision Statement

Lakeside Lab will be a national model for immersive, field-based research, and education

Mission Statement

The mission of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Regents Resource Center (ILLRRC) is to provide facilities and programing as a field station and community resource to support scientific education, research, and outreach programs of the Regents universities and other institutions.  

Visit Us

Traveling by Car:

The easiest way to get to Lakeside is by car. A car is also useful, but not essential, in order to get around locally, because the Laboratory is located some miles from restaurants, theaters, bars, etc.

We are located on Highway 86, north of Milford IA.  As you get close on Highway 86, look for the silver water tower on the opposite (west) side of the road from the Laboratory. Lakeside's entrance is marked by stone gates that are normally open. When you arrive please check in at the North Office. There is plenty of free parking.

Traveling by Bus/Plane:

Public transportation is very limited in Northwest Iowa. The closest commercial airport is Sioux Falls, South Dakota (FSD). (Please do not confuse this with the Sioux City, Iowa airport (SUX), which is farther from Lakeside Lab.)

The day before each summer session begins, and the day after it ends, Lakeside provides a shuttle from and to FSD. Because of the distance between the airport and the Lab, we normally make one trip per day, timed around the last arrival and first departure. The cost is $50 each way. To help us in coordinating this service, please contact lakesidelab@uiowa.edu with your airline, flight number, and time of arrival or departure before you book your flight

Housing and Meals

Iowa Lakeside Laboratory provides three types of housing:

Cabins are furnished with only essential furniture (a bed, dresser, and lamps) and are served by a nearby bathhouse. Some have screened-in porches.

Cottages are available to faculty and have a number of rooms that house 2 to 4 people each. Rooms are furnished with beds and dressers. Some cottages have bathrooms, while others are served by an adjacent bathhouse.

Motel-Style Units house one or two people, have bathrooms, are furnished, and are heated and air-conditioned. These units are available when all other housing is full.


Cooking is not allowed in any housing unit. During the summer sessions, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Dining Hall. Combined room and board packages are available, and these offer considerable savings over separate housing and meal plans.

Meals in the weekly room and board package start with lunch on Sunday and end with lunch on the following Saturday. Dinner on Saturday night and breakfast on Sunday morning are not served.


Housing and meal rates are given in the Lakeside fee schedule below. These are fixed fees and no rebates are possible for missed meals or overnight absences from campus. Room and board fees will be billed with tuition, unless other arrangements are made with the Director.

Merit scholarships are available that will cover all or part of the room and board fee.

Additional Information For Students

When staying in a cabin, please bring your own bed linens, blankets, and towels. Bring a sleeping bag if you have one. A limited supply of blankets and linens is available for rent. There is a coin laundry on campus.

Housing becomes available on the afternoon of the day prior to the start of classes, which is normally a Sunday, and all students should try to arrive no later than the 6 p.m. on the day before their class begins. Housing ends on the morning of the day following the last day of class (normally a Saturday).

Only a few rooms are available for students bringing spouses or families. These will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Requests for family housing must be made on the Housing Form. Please contact the Administrative Office in Iowa City for availability and current guest rates.

Visits by students' guests are welcome, but only possible if room is available. Sheets, pillowcases, and towels can be rented for guests.

Because the Lakeside campus is a wildlife refuge, no pets of any kind are allowed.

PDF icon Iowa Lakeside Supply Checklist

PDF icon Click here to see the campus map.

Housing, Facility and Meal Fees

Summer Session Room and Board Weekly Rates for Students and Researchers

Room without bathroom
Meals included $250 per week

Room with bathroom (double occupancy)
Meals included $300 per week

Room with bathroom (single occupancy)
Meals included $450 per week

Researchers who stay less than one week will be charged the daily room and meal rates.

Lodging and Food Daily Rates for Visitors

Overnight guests of students and faculty are welcome if lodging is available. Please contact the staff to make arrangements. Daily rates for lodging are applicable all year.

Cabin-style accommodations cost $20 per person per night. Cabins are not climate controlled, and guests share a bathhouse. Guests provide their own bed linens and towels.

Motel-style accommodations cost $65 per room per night. Rooms have heat, air-conditioning, and private baths. Bed linens and towels are provided.

Meals are available in the Dining Hall when classes are in session. The cost is $7.00 for breakfast, $10.00 for lunch and $13.00 for supper. Children under 5 eat free when accompanied by a parent who has purchased a meal.

Facility Rentals

Community organizations are welcome to use Lakeside for retreats, meetings, and small conferences. Please contact the Director to check on the availability of facilities and schedule their use.

Fees for using the teaching laboratories, classrooms in the Waitt Water Quality Laboratory, the Library, Mahan Hall, and other facilities are $17 per building per hour (maximum of $68 per day) plus the actual cost of any special set ups and for cleaning up afterward, if necessary.

The Dining Hall normally serves meals only during the summer session. Catered meals, however, can be arranged for groups meeting at Lakeside, and the Dining Hall can be rented for meal services. The fee is the same as other buildings.

Overnight lodging is available at Lakeside when university classes are not in session. Lakeside can accommodate up to 92 guests as follows: 47 in cottages and hotel-style units with private baths, heat, and air conditioning; and 45 in unheated cabins served by separate bath houses. Overflow lodging can sometimes be provided.  

Shuttle Service Rates

To or from Sioux Falls Airport (FSD): $50.00 one way or $100.00 round trip. This fee will be added to your University of Iowa bill or your invoice if you are an international scholar. To or from Iowa City $75 one way or $150 round trip.  To or from Ames $50 one way or $100 round trip.

Please indicate on the registration form if you will need an airport shuttle. Two weeks before your class begins you will need to contact lakesidelab@uiowa.edu with your airline, flight number, and time of arrival. Further questions about air travel can be directed to lakesidelab@uiowa.edu.


Buildings and Grounds

The Lakeside campus is noteworthy for both its natural areas and its buildings. The natural areas are diverse and include prairies, wetlands, and forests. Eleven of Lakeside's 37 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lakeside's buildings and natural areas are actively used for university classes and community outreach programs, especially in the summer. Buildings can be rented by non-profit community groups when not in use for Lakeside purposes. Click here for rental information.


Lakeside's newest building is the Waitt Lab, a gift of the Friends of Lakeside Lab. Opened in 1998, it contains the Bovbjerg Water Chemistry Laboratory, two classrooms, several offices, and Andrea's Atrium, which is used for receptions and gatherings.

Mahan Hall was built in 1961 and renovated in 2003. It is Lakeside's largest indoor space and is used for lectures, meetings, and classes. With its open floor plan, Mahan can accommodate a variety of meeting set-ups. It is fully equipped for audio-visual presentations.

The Dining Hall is an old barn that was moved to its present location in the 1930s. It is used mainly in the summer but is available year-round and can accommodate 80 to 90 people at a time. Students, faculty, and guests eat together at round tables, fostering a collegial atmosphere. An enclosed porch, added in 1997, offers a panoramic view of Little Miller's Bay. The lower level is a student lounge.

From 1935 through 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built 13 structures at Lakeside: the entry gates, 11 buildings, and a set of stairs down a steep slope to West Okoboji Lake. All were constructed of native stone. The buildings include five teaching labs, four residential cottages, a bathhouse, and a boathouse. All the CCC buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places except the boathouse, which had a large addition (Limnology Lab) built over it in the 1960s. All have been maintained and are still in use.

The five stone labs are named for Iowa scientists: Macbride, Shimek, Pammel, Calvin, and Bodine. Macbride was renovated in 2003 into a modern lab for the study of diatoms and other freshwater algae. Pammel, Calvin, and Bodine maintain more of their original appearance inside, with small, wood-paneled rooms and large concrete tanks for the study of aquatic life. Shimek has an open floor plan.

King Lab was built in 1970 for research in parasitology. It is currently used as a computer lab.

The Library, originally a one-room schoolhouse, was moved to Lakeside and expanded in 1971. Shelves of books and journals take up most of the original structure, while the addition houses a reading room and conference room.

Lakeside's oldest building is Main Cottage, dating from the late 19th century. It became a part of Lakeside when the first five acres were purchased in 1909. Main Cottage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still used for visitor housing.

Residential facilities at Lakeside include three cottages donated by local families. Tamisiea Cottage and Rierson Cottage are used year-round by visiting scholars and other guests. Cotton Cottage was renovated in 2011.

Grounds and Natural Areas

Lakeside occupies 147 acres, including the entire shoreline of Little Millers Bay of West Okoboji Lake. Most of the campus is natural land. The campus can be divided into three sections: 1) the Ecological Studies Campus, 2) the Residential Campus, and 3) the Teaching Campus.

The Ecological Studies Campus occupies more than three-fourths of of the land mass at Lakeside, including the entire northern portion. The northwest part is being restored to prairie. Another 23 acres to the immediate east is reconstructed prairie, planted in 2002-03. A second-growth woods of box elder and other trees separates these areas from West Okoboji Lake and the Residential Campus to the south.

The Residential Campus includes the Lakeside Office, the Facility Manager's Residence, faculty and student housing, the bathhouse, the Dining Hall, and adjacent lawns. A ravine shaded by burr oaks and other trees separates this part of Lakeside from the Teaching Campus to the south.

The Teaching Campus features a high knoll that slopes down to Little Millers Bay. Waitt Lab, Mahan Hall, Library, all laboratories, Tamisiea Cottage, and Main Cottage are located here. The landscape is very naturalistic, with prairie and meadows occupying the higher ground and oak woods/savanna growing near the lake. Native plant gardens are being developed near the Waitt Lab.

A group of dedicated volunteers helps maintain Lakeside's grounds and natural areas. Come join us and learn about conservation, native plants, and gardening while you work.


Lakeside Lab was founded in 1909 by Dr. Thomas Macbride and colleagues from the University of Iowa, for "the study of nature in nature." Ownership was held at first by a private stock company, the Lakeside Laboratory Association. In 1936 the Association deeded the station to the state of Iowa, "to be held in trust for the accommodation, promotion, support and maintenance of scientific studies and research."

A major construction program took place in the mid 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built five stone laboratories, four student cabins, a bathhouse, and other amenities. Additional buildings were added in the 1960s and 70s. The Waitt Building, opened in 1998, provided a modern water quality laboratory, additional classrooms, and staff offices.

In 2006 Lakeside was designated a Regents Resource Center, expanding both its audience and its mission. Today the Lab is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can "study nature in nature."

Lakeside's early history was described in two fascinating articles in The Palimpsest 66:2 (March/April 1985). We thank the State Historical Society of Iowa for its permission to post that material here.

For an account of Lakeside's history from its founding to the present day, see The Iowa Lakeside Laboratory: A Century of Discovering the Nature of Nature by Michael J. Lannoo, published by the University of Iowa Press in 2012.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Bohumil Shimek and the onset of WW1