Iowa is home to a number of different "World's Largest". Sac City is home of the "World's Largest Popcorn Ball", Brandon has a huge frying pan, Audubon has a bull, Strawberry Point has...what else...a strawberry, and I-80 near Eldridge has the largest truck stop. There are many more in Iowa and I'd encourage you to check out this handy list made by the fine folks at Travel Iowa. The landmarks all make for fun reasons to visit a community and help form the identity of the town or location where they reside. They are a way to bring people to town and hopefully while they are there, they'll find a restaurant to dine at, a hotel to sleep at, or a local retailer to shop at. I've long said that my hometown of Sheldon, once known as the Marigold city, needs to lean into that and construct the world's largest marigold.
In north central Iowa, you can visit the welcoming community of Crystal Lake, a town of about 250 people. In addition to being home to a nice lake, some businesses, and a lot of nice people, they have also laid claim to another one of Iowa's "World's Largest". Here, you can visit, admire, and get your photo with the "World's Largest Bullhead".
Last year, when things were still green and we weren't all social distancing from each other, I made a visit to Crystal Lake. Of course, I stopped by to see the big fish but I also drove around the town and found a lot to like.
They even highlight their "claim to fame" on their town sign and light pole banners.
The big bullhead sits along the south shore of the lake known as Crystal Lake, which is actually on the north end of the town Crystal Lake. It's quite a structure. The fish sits several feet off the ground atop a rocky platform.
According to research I found online, the statue was erected in 1958 and then restored in 2007. It is apparently 12 feet in length though I'm not sure how much it weighs.
From any angle, it's quite a sight to see with it's whiskers drooping down.
This sign, just a few feet away, suggest that if you caught a 12 foot Large Mouth Bass...you'd be able to keep it.
According to the Iowa DNR, Crystal Lake (the lake) is about 264 acres in size and is about 18 feet deep (at it's deepest). Crystal Lake is noted to be the headwaters of the Iowa River, a relatively major body of water that drains into the Mississippi River.
Like a lot of rural Iowa these days, commercial-scale wind turbines have significantly altered the landscape. You can see a number of them around Crystal Lake. Agriculture is still the lifeblood of the area, of course.
On the night I visited, I found a couple of boats out enjoying an evening on the lake.
There's a sign that says to swim at your own risk. I am guessing that means that there is no lifeguard on duty.
I also did find others enjoying the trails and other recreational areas around it. There are some great spots all around the lake if being outdoors is your thing.
These people were doing some fishing at the Crystal Lake Roadside Park.
I was especially impressed by the park on the east side of town known as simply Crystal Lake Park.
This particular park offers a number of fantastic amenities from a Frisbee golf course and playground equipment to picnic tables and camping spaces.
You can enjoy a picnic on a table or rent out a shelter house.
Perhaps most impressive of all the amenities, you can enjoy terrific views of the lake and beyond.
Back in town, I spotted another campground area that seemed to be at or near capacity.<