Lake Panorama is likely the largest private lake in the United States. Since it is actually a reservoir on the Middle Raccoon River, much of the lake is made up of the relatively narrow river valley. This makes boating, especially on holidays and weekends, a busy activity requiring observation and care.

All of the lake except the main basin  (the open expanse near highway 4) is intended for counterclockwise traffic. Centerline buoys mark the approximate center of the channel and boat traffic journeys up and down the lake on the “right” side of the centerline buoys. Be sure that as you travel, you remain on the right hand side of the buoys. If needing to cut across traffic to go to a cove or dock on the opposite side of the lake, be sure to check for traffic coming from the opposite direction, as well as traffic following your vessel. It is better to go “beyond” your intended spot, do a U-turn and then turn right into your intended location.

Warning buoys mean just what they say. Shallow areas are marked with buoys indicating dangerous shallows, rocks or rock beds. Although a few of these markers are for specific, individual rocks, most indicate an area of shallows that could shear a propeller or lower unit…an expensive and possibly dangerous situation for your vessel.

Coves have speed limits. All coves have marker buoys indicating speed limits. Usually the entrance to a cove has a 10 mph speed limit and further into the cove there will be a “no wake” buoy. Smaller coves go immediately to “no wake.” “No Wake” means just that. Travel slowly enough that only ripples or less follow your vessel.

Speed–If vessels are traveling more than 10 mph, a 200-foot interval should be observed. No vessel should exceed 10 mph if traveling within 50 feet of the shoreline, a dock, downed skiers, or parked vessels.

Vessel capacity limits–all vessels have capacity limits for a purpose. The size of the people in the vessel has no bearing on the limit as it is the number of persons that count. This is a safety issue that must be observed.

As in all safe boating–appropriate (meaning suited for each person’s size and weight) personal flotation devices (PFD) must be available for every person on board. In addition, all persons under 13 must be wearing the PFD if the vessel is under way.

Lighting–Is required for all vessels from  1/2 hour after sundown to sunup. Night speed limit at the lake is 10 mph.

Personal Water Craft

Personal water craft (PWC) have a place at Lake Panorama and because of the busy weekends and holidays, there are rules here that are more restrictive than Iowa boating laws allow elsewhere. (Yes, the LPA can be more restrictive than the State for our private access lake.) Primarily, the restriction (in addition to horsepower) is for age of operators. The rules here do not permit youth to operate a PWC even if a responsible adult is on board. At Lake Panorama, all boat operators must be at least 16 years of age, and if under 18, must have passed and have in their possession, the boating safety certificate approved by the State of Iowa. The LPA recommends that inexperienced PWC operators not go out during busy traffic periods. The most common error that could be disastrous is for the operator to forget that PWCs (and all boats for that matter) don’t have brakes.

PWC’s are not to be on the water after 1/2 hour after sundown until sunrise.

PWC towing a skier–remember, the skier or tuber counts as a passenger (the same for all boats) when it comes to vessel capacity. A PWC rated for 2 people towing, with two on board and one being towed, is over capacity and will be cited for a safety violation.


Towing–Skiers, tubes, wakeboards and wakesurfing

As in all of Iowa, there must be an observer in the vessel in addition to the operator when the vessel is towing anyone or is allowing wakesurfing. Here are some LPA rules on towing:

  1. The Narrows area above Sunset Beach has limits on when towing and/or wakesurfing can be done. None of these activities are allowed between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The area is too narrow to avoid downed individuals without slowing considerably and without going on the “wrong” side of the centerline buoys. The Security Supervisor may declare other times “no towing” if dangerous crowding is possible.
  2. No towing should come within 100 feet of shore (also why the Narrows has rules).
  3. No more than two tube or inflatable objects  can be towed by one vessel.
  4. No towing is allowed in the Marina area. There is significant in and out traffic here and downed individuals would be in danger, as well as be a cause of additional crowding.
  5. No skiing or towing is allowed from 1/2 hour after sunset to sunrise.

Non-Powered craft

Canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and sailboats (rare) must consider boat traffic conditions when operating. Coves are the best place for operation during busy times. These vessels must obey the counter-clockwise traffic pattern , if on the main lake. Lights are required at night. These vessels must have boat stickers, invasive stickers, and be inspected prior to launch if they have been elsewhere. Frankly, sailboats are not a good fit for Lake Panorama due to the counterclockwise traffic requirement. The main basin is the only regularly suitable area for sailing, but off-season and off-busy hours are possibly suitable.

Invasive Species–

Every vessel operating on Lake Panorama must be registered with the State of Iowa (if required) and must have an LPA boating permit–either a member permit or a guest permit. Each member vessel that only boats on Lake Panorama is given a green, invasive sticker to go with the boat permit. Every member vessel that goes to other water bodies is declared a NON-RESIDENT vessel and must report to Lake Security (641) 755 3101 prior to every launch. Any vessel is subject to inspection. The purpose is to keep invasive species out of our lake.

State law requires plugs be out while transporting boats. A boat should be cleaned, drained of all liquids (bilge, live wells, bait buckets, compartments, etc) and completely dried (including ski ropes, anchor ropes, etc.) Lake Security may deny launching to anyone having evidence of organic material (or just mud) on vessel or trailer or any water in any part of the vessel. There are severe penalties for violating this provision.

BE SAFE! It’s the best way to have fun.