Lake Panorama History

Members of the Guthrie Center and Panora Lions Clubs discussed the idea of building a dam and lake on the Middle Raccoon River as early as 1931.

In the early 1960s, Louie Hansen was the Guthrie County Extension director. He felt a lake would be an important economic development tool for the county and helped form the Guthrie County Lake Development Company. Property owners bordering the Middle Raccoon River were contacted and it was announced at a 1962 meeting of the Panora Commercial Club that 5,659 of the 7,000 acres needed had been placed under option. On April 12, 1965, aerial photos were taken and a topographical map made of the proposed lake area. A contest was conducted to select a name, and 23 people suggested Lake Panorama.

To continue the progress made by the local group, the Mid-Iowa Lakes Development Corporation was formed in July 1965. The corporation began selling stock for $2 a share. In 1967, Mid-Iowa Lakes received state approval to build the dam. In late October, the first lot was sold to Louie Hansen, the visionary behind the lake project.

In 1968, an engineering firm used a laser beam to establish the water line. Throughout the summer, trees and brush were cleared and roads were built. On August 14, 1968, the first by-laws of the newly formed Lake Panorama Association were approved by the board of directors. By October 1968, 900 lots had been sold. Construction of the dam began in spring 1969. At 5:30 a.m. on June 8, 1970, the dam gate was closed and Lake Panorama began to fill.

Today Lake Panorama is the largest private lake in Iowa with 1,160 acres of lake surface within the development and more than 30 miles of shoreline. So far, about 1,100 residences have been built at the lake. The Lake Panorama Association now represents more than 1,750 member/property owners.

A history book about Lake Panorama was published in 2019. “Lake Panorama – The First 50 Years” is a colorful, 114-page book that covers the development of Lake Panorama from the early 1960s until today. It is available for purchase at the Lake Panorama Association office for $25.