Rathbun Lake is in Appanoose County, about 8 miles north of Centerville. It is one of Iowa's largest lakes, with 11,000 acres of water and 21,000 acres of land. Included in the area is the state's largest fish hatchery, an aquarium that has a public walk-way over it for viewing the native fish of Iowa. The lake offers boating with two marinas,
hiking trails and camping. There are 8 parks, including Honey Creek State Park.
The lake is actually a reservoir with a dam completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1969. The dam is almost 2 miles long and 101 feet high. Most of the facilities in the area are managed by the Corps of Engineers. Hunting season is popular in the area as it yields many types of game, including whitetail deer and pheasant. Fishing yields crappie, walleye, and bass, both white and large-mouth.
Cabin rentals on the lake are very popular and range in price for a one bedroom, one bath, $125 per night to a 3 bedroom, 2 bath for $265 per night. There is a 2-night stay minimum.
About 2 miles south of the dam is the tiny town of Rathbun, incorporated in 1897. It started as a mining town, the home to several mining camps owned by such companies as
Unity Block coal company and the American Coal Company. As of the 2010 census, there was only a population of 89 people in Rathbun. The average value of a home in 2012 was $40,662, up from $36,700 in 2000.