Now, this recreational region is ready for a revival.
As Larry Hawker looks out at a dribbling Lake Delhi on Thursday, the view sparks vivid memories.
"I walked out the door," he recalled. "Here comes the water."
Images come back to life from July 2010. That's when flooding forced a dam breach.
The local economy lost millions of dollars. Residents were left to pick up the pieces.
"LP tanks, jet skis, boats in their lifts, everything just coming down and going through the dam," he remembered.
Nearly four years later, it's a time to celebrate. Many of those same residents returned with ceremonial shovels.
They broke ground on a project worth nearly $16 million. Money that's coming from the county, state and their own pockets.
"It's a lifestyle," said Delhi resident Lamont Johnson. "I think lifestyle has a big impact on many people that live or have cabins on Lake Delhi."
These Delhi dreams are becoming a reality. After years of meetings and fundraising, the project is on the move.
Heavy equipment is already moving at the site. The first phase will replace outdated flood gates with modern technology. Phase two creates a type of spillway that functions like a waterfall.
"We'll be able to handle more than double the capacity of the water flow than what we had previous to the breach," said District President Steve Leonard.
Construction should be finished by summer 2015. Iowa's DNR also plans to stock the lake with thousands of fish.
It's really a triumph over tragedy. They brought cameras to capture the moment. Some wore shirts to sum up their feelings. Others were just ready to recover.
"I'll be glad to see it come back," Hawker concluded.
A community comeback that's ready to roll.