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Canoeing and Kayaking

Group kayaking

Iowa is blessed with a variety of rivers, creeks, and lakes offering a number of different types of experiences for beginner to expert paddler. 18,000 miles of navigable streams await exploration by curious paddlers from across the state. The Iowa DNR wants you to enjoy, appreciate, and respect Iowa's rivers. We hope you find this site very useful.

What is a Water Trail?
Water Trails are recreational corridors and routes on rivers and lakes that provide a unique experience for canoeists and kayakers. Water trails provide adequate access points that can be used for planning your trips at various lengths and difficulty. A water trail may also provide access to riverside campgrounds, primitive campsites, amenities such as shelters and restrooms in city, county or state parks. A water trail will have a detailed map showing access points and river mileage and may even provide information on history and area culture, wildlife viewing opportunities and more. Water trails can help re-connect Iowans to their history, heritage, geology and wildlife. A water trail promotes an ethic of caring that makes us more aware of our surroundings and environment and can be thought of as educational venues. Whether they are used for relaxation, health and fitness, education or just for spending time with family, water trails provide in-state destinations for recreational river users that can even help boost local economies.

Manchester Whitewater Park Construction Underway


Holiday visions of wave surfing and hooking walleye dance in the heads of paddlers and anglers in Iowa and beyond when thinking of Manchester, where Iowa’s third whitewater attraction is under construction. The park is scheduled to open in the summer of 2015. Like Iowa’s first whitewater park in Charles City, Manchester hopes to attract a wide variety of river users and spectators. Manchester’s whitewater park will have six of whitewater drop structures, compared to Charles City’s three. The project eliminates a hazardous low-head dam and is carefully designed to provide fish passage upstream.

The new $1.8 million whitewater facility is funded with a $200,000 dam mitigation grant from the Iowa DNR and $600,000 in private donations. City and county governments raised the remaining $1 million. Project updates are available here and here.

Low-head dams are extremely dangerous and have led to fatalities of Iowa anglers, boaters, paddlers, tubers, swimmers, and would-be rescuers. Read more, here.

To see other water trail project updates, go here.

Dam Mitigation Grants Available
The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2015 for the development of dam mitigation and water trail projects. A portion the funds are available competitively for dam mitigation cost-share grants. Dam owners and other eligible entities are encouraged to apply for cost-share assistance for projects that reduce recreational hazards and enhance aquatic species connectivity. For guidance on how projects might be approached, please read “Solving Dam Problems: Iowa’s 2010 Plan for Dam Mitigation” and/or “Developing Water Trails in Iowa.”

Application form: Dam Mitigation Grant Application
Application Form: Dam Mitigation Grant Application
Application post-mark deadline: Closed
Total amount available: $500,000

IDNR Canoe Schools/ (ACA) Classes for 2015
2015 dates now set! Sign up as soon as possible. These classes will fill fast. Contact Todd Robertson with any questions.

2015 Paddling Schools.doc  2015 Paddling Schools.pdf


On-Line Paddle Safety Boating Course
Check out this free resource and improve your safety knowledge when it comes to paddling. This course is NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) approved. All new paddlers should take this free course and it is a great review for the experienced. Register for a free account and get started today! Free Paddling Course

Iowa Water Trails Association
You can access past newsletters from the IWTA by following the link provided. Make sure to sign up and subscribe so you can recieve every issue without delay. The IWTA provides up to date information on water trail events and all that is water trail news. IWTA

SUP (stand up paddleboarding)
Stand Up Paddleboarding is a type of paddling that is sweeping across the nation. Orginally found only on the coasts, inland states are now finding that people enjoy this new paddling activity and are taking to lakes and rivers in an effort to get fit and have fun. You will need to be aware of SUP rules and regulations. Please follow the link to our Instruction and Safety page to learn more. And always wear your lifejacket.

Watch this video to help you understand what essentil safety gear you will need while SUPing in Iowa.  SUP Leashes and Lifejacket Video

Instruction & Safety

"Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun"
This new Iowa Department of Natural Resources campaign is designed to improve people's behavior on Iowa rivers. Landowners and recreational paddlers have been complaining to DNR staff about "Rude behavior, foul language and loud music."  "We need support locally to report problems and hold individuals accountable for their behavior." said DNR Director, Chuck Gipp. The DNR is increasing law enforcement on rivers to reduce illegal activity. Rental companies distribute materials to help paddlers report illegal activities they see. We are supplying boat and tube rental liveries with new river trash sacks, posters and stickers to help spread the word and promote a better ethic of on-river use, especially in the summer months. Littering is another significant problem on some rivers, especially at access points, and the DNR will be distributing blue mesh bags that people can take with them and pick up litter as they go. If you would like to display a poster in your storefront or paddling club meeting place, you can request one plus a sticker. if you would like a trash bag to take in your canoe, kayak or fishing boat, contact River Programs Outreach Coordinator, Todd Robertson. We will either direct you to a location where you can pick a trash sack up or we will mail you one.