canoe paddling on Iowa's river trails
Canoeing and 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 all water users. Water trails help re-connect Iowans to their waterways’ history, heritage, geology, fisheries, and wildlife. Water trails provide adequate access and can include amenities like riverside camping, wild spaces, picnic areas, and restrooms, and watercraft rentals provided by local, state, and federal partners. Coordinated signage and mapping systems guide users toward the types of experiences they seek, ranging from a highly social first-time river experience lasting a few hours to multi-day adventures. 

Water trail partners at the local level are encouraged to steward the natural and economic values of their waterways to help boost local economies and give Iowans outdoor experiences just out their back doors. Iowa DNR water trails staff lead through setting standards for planning requirements, providing funding and technical assistance, and maintaining the framework of the overall system.

2017 Water Trails Map
2017 Water Trail Project Phasing


Do you often bring others out on the water in canoes or kayaks?

Want to improve your skills to better demonstrate to others how to paddle efficiently, elegantly, and safely? These intensive courses follow the American Canoe Association’s “Intro” and “Moving Water” curriculum, and are targeted to those who teach others paddling skills, from lakes to rivers. These courses will be instrumental for students who plan to enroll in an ACA instructor certification course. Class sizes are limited, and they fill up fast, so don’t delay and sign up today! 

2017 Iowa DNR Canoe and Kayak Schools


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 receive every issue without delay. The IWTA provides up to date information on water trail events and all that is water trail news. To visit the IWTA website, follow this link: IWTA and too subscribe so you never miss important paddling information, you can go to here: Subscribe to the IWTA


"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.

Wear It Iowa

Wear It Iowa Logo The “Wear It Iowa” program is part of a national campaign designed to educate boaters on the importance of wearing a lifejacket while recreating on or near the water. At least 84% of fatalities nationwide involved individuals who were not wearing a life jacket.

The Boating Education program is committed to providing Iowans with important resources and messages that save lives.

Signage

A major revision to our water trails and dams sign manual was released in the Spring of 2010. The new manual addresses a number of issues and includes many updates.

The sign manual  contains guideline for the standard statewide water trails way-finding and informational signage system.


Available Grants - Closed


Dam Mitigation Grants
Closing date was February 3, 2017 

The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2016 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.



Water Trail Enhancement Grants
Closing date was March 3, 2017

The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2017 for the development of dam mitigation and water trail projects. A portion of the funds are available competitively for water trail enhancement cost-share grants. Local divisions of Iowa government are encouraged to apply for cost-share assistance for infrastructure or infrastructure improvements along state designated water trails or water trails on track for state designation.