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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.

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: December 15, 2014
Total amount available: $500,000

IDNR Canoe Schools/ (ACA) Classes for 2014
The IDNR Canoe and Kayak School season is now closed. Please check back in October, 2014 for 2015 dates and information. Contact Todd Robertson with any questions. 

2014 paddlingschools FINAL.doc   2014 paddlingschools FINAL.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.

Construction Crew Update  October 24th, 2014
It's been a busy season for the IDNR River Programs construction team. Take a look at our current and completed projects below.

Skunk River Logjam - Back in March of 2014, an excavator cleared a dangerous logjam on the Skunk River near Story City. This area, located on a tight bend in the river, would catch trees and wood debris as it made it's way downstream. The contractor pulled out several trees and tree branches and 5 months later, the channel remais clear and much safer. Mission accomplised!

 Skunk construction update photo

Rockford Project - Following a low head dam romoval on the Shell Rock River in the town of Rockford, we planted the adjacent excavated streambank, which included a new boat ramp access, with 120 native trees and shrubs and over 5,000 native herbaceous plants. Special thanks to the Iowa Convervation Corps crew that assisted in the project.

Olson Property Streambank Restoration - The IDNR worked with a private landowner in Webster City to repair an eroding bank on the outside bend in the Boone River. This innovative project used woody debris which was already located on-site to stabelize and anchor the failing streambank. Post excavation,and once again with the help of the Iowa Conservation Corps crew, we re-planted the site with 175 native trees and shrubs and 5,885 native herbaceous plants.



Des Moines Water Works Revegitation Project - Following last years construction of two boat ramps and a portage around the Fluer Drive Dam, the project was finished by plamting the area with native grasses and wildflowers.

Tunnel Mill Access - The Tunnel Mill Access on the Boone River in Hamilton County was improved by moving the boat ramp, making it concrete and adding a more gradual grade. Below is the before and after pictures.

Kohlman Park in Waverly - Installed was a small egress on the Cedar River to allow for paddlers and other boaters toeasily exit the river at a much safer distance above the Waverly Dam. Also installed was a sign warning boaters about the danger.

 Klondike Streambank Restoration (Big Sioux River) - Work on the Klondike Streambank Resoration is almost complete.

Buck Creek - Two fish passage projects were completed in September on Buck Creek, where two culverts were at elevations that blocked fish. Buck Creek is a tributary to the Boone River, one of the state's five scenic and species-rich Protected Water Areas. 

Quasqueton - Contractors completed the project to convert the Quasqueton Dam into a rock arch rapids in late August. The project is on the Wapsipinicon River Water Trail in Buchanan County. DNR low-head dam mitigation grants of $68,000 and technical / design support helped make this project possible. Formerly, this dam led to situations like this:


Upcoming Projects:

Becker Access in Fort Dodge - This Des Moines River access will be moved upstream to give it a better angle and lower grade. A larhe parking area will also be built complete with a trailer turn-around.