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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.

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.

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 green 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. Contact River Programs Outreach Coordinator, Todd Robertson.

Construction Crew Update  Friday, Feb 10th, 2014
It's been a busy season for the IDNR River Programs construction team. Take a look at our current and completed projects below.

Completed: The Klondike Dam to rapids conversion project was completed in May, 2013. It involved removing the dam and construction a rapids that pools water to the same elevation of the dam to maintain water supply for a rural water system. The area is now safer, more accessible, and allows fish to pass upstream at  both low and high water.

Completed:  Pleasant Valley Access. The Pleasant Valley Access on the South Raccoon River between Redfield and Adel has been completed and moved from its original location. The former access was at the end of a long secluded road which attracted illegal behavior. A new concrete ramp was constructed for the access in a more visible location at the Pleasant Valley State Wildlife Area. The old road and parking lot was amended to become wetland habitat.

Completed: Fleur Drive Dam Portage, Des Moines. A portage was constructed on the Raccoon River to allow paddlers to portage around the Fleur Drive low-head dam. This was a joint project funded by the Iowa DNR and Des Moines Water Works. Before there was no safe way to portage around the dangerous dam because of the steep river banks. Two one-hundred foot concrete ramps were constructed to provide paddlers a safe and easy way to exit and reenter the river.


In Progress:  Riverside Park Access, Webster City. This project is still under construction but is close to being completed. Pictures below are before and an under construction picture. The project was to construct a new river access in Riverside Park, which is a very popular access to launch canoes, kayaks and tubes on the Boone River. Another important part of the project was to provide access for the city’s motorized rescue boat, which didn’t have a nearby suitable ramp to enter the river. The new access will be paved and provide great river access to paddlers and the city’s rescue boat to ensure safety on the Boone River.

In Progress:  Kohlmann Park Access, Waverly. Currently, there is no official take-out on the Cedar River above the Waverly Dam. Soon we will begin construction on installing a concrete ramp on the Cedar River to allow paddlers to park, and safely exit the river before they get to the dangerous low-head dam. The picture below shows only the location of the work being done.