Low Head Dams

Low-head dams are extremely dangerous and have led to fatalities of Iowa anglers, boaters, paddlers, tubers, swimmers, and would-be rescuers. Powerful recirculating hydraulics at these small dams can trap and drown unsuspecting river users. Iowa DNR educates all river users about these hazards, provides support for dam-owners to install warning signs in vicinities of dams, and works with dam owners to mitigate safety hazards and fish passage barriers at dams.

Low Head Dam illustration
More detailed information: Drowning Machine Brochure


Low-Head Dam Mitigation

Take a look at our low-head dam mitigation map and check out the actual projects completed or underway:

+ Expand for Map - Low-Head Dam Mitigation


Iowa's Plan for Dam Mitigation
Dam Visual, warning sign
Dam Mitigation Manual
Technical assistance for dam mitigation:
For dam owners or their partners interested in reducing safety hazards and fish passage barriers at their dams, Iowa DNR offers assistance at different stages of a project. Examples include:
  • Dam warning signage system design (and in some cases, installation)
  • Community open house input
  • Concept development in the early phases of project
  • River channel survey
  • Assistance with developing RFPs, finding funding
  • River restoration design
  • Project management assistance
  • Permitting and regulatory compliance assistance
  • Bid document assistance

Please fill out the application form. Our staff will review it and contact you soon.
Application for Technical Assistance
Application for Technical Assistance

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.


Safety Tips
  • Familiarize yourself with the river before recreating on or near it. Obtain a map of the river and ask those people familiar with the river about any hazards on it.
  • Boat with responsible, experienced boaters.
  • Keep your eyes open for dam warning signs, markers or buoys. The retaining walls of a dam can be easier to spot and can be a good indicator that a dam is ahead.
  • Portage around all dams and re-enter well downstream of the boil.
  • Always wear a life jacket.

Available Grants

Information regarding both Dam Mitigation and Water Trail Enhancement grants can be found on our main Canoeing & Kayaking page.

Dam Locations

Be safe, and be prepared. Accidents, sometimes deadly, occur at low-head dams every year. Be sure to review the map of dams on major rivers in Iowa for the segment of river you plan to use.

+ Expand for Map - Dams on Rivers