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Iowa's natural resources plates include the state bird and flower, pheasant, eagle, buck and a Brook trout. Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
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Experience Iowa's natural beauty and all the fun our state parks offer. Make your online reservation for state park cabins, camping sites, shelters and lodges.
Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
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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.
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!
2022 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
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.
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." 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.
Bridge construction projects across Iowa could close some sections of rivers this summer.
Check the Interactive Paddling Map to help you plan your paddling trip and avoid construction areas.
State law requires life jackets on every watercraft, whether it’s a motorized boat, jet ski, kayak, canoe, or even a paddleboard. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 84 percent of drowning victims who died from a boating accident were not wearing their life jackets. The best way to be “saved by the jacket” is to wear it at all times, no matter your level of swimming or boating expertise.
For more information about safe boating practices visit the National Safe Boating Campaign.
The Boating Education program is committed to providing Iowans with important resources and messages that save lives.
Keep It Clean and Keep It Fun for everyone by taking a reusable litter bag when you go paddling, fishing, hiking, hunting, picnicking and on any of your favorite outdoor adventures.
Empty it, rinse it out and use it more than once!
- Click to Request Your Bags Today -
Please allow 2-3 weeks to receive your bags.
Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek Water Trail Plan (20MB)Black Hawk County West Fork Des Moines Water Trail Plan (20MB)Emmet CountyIowa River Trail Plan (34MB)Johnson and Louisa CountiesLower Des Moines River Trail Plan (32MB)Van Buren CountyWest Nishnabotna Trail Plan (28MB)Pottawattamie CountyWest Nishnabotna Trail Plan (19MB)Shelby CountyMaquoketa Water Trail Plan (48MB)Delaware CountySouth Skunk Water Trail Plan (33MB)Story County
Dam Mitigation GrantsApplication deadline is September 16, 2022
The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2023 for the development of dam mitigation and water trail projects. A portion the funds ($500,000 for this fiscal year) 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.
Dam Grant Application FormDam Grant Application Form
Water Trail Enhancement GrantsApplication Deadline: August 15, 2022.
The Iowa Legislature appropriated funds for fiscal year 2023 for the development of dam mitigation and water trail projects. A portion of the funds($500,000) 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.
Cost share requirement for this cycle is 20%.
Water Trail Enhancement Grant Application FormWater Trail Enhancement Grant Application Form
Qualification deadline is October 1, 2021Application deadline is December 10, 2021
Local planning is important for water trail development, as navigable waters are used by many Iowans for various activities (boating, fishing, inner-tubing, paddling, wildlife viewing, etc.) while often flowing between private lands. Rivers and large lakes are often a defining community attraction but sometimes misuse or poor planning results in safety, inappropriate infrastructure, or law enforcement problems. Iowa DNR partners with local communities and directs resources to community planning, engineered site designs, interpretive products, etc. This application form provides a means for local partners to apply for planning assistance and understand how selections will be made.
Water Trail Application FormWater Trail Application Form