Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know
canoe paddling on Iowa's river trails

Plan Your Paddling Adventure

Paddling is a great activity to spend time with family and friends, enjoy scenic views and spot a variety of wildlife. Try these simple tips for a fun and safe paddling trip.

Start with the basics

  • Wear a properly-fitted lifejacket while on the water. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times when underway on a recreational vessel on any Iowa water.
  • Learn about and study your route in advance. Know where your take-out access is located, how many river miles downstream, and how long it is going to take to get there.
  • Plan your shuttle needs — make sure you have vehicles at both the river launch and takeout access to transport your gear, kayak and all paddlers in your group. Local canoe and kayak liveries can assist with your shuttle needs and may provide rental opportunities.
  • Use the Interactive Paddling Map to plan your shuttle route, find boat rentals, and see real-time hazard information including strainers, bridge construction and low head dam locations.
  • Carry a supply of food and drinking water adequate for the length of your trip.

Stay safe

  • Paddle with a group, not by yourself. Let a friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Know and understand your river levels and flows, as well as the weather forecast.
  • Never paddle rain swollen streams that are at or near flood stage.
  • Be aware of where dams are. Most designated “water trails” in Iowa have signage upstream warning of these dams. Never go over a low-head dam.
  • Never paddle under the influence of alcohol.

Dress for success

  • Dress appropriately for weather and water conditions, including air and water temperature.
  • Wear quick drying material and propwer water shoes, not flip flops.
  • Bring along a set of dry clothes in a dry bag.



Iowa Paddling Sports Retailer Training

Paddling safety resources

Iowa DNR is offering staff training to all paddling sport retailers. Together, we can help Iowa recreational paddlers have a safe and fun paddling trip, every time they are on the water.


Set up your training session!


Wear It Iowa


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.


Essential Gear

  • Lifejacket
  • Dry bag with extra clothing
  • Cell phone
  • First aid kit
  • Water shoes
  • Hat with brim
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof flashlight