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paddling in iowa
Water Trail Development Tools

Water Trails are recreational corridors and routes on rivers and lakes that provide a unique experience for canoeists and kayakers and 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. 

They 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.

+ Developing Water Trails in Iowa, Guide
+ New Water Trail Projects
+ Communicating: Display Panels, Kiosks, Brochures
+ Water Trails, Disabilities, & Adaptive Paddling

Iowa's State Water Trails Plan

The state water trails plan documents the historic and present day importance of Iowa's navigable waters. The plan focuses on the types of activities people are participating in on Iowa's rivers along with outlining different things to take into consideration when planning a new water trail.

Economic studies
The statewide plan supported two surveys on rivers and on-water recreation. A report on the Survey of Liveries (Iowa Canoe, Kayak, and Innertube) is available, as is statewide river corridor use survey conducted by ISU's Center for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Water Trail Plans

iowa river water trail plan
Iowa River Trail Plan (34MB)
Johnson and Louisa Counties

lower des moines water trail plan
Lower Des Moines River Trail Plan (32MB)
Van Buren County

maquoketa water trail plan
West Nishnabotna Trail Plan (28MB)
Pottawattamie County

maquoketa water trail plan
Maquoketa Water Trail Plan (48MB)
Delaware County

South Skunk water trail plan
South Skunk Water Trail Plan (33MB)
Story County


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.