If you’re looking to blaze a new trail this summer, consider hitting the water for something different. Iowa boasts a number of water trails, which offer a unique perspective on Iowa in summer.
Water trails, or designated routes on rivers and lakes, can provide access to campsites, shelters, restrooms and more. 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.
If you’re just getting started, consider taking a free online paddle safety course and look to a local outfitter to rent a canoe or kayak. Many outfitters also provide a shuttle service.
We all know how unpredictable Iowa’s weather can be – and water levels are no different. Be sure to always check water levels before you go out, as they change frequently. You cancheck water levels at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website. And don’t forget to file a float plan before you go – be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
Maps are available for all of Iowa’s water trails, but consider these for a great summer getaway:
Upper Iowa River Take in breathtaking views of the Bluffton Bluffs and Chimney Rock along one of Iowa’s favorite places to canoe, kayak and float. Known for the scenic views and interesting rock formations, this trail is a must-visit for every Iowa paddler.
Middle and South Raccoon Rivers Paddle the section of the Middle Raccoon River from Panora to Redfield to feel like you’ve escaped civilization. The remote setting offers lots of chances to glimpse wildlife at the banks and is steeped in Native American history.
Des Moines River If you like a leisurely float with plenty of sandbars to stop and picnic at, try the Des Moines River in Polk County. Check out the map first, so you can plan your trip around the dams in downtown Des Moines. At the end of your float, stop off to set up a camp at a paddle-in campsite at Yellow Banks county park.
Dubuque/Mississippi River and Catfish Creek Water Trail Paddle the 2.1 miles of Catfish Creek as it travels through Mines of Spain State Recreation Area before joining the Mighty Mississippi. Take plenty of breaks to get out and enjoy the bluff-top views at the park, including the one at the Julien Dubuque monument, and keep your eyes peeled for eagles, deer, turkey and more wildlife. If you want a longer trip, follow the Mississippi River water trail from A.Y. McDonald county park down to Massey Marina, south of Mines of Spain.
For more ideas, check out our Iowa Paddling board onPinterest.
Upper Iowa River water trail
Middle Raccoon River water trail
Des Moines River water trail