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Stay safe paddling this 4th of July holiday weekend

  • 6/27/2023 4:34:00 PM
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Iowa lakes and rivers will be busy with paddlers this long holiday weekend.

Iowa has 18,000 miles of navigable waterways, and no shortage of streams and lakes to paddle. Paddlers can enjoy water trails that currently span 36 counties across the state via streams and lakes of all sizes and lengths. 

Check the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddling map ( for updates on real-time hazards like downed trees and log jams, strainers and bridge construction.

“Strainers are the number one hazard on the river,” said Todd Robertson, paddling instructor and Outreach Coordinator for Rivers Programs at the Iowa DNR.  “Piles of trees and branches can suck a paddler in and under with little chance to escape.”

Stay safe this holiday weekend and each time you paddle with these simple safety tips.

  • Always wear your life jacket. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times when underway on a recreational vessel on any Iowa water. Iowa law requires life jackets on every watercraft, whether it’s a motorized boat, jet ski, kayak, canoe, or even a paddleboard.
  • Paddle with a group, not by yourself.
  • Avoid wading in current off of a river bank, sandbar or access points.
  • Tell a friend or loved one where you will be paddling, including what access to what access, and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bring along a dry bag with a set of extra clothes you can change into if you get wet, a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio.
  • Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. Wear light, loose fitting clothing that dries quickly. Wear a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.

Find more tips to help you plan a fun and safe paddling trip on the DNR webpage at