Iowa River trip


I am new to kayaking and still don’t have a kayak. But I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and have had many boats ,both power and sail boats.

I am planning a trip from Iowa City to the Mississippi .

My plan is to do research this year and get a used Kayak this winter. Then practice in the spring and make the trip in late fall…

It’s 75 miles along the Iowa River . With plenty of places to stop and proper camping areas I estimate the trip will take three days .

Any advice would be appreciated

Invest in quality gear
The same goes for your kayak, pfd etc. 75miles in a rec boat in 3 days is going to be a hugh chore. Now in a nice sea kayak that 75miles is going to feel like gravy. Get out as much as possible and paddle to build your endurance or tolerance. Since you will be purchasing a kayak learn to pack small.

I would want more time to do the 75miles but that is me. Being rushed seems to be the way of the world, but on the water, I want to take my time to cherish the limited time I have there.

You said you’re new to the sport,
so you’ll want to learn how to do a self-rescue in the event of an unplanned swim.

There are ACA certified instructors in Iowa. You can find them at this link:

Hope it all comes together for you and you have a wonderful trip.

Thanks for the reply

I anymor used to exercise as I was an avid cyclist. But the upper body and different mussles will be getting a work out over winter. I have a good PFD and paddle. But I think I will get a second paddle just to have an extra.

I have small gear for bicycle camping and hope to utilize it for this trip.

I am looking forward to the practice. The first thing I want to learn is the roll. I have been watching videos and understand that it will take practice. My first instinct when capsize is to just get out. Swim the boat to shore and get everything back together.

When I sailed I tied my gear down. I did capsize once and was glad I did.

Safety is my first concern. That and bugs. I’m not afraid of bugs or anything but don’t need to get eaten alive at night.

I did not think 25 a day was a big deal when drifting down stream. I will definitely not want to rush anything. I like to relax and just enjoy nature. Thanks my main goal. Just to have a good time.

I will definitely look at professional instruction

Thanks .

Learning to roll isn’t essential but-
if you do you’ll learn a lot about boat and paddle control and you’ll be more confident handling your boat.

As for boats paddle as many as you can before buying each feels a little different to each person. A boat that feels a little unstable you will grow into but one that feels stable you may outgrow quickly. may do some trips near you and clubs can be a great resource for knowledge, shuttles and used boats.

If you travel south, I’m near Troy, MO and have a few extra boats we could go for a paddle.



Iowa River trip

– Last Updated: Jul-29-16 9:51 PM EST –

I'm about 30 miles from Iowa City and the water levels might be a challenge on the Iowa late in the year. Low water is a real possibility, at least until you reach the confluence with the Cedar at Columbus Junction. Otherwise, your timeline sounds reasonable.

You may have to do some walking around bars, snags and strainers. Since you'll presumably be travelling alone, don't insist on staying in the boat regardless and put yourself into any situations you can't get yourself out of.

Sounds like a great trip. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

Water level and rain
That is somthing I had not considered. Would it be better to go a couple days after a rain? Or just plan to go early fall or late summer?

Water level and rain
Predicting a river’s level 15 or 16 months requires a much higher powered crystal ball than I’ve got.

That said, autumn is generally a fairly dry season here and that’s what prompted me to bring up the possibility of a significant portion of the river being too low for an enjoyable extended paddle.

The river level between Iowa City and Columbus Junction is pretty much determined by the amount of outflow from the dam at Coralville Lake.

In the fall, if the weather guessers predict colder than normal temps and higher than normal snow during the winter over the river’s watershed area, the Corps of Engineers will boost the outflow to draw the lake down enough to hold back the anticipated winter runoff and spring rains. In this scenario, that ought to mean sufficient water for easy paddling.

On the flip side, if 2017 turns out to be a dry year overall and the winter is predicted to be warmer and drier than normal, outflow from the dam may be ratcheted way down to keep the lake level up for the next year.

If this is the case, it would take a fairly substantial amount of rain in the area for the river’s feeder creeks to supplement the lake’s outflow and substantially raise the river’s level.

It’s too soon by at least a year to do anything but make guesses about next fall’s river conditions.

It’s a coin toss as to when to take the trip. Conditions are likely to be better overall between Labor Day and around the first of October. I eagerly anticipate the lower temperatures and humidity the change of seasons bring. After the first frost, all but the hardiest mosquitoes will have had their thoraxes frozen off and won’t harass you around the campfire at night.

Campgrounds generally shut down around the first of October so keep that in mind if hot showers and staying at a campground was a part of your plan.

If I were to do the trip, provided there was enough water for easy floating/paddling, I’d shoot for sometime during the second half of October. Clear days would generally mean shirtsleeve temperatures with flannel and sweatshirts the uniform of the day while camping rough on a sandbar.

Of course, before you get a chance to solidify your plans, next year’s precipitation could mean the river is just a trickle or flooding to the point that an ark would be a better suited water craft than a kayak.

Long answer longer, be aware of the variable conditions and be flexible with your plans.

Hope this helps!

Wow thanks ,that is a really big help.

I am from the east and to me October is winter. I was planning for September but with all the insight you have given me I will see how the river looks this year and get a feel for the weather this year. Then see how next year goes.

I could just ask the engeneers to release some water for me. Haha

Iowa River
From Columbus Junction to the Mississippi the Iowa River gets very wide. As I found out this past May it can be a long slug of a paddle with a headwind. Headwinds of 15 mph and over can make for very long and difficult paddling days. In such situations my paddling partner in a kayak had a much less difficult time, but difficult nonetheless.

Also, allow yourself time to explore the Odessa Water Trail and Port Louisa once you reach the Mississippi. It’s worth checking out.

Here’s a link to the Odessa Water Trail:

Here’s a link to the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge: