ISO float trips close to Iowa City

We’re traveling to Iowa City to visit over Labor Day, can anyone point me in the right direction for a good river to float along with outfitters and campground/resort that may have cabins?

The answer…

IC paddling
Decorah is not in the Iowa City area, far from it. If you want river paddling the Iowa River runs right through town but is at flood levels now. My recommendation is Lake McBride State Park. It is about 20 minutes north of IC and it is a beautiful place. I was there today, even though the drive for me is about 2 hours. I go up there whenever I have the time. Definitely worth the time and gas IMHO.

Some thoughts
I’m from central Iowa near Des Moines. I have not paddled in the Iowa City area but do have some thoughts. Also, I don’t know about resorts or outfitters, but you may try Googling around.

You should also be aware that Iowa rivers are rain dependent. It may be difficult to find enough water to paddle Iowa’s rivers in the fall if we’ve had a dry summer (not a problem so far) or if it hasn’t rained in awhile.

A lot may depend upon how far from Iowa City you want to travel. Decorah and Elkader are the two towns to consider if you want to paddle the best rivers in northeast Iowa.

Decorah would be a base for paddling the Upper Iowa River. Decorah is about 3 hours from Iowa City. Elkader would be a base for paddling the Turkey River or the Volga River. Elkader is about 2 hours from Iowa City.

If you want to paddle closer to Iowa City the Iowa River (different river than the Upper Iowa River) runs right through Iowa City. The Cedar River has an access at Cedar Bluff which is about a half hour NE of Iowa City.

Here are three resources you might want to check out:

  1. Obtain the book “Paddling Iowa” by Nate Hoogeveen. It’s the best guide to all of the best paddling rivers in Iowa: good descriptions of the rivers, and good maps. It’s available from Amazon for about $15 plus shipping and well worth it.

  2. Check out the Iowa Department of Natural Resources web site; especially the Water Trails Maps and Brochures web page at

  3. Iowa City is the county seat of Johnson County. Check out the Johnson County Conservation Department. Give them a call and ask for Larry Gullett. He’s the Johnson County Conservation Director and an experienced canoeist. I used to canoe with him when he worked for the Dallas County Conservation Department in Central Iowa. He may have some information on outfitters. Here is a link to the Johnson County Conservation Department web page where you can find Larry’s contact information: