Kayaking in Iowa

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Don’t write off
the Mississippi in NE Iowa. Never paddled it but it looks beautiful with lots of bluffs and backwaters to avoid most of the boat traffic.

Welcome to the sport.


Kayaking in Iowa
Don’t forget Lake Rathbun, Lake Red Rock, Coralville Reservoir, Lake Wapello, & my favorite Lake McBride.

Dittto on the Mississippi
There’s a big wide lake right above every dam, but upstream of the each lake (continuing upstream until you encounter the next dam) you’ll find a maze of backwater channels and forested islands and bottomland, with the only boat traffic being a few fishermen. Many of the channels are too small even to see much of them. The particular place where I like to go on the Mississipp probably has 100 miles of channels within an area small enough that it wouldn’t be unrealistic for a paddler to get to know most of it. Such channels become even more fascinating if you understand how they got the way they are. Yep, the Mississippi alongside NE Iowa isn’t just a big navigation channel for barges and a playground for powerboaters. There’s lots of beautiful, wild country too.


– Last Updated: Oct-31-14 11:13 AM EST –

Guideboatguy: That's interesting to know, I didn't know that, thanks!

reply: alan_gage

Specific Example:
My favorite place on the Mississippi:

Use any website with aerial or satellite photos and look at the river for a couple of miles downstream and several miles upstream of Lansing, Iowa. I launch from various places along Highway 82 which crosses the wide river valley there. You can see that if you plan on going very far in that area, it’s very helpful to have a good map!

Compare the last few miles of the Upper Iowa River, which now flows within a boring man-made channel, to all those natural channels in the adjacent backwaters of the Mississippi and you can get a feel for how badly the lower section of the Upper Iowa River was destroyed in the name of “progress”. Actually, the backwaters of the Mississippi are filling in with sediment, due to the dams, but most of those channels will still be there for our lifetimes anyway.

More Mississippi
I always enjoy Guideboatguy’s posts. This post is right up my alley. Pools 8, 9 and 10 will provide enough exploring for a lifetime. High water in the spring/early summer, usually low flows later on. For excitement surf 4-foot barge wakes (safely from a distance of course), find ideal fishing spots that motor boats can’t reach. Camp for free on islands and backwaters, etc. Also check out recreation.gov for Corp of Engineers’ campgrounds with tent and electrical sites for as low as $12/night. There are two in this section of the river. These campgrounds were established on dredged material since the Corp is responsible for maintaining the 9’ nav channel. There are pool maps on line to download for free. By all means check out the river towns on both banks for good eats (and drinks). BTW, you can lock through the dams with a kayak or canoe.