Who needs the ocean when you have endless lakes and rivers right here in Iowa? Personally, I would pick a kayak or canoe over a surfboard any day. Plus, you won’t have to worry about sharks when you go kayaking or canoeing at these 10 amazing rivers and lakes in Iowa.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Upper Iowa River near Decorah
The Upper Iowa River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, and is probably the single most beautiful place to go kayaking or canoeing in Iowa. The 330-foot-tall limestone bluffs make the scenery unlike anything else in Iowa. Many people put their canoes in at Kendallville or down river from there, but more experienced paddlers prefer to start at Lime Springs by the Lidtke Mill or at Florenceville.
If you don't have room in your vehicle to bring your own kayaks or canoes, Randy's in Bluffton and Hruska's in Kendallville rent boats for pretty cheap. On your trip here, it's probably a good idea to do some camping and check out the city of Decorah while you're at it.
2. Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs
If you're in the Council Bluffs area, and in the mood to do a little paddling, check out Lake Manawa. It offers a beautiful beach in a scenic area, and they offer paddleboat and canoe rentals at the park concessions.
3. West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County
A favorite spot for many kayakers and canoers is at West Okoboji, one of the Iowa Great Lakes. The lake is the second deepest in Iowa, after Spirit Lake, making it a popular destination for all boaters, swimmers, and fishermen. Not to mention there is also an old theme park to check out while you're in the area.
4. Saylorville Lake, near Des Moines
Saylorville Lake is a reservoir of the Des Moines River, about ten miles away from Des Moines. All manner of boating, swimming, and fishing are very popular things to do in the area, and it's a great place to go to get away from the daily grind of life in Iowa's capitol.
5. Five Island Lake, Emmetsburg
The south lakeshore of Five Island Lake offers a beautiful swimming beach, and the lake itself is perfect for kayaking and canoeing. The area also offers a playground for the kids, restrooms, campgrounds, picnic areas, and more.
6. Maquoketa River, near Dundee
The Maquoketa River Water Trail is one of the best places to go kayaking or canoeing in Iowa. It's rich with untouched nature and the beauty of an Iowan landscape. The trail spans around 80 miles total, and there are many spots to enter and exit the river. You can look at a map of the water trail to pick out which route works best for you.
7. Ada Hayden Lake, Ames
If you live in Ames, there's no better place to go than Ada Hayden. The park is a great place to spend a day hiking, fishing, or kayaking, without having to travel too far. Jax Outdoor Gear offers canoe and kayak rentals every Sunday through Labor Day at the lake.
8. Turkey River, Elkader
Turkey River in Elkader offers a very popular whitewater course for adrenaline seeking kayakers and tubers. It consists of several different areas including: the Gobbler Wave, High-Flow Wave, Structure Boulder Island and the Fish/Canoe Passage.
9. Clear Lake, city of Clear Lake
Clear Lake is a favorite of boaters, swimmers, and kayakers alike. The lake is located in a beautiful area, and while you're there, you can check out the infamous Surf Ballroom, where singers like Buddy Holly,Conway Twitty, and Lynryd Skynyrd have graced the stage.
10. Lake Ahquabi, near Indianola
Lake Ahquabi, at Lake Ahquabi State Park, offers a sandy beach, two boat ramps, and a gorgeous place to do some kayaking. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats at the park concessions. There is also a lakeside campground if you want to make a night of it, and if you're a fisher, the word is that Lake Ahquabi has twice the catch rate of most Iowa lakes.
This is just a small sampling of the many beautiful spots to go kayaking or canoeing in Iowa. Do you know of some more spots that should be on this list? Share them with us!