Kayaking the Des Moines River

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This summer we finally bought kayaks! As newer kayakers, we ended up paddling along the Des Moines River quite a few times and had a lot of fun. I wanted to share our experience of a great weekend paddle along with some tips and expectations for anyone who hasn’t kayaked on the Des Moines River.

Surprisingly I’ve never kayaked until this year, so you could consider this my new quarantine hobby. After testing out a couple lakes in Ames and getting comfortable, we finally set sail on the Des Moines River!

How we got to the boat ramps

The Iowa DNR Interactive Paddling Map is definitely the best way to find the boat ramps around the state, and there are a bunch of features to get you directions there and various other icons to use or overlay and find where to go.

We started at the E-26 or Waterworks Ramp Downstream boat ramp in Boone, and got out at the Highway 30 access. Another note that Seven Oaks tends to start all their Canoe/Kayak/Tubing trips on the weekends at this ramp, so starting early helped us not be in each others way when trying to get on the river.

All the staff members are really nice are do their best to not be in anyone’s way even with all their equipment and buses.

There are also plenty of parking spots leading up to the ramp, no bathrooms/port-a-potties, so make sure to take care of that before you get there.

The E-26 boat ramp near the Boone Water Treatment Facility
The E-26 boat ramp near the Boone Water Treatment Facility

How long did it take?

So we’re certainly not pro-kayakers, but we had steady movement for the most part, and it took us about 2 hours once we were in the water.

Earlier in July when we went, the water was a bit higher, so we didn’t have to worry about low water levels, but when we went again at the end of July (after weeks of hardly any rain!) we had some low level spots we had to worry about avoiding.

How was the trip?

So fun! I feel like it’s great for newer kayakers to test out a longer trip, and you can be as relaxed or speedy as you’d like. The scenery is simple, but it’s beautiful and peaceful to be in the middle of.

It’s also amazing how many bald eagles we spotted! We had at least 3-4 different eagles flying throughout our trip, can you say patriotic?? Every once in a while you might spot a deer grabbing some water, and the occasional geese and other birds.

There’s also a handful of sandbars that are nice for taking a quick stop and potentially to camp on!

Des Moines River scenery between Boone and Highway 30

We’ll definitely be back here this summer, and plan on taking some longer routes!

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