Des Moines River --  Love it, Explore it, Support it
 Because the Des Moines River doesn't begin at Hwy 20 and end at Hwy. 92
Dolliver to Ledges SP
   

Des Moines River Float Trips  (Best viewed in Classic mode on mobile devices)  


 updated 1/16:

for stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase gallery

The Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Dolliver State Park past Lehigh and Carlson Recreation Area, on to Fraser dam, to Boone Waterworks dam and Hwy. 30, and on to Ledges State Park

Estimated Distance:48 miles

This is a 2 or 3 day trip, depending on how the river is running.  I made 38 miles in a day ln June of 1998, and 32 miles in July of 1999.  Take some time to walk through Dolliver, it is heavily wooded, with an amazing area called the "Boneyard", where Indian hunters ran game off the cliffs.  It is 3 miles down to Lehigh, which has a low dam that I just went over, but you may need to portage in lower water.   There is a boat ramp at Deception Hollow on the west side of the river about 3 miles south of Lehigh.

It is another 9 miles to the D54 bridge through very pretty county with lots of hills on either side of the river.  The Boone River intersects the Des Moines about a half mile above the D54 bridge.  The Dragoons camped in this very spot in 1835.   It is 8 miles to the Hwy. 175 bridge across some high bluffs, and then 2 miles to Carlson Recreation Area, which has a carry down area and camping. The Skillet Access boat ramp is about a mile north of Hwy. 175 on the river road that runs along the west bank.  Norton Ford is about 7 miles downstream from Hwy. 175.  It is 2 miles from Norton Ford to the E18 bridge, and another 3 miles to Fraser.

There will be a bit of a workout at  Fraser dam, 9 miles downstream.  There is a boat ramp just above the dam, and one just below, on the west side of the river.  There is a gravel road that takes you the quarter mile portage.  There is also a Duncan campground just up the road.  After passing under the Fraser bridge, it is 6 miles to Boone Waterworks.  You can see the high bridge for the Scenic Valley RR just off to the east.  There is a boat ramp above the dam, a gravel road along the river, and a boat ramp below the dam.  This was a dangerous dam that has been converted to a much safer rock arch rapids that is paddler friendly.  The river bank is often a gentle incline along this part of the river, and primitive camping is possible in many areas.

It is 7 miles to the Hwy. 30 bridge, and you will pass under the world's tallest double track trestle bridge on a very busy rail line, a spectacular sight.  This is the Kate Shelley High Bridge, named for the young lady that saved a train from a raging flood in 1881.There is a boat ramp at the Hwy. 30 bridge area, just to the north and west of the bridge.  It is about 2 miles to Moingona, the namesake of the river, named for the Indians that inhabited SE Iowa prior to European settlement.  Pillars of abandoned rail lines are in the river, and you can see the town from the river.  The Kate Shelley museum is a must see.  Ledges State Park is another 3 miles, and there is a creek on the east side of the river and wonderful camping and hiking facilities.  It is 27 miles from Carlson Recreation to Ledges.
 

Driving Directions Dolliver State Park boat ramp is 4 miles NW of Lehigh, follow the excellent signs.  

Deception Hollow is south of Lehigh 3 miles.  Take Hwy. 50 until it ends (past the grocery store), then follow the road that runs along the west bank to the first gravel road (P73), and follow that road (which becomes Samson Road) along the river about 2 miles.  Hwy. 50 to Sampson Rd. (P73), E on McGuire Rd., W bank.

To get to Carlson Recreation area, take Hwy. 175, turn south on the gravel road just west of the bridge, follow the signs south 2 miles.   The Skillet Area boat ramp is 1 mile north of the bridge on the west side of the river. 

Norton Ford: From E18 bridge, W 1.5 miles to J Ave, N 1 mile to "T", E on 118th to Juniper Rd, S to undeveloped access.

The Fraser boat ramps are off E26, just north of the bridge on the gravel road on the west side of the river. 

Boone Waterworks is North on Hwy. 17, then west on E26.  The ramp is down the hill on the east side of the river, just north of the bridge.  This is to be used if coming downstream from Fraser.

If you plan to paddle south to Hwy. 30, use the boat ramp below Boone Waterworks unless you are looking for an adventure going through the new rock arch rapids that has replaced the low head dam.

The Hwy 30 boat ramp is half a mile west of Boone, on the west side of the river north of the bridge. 

Ledges State Park is east off Hwy. 17 just north of Luther. 

Coordinates
Access/Landmark Latitude Longitude
Dolliver St. Park N42 23 24.1 W94 04 44.2
Lehigh N42 21 40.0 W94 03 02.0
Deception Hollow N42 19 38.5 W94 01 14.1
Cliffs,near  D54 N42 20 22.7 W93 58 39.6
Stratford, D54 bridge N42 17 51.8 W93 55 58.1
bridge, Hwy. 175 N42 15 08.7 W93 59 51.9
Carlson Recreation N42 13 53.7 W93 58 56.7
Norton Ford N42 11 04.0 W93 58 28.8
bridge, E18 N42 10 04.8 W93 57 53.7
Fraser ramp N42 07 43.6 W93 58 54.3
Fraser dam N42 07 31.4 W93 58 37.8
Fraser ramp N42 07 19.0 W93 58 12.4
Boone Waterworks, E26 bridge N42 04 53.9 W93 56 17.3
Kate Shelly High Bridge N42 03 49.5 W93 58 12.7
Boone boat ramp, Hwy. 30 N42 02 13.1 W93 55 39.9
Ledges State Park N41 59 34.9 W93 55 39.5
     
     
   
   
Journal Entries Massive pilings stand as monuments to a lost civilization
  The Dragoon Trail signs in Boone and Webster counties are very helpful in finding the gravel roads that run along the river
 

Eagle at Dawn: There is a wonderful world of wildlife along the banks of the Des Moines River

   

 
 
 
 
 

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