Because the Des Moines River doesn't begin at Hwy 20 and end at Hwy. 92
Emmetsburg to Rutland

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

updated 1/09: for stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase gallery


The Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Emmetsburg to Rodman, on to West Bend and Bradgate, and  take out at the Rutland Dam 
Distance: 39 miles

The  trip from Emmetsburg to Rutland is truly wild and scenic.  You will paddle for miles with only the sounds of the birds to interrupt the rushing of the water.  There are otters by the Basswood ramp, and you may linger to watch them at play.  I did this trip on four different days, but the water was running fairly slow.  In faster water, this is a 2 day trip.  There is camping at Mulroney near Rodman, at River Runner near West Bend,  at Willow near Bradgate, and at the Rutland Dam area.  I caught a football game at West Bend-Mallard High School.

The river winds gently through forest and greenbelt down to Mulroney Access.  You occasionally pass under a bridge or near a rural road.  The first landmark past Emmetsburg is the Hwy. 4 bridge, about 4 miles downstream.  The river begins to turn to the east 3 miles south, and passes under a county road  bridge 3 miles from Mulroney Access.  The total trip, per my GPS, was 12 miles, somewhat longer than the guidebooks tell you.

Mulroney is set back in the woods about a mile from B55.  It is 8 miles to River Runner.  The stretch from Rodman to River Runner passes under the B55 bridge after about 2 miles of rowing, and under several bridges, but it is still quite remote and scenic.  The play of sunlight on water and the fall colors made for striking photographs.  You pass under the B63 bridge about 6 miles into the trip, and arrive at River Runner Access 2  miles downstream.  I camped at River Runner, going into West Bend to see the Grotto and get supplies.  It is pretty country, and I enjoyed seeing plentiful deer in the forest.

The trip to Willow Access near Bradgate is 10 miles.  You immediately get into deep woods, and a leafy canopy that often shades you from the sun.  I saw lots of deer along the riverbank.  3 miles downstream is the C20 bridge.  Another 3 miles and you are at the Hamm's Bridge access maintained by Pocahontas County.  Another 4 miles and you paddle under the C26 bridge near Bradgate, and then it's less than a mile to the Willow Access.  This area is set back from the road in a wooded area, and the access road is quite rough.

The 8 mile paddle to Rutland will be one of the most direct on the river.  The West Fork widens and picks up speed considerably, and this will be a 2 hour trip in most conditions.  There is a pool to the north behind the old pump house, and you can take the boat out up a gentle incline.  There was a major restoration project underway to upgrade this area, known as Rose Mill Park

Driving Directions Basswood Access is  north of Emmetsburg on Hwy. 4/18.  Don't take the exit for the college and the recreation area.  The ramp is just south of the bridge, down a fairly steep incline. 

Mulroney Access is 2 miles west of Rodman on Hwy. B55, turn north on the gravel road and go past the park. 

River Runner Access is 3.5 miles west of West Bend, on B63, then follow the signs along the gravel roads.  There is a major bridge that crosses the river, and the access is south on the east side of the river. 

Hamm's Access is North of Bradgate on P19, 1.7 miles W off P19 on C18 (440th St.).

Willow Access is east of C26 just south of the bridge.  It is well marked. 

The Rutland Dam take out point is just north of the P33 bridge, 1/4 mile west.  P33 is off Hwy. 3 just about 3 miles west of Humboldt. 

Access/Landmark Latitude Longitude
Basswood, Emmetsburg N43 07 36.7 W94 42 23.3
Hwy. 4 bridge, Emmetsburg N43 03 58.4 W94 40 44.0
bridge, county road
N43 02 00.0
W94 37 40.0
Mulroney, Rodman N43 01 02.8 W94 34 31.0
B55 bridge N43 00 36.0 W94 32 07.6
B63 bridge N42 57 32.5 W94 31 22.0
River Runner, West Bend N42 56 09.2 W94 31 15.6
C20, Ottosen N42 54 12.7 W94 27 45.8
Hamm's Bridge Access, CR C18 N42 50 54.2 W94 27 29.5
C26 bridge, Bradgate N42.48.38.5 N94.26.41.0
Willow Access N42 48 05.8 W94 25 40.3
Rutland dam N42 45 18.2 W94 17 44.7


Journal entry I came across 3 deer swimming in the river;   Sparkly water and luminous foliage

Sparkling water, numerous deer, Moingona river spirits in the water on a gorgeous fall float near West Bend


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