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

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 Estherville, to Peterson Access in Wallingford, past Graettinger, and on to Emmetsburg
Distance: 26 miles

The  trip from Estherville to Emmetsburg may be done in one or two days.  The West Fork of the Des Moines River is quite challenging when the water is running fast.  Just south of Estherville, the river begins to change directions frequently, making the 6.6 mile direct distance into a 10 mile trip to Peterson Access.  There are many places where downed trees nearly block the river.  I was able to push through the branches, but there needs to be careful attention paid because the snags are above and below the water and could capsize the unwary.  About 4 miles south of Estherville, there is an unmarked barbed wire fence across the river.  If you are on the east side of the river, along the high ground, you can pass under the wire. There is another barbed wire fence just as you come to the A33 bridge. 

The trip from Peterson Access to Basswood Access in Emmetsburg takes one past the long railroad trestle near Graettinger and under the Hwy. B14 bridge.  It is about 7 miles to the bridge, and another 9 miles to Basswood.  The river is somewhat straighter and wider, and there are fewer obstacles, but downed trees present a challenge in several places.  The greenbelt forest is quite deep in many places, and deer are in the forest and in the river, a magnificent sight that I'm going to capture on film.

Driving Directions There are two places to launch in Estherville.  As you come into town on Hwy. 4, look for 4th St., near the wonderful library.  Take 4th St. north about a half mile to N26, then just north of the N26 bridge is a driveway down to a field and a hard surface boat ramp.  Parking is no problem, and there is room for camping.  If you launch from 4th St. you will have to run or portage the dam just before the city park, but there is passage through the dam on the east side. 

The city park also has a boat ramp.  As you cross the Hwy. 9 bridge going west, turn south to the city park on W.S. 1st St.  The driveway to the ramp looks like it belongs to a house. 

South of the Hwy. 4 bridge outside town, there is unmarked barbed wire across the river.  I nearly lost my head in foggy weather.

The Peterson Access is easy to find.  Take A34 east through Wallingford about 1/4 mile. 

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. 

Access/Landmark Latitude Longitude
N26 bridge, Estherville N43 24 44.8 W94 50 24.4
Hwy 4 bridge N43 23 15.7 W94 49 51.2
Peterson Access, Wallingford N43 19 06.1 W94 46 44.0
B14 bridge, Graettinger N43 14 31.3 W94 44 19.0
Basswood, Emmetsburg N43 07 36.7 W94 42 23.3


Watch out for unmarked barbed wire south of Estherville
The southward march of the Dragoons began in Emmetsburg in 1836



Website Builder