Because the Des Moines River doesn't begin at Hwy 20 and end at Hwy. 92
Red Rock to Ottumwa
Des Moines River Float Trips  (Best viewed in Classic mode on mobile devices)  

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


The Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Red Rock dam to Tracy and Eveland Access, on to Eddyville and Chillicothe, to Ottumwa and down to Cliffland Access 
Distance: 53 miles

This is a 1 or 2 day trip.  The paddle from Red Rock to Ottumwa begins at the boat ramp just to the south of the dam, on the east side of the river.  This is Howell Station, with a partially restored bridge (Horn Bridge) that was one of the first over the river.  Paddle under the standing section of the bridge along the east bank, there are submerged pillars to the west.  It is about 2 miles to the Harvey bridge, another 7 miles to Hwy. 92 bridge, and 2 miles to Lamphier's Landing on river left.  There is a boat ramp, with more facilities to come.  A mile further on is the old Hwy. 92 access near Tracy.  You can carry a canoe down to the river here, and the neighbors are friendly.

It is another 8 miles to the Eveland Access, which has excellent camping facilities, and is located just off Hwy. T39.  The run from Red Rock to Eveland is about 20 miles.  This area of the river is alternating areas of greenbelt and riverside development.  Folks will wave to you from their decks and their campers as you paddle past.

From Eveland, the G71 bridge is 4 miles, Hardfish Access is another 4  miles.  There is a well-kept boat ramp and camping area, no amenities.  In another 2 miles, you pass the new levee at brave Eddyville and paddle under the Hwy. 137 bridge.  There is no boat ramp at Eddyville anymore.  Another 5 miles takes you past the power generating plant at Chillicothe, which presents  no obstacles to paddling but is an awesome sight.  The Chillicothe bridge is another 2 miles downstream.  Amtrak runs through this area, and the trains are a nearly continuous presence down to Ottumwa.  This was the route of the very successful River Ripple canoe float on 1999-2005.

South of the Chillicothe bridge 3 miles, the Amtrak tracks cross the river, and trains pass by frequently.  The river also twists and turns through mostly forest area.  The last 4 miles to Black Hawk Access takes you past riverside homes, beautifully kept.  I was paddling in a rain squall against strong winds and waves, but the sights of the river made the effort worthwhile.  Black Hawk Access is to the north and east of the island.  The run from Eveland  to Ottumwa is about 26 miles.  If you go right at Turkey Island, you will find a boat ramp on the south shore just off Hwy. 34.  It is also fairly easy to portage around the hydro dam by carrying your boat along the levee down to the Coliseum access.

Once past the hydro dam, you will see the Ottumwa Coliseum (now Bridgeview Center) boat ramp, which is unique in that it is outside the levee on a road set on an angle up and over the levee wall.  It is a 4 mile trip down to Cliffland Access, which has excellent camping facilities and is close to historic Agency, where Chief Keokuk sold Iowa to the U.S.

Driving Directions The boat ramp south of Red Rock dam is at Howell Station.  Take T15 out of Pella, turn right just before the dam, follow the signs to Howell Station. 

There is a gravel ramp where old Hwy. 92 runs into the river, on the west side just north of Tracy, off Hwy. 92 east of Knoxville. 

Eveland Access is off G71, which runs west off Hwy. 63 just south of Oskaloosa.  Turn north on T39 about 3 miles. 

Hardfish Access is on the west side of the river north of Eddyville.  Take 63 to Eddyville, turn west and go over the Hwy. 137 bridge.  Off Hwy. 63, W 1.3 miles on Hwy. 137, N on Heartland Dr., W bank.

To get to the Black Hawk boat ramp (East), turn right at the Hwy. 63 bridge, follow the river road past the UPS building, and turn left.  Black Hawk boat ramp (West) is W of the Hwy 63/Hwy 34 intersection, off Hwy 34, N 1 mile on N. Quincy, E on Black Hawk Rd.

The Coliseum/Bridgeview boat ramp is off Hwy. 34 east of the Hwy. 63 bridge, follow the signs to Church St. 

Cliffland Access, 1.5 miles S of  Hwy 63/Hwy 34 intersection, turn E on River Road J12 for 4.5 miles, left on Cliffland Rd., N across the river, E bank.  


Access/Landmark Latitude Longitude
Howell Station, Red Rock N41.21.47.2 W92.58.20.0
Harvey Bridge N41.20.32.4 W92.56.23.3
Hwy. 92 bridge N41 18 31.8 W92 52 31.5
Old 92, near Tracy N41.17.18.7 W92.51.56.9
Eveland Access, T39 N41.14.09.7 W92.44.09.3
G71 bridge N41 12 19.6 W92 40 41.8
Hardfish Access, Eddyville N41 09 25.3 W92 39 09.5
T137 bridge, Eddyville N41.08.59.5 W92.38.04.4
Power plant, Chillicothe N41.07.22.9 W92.35.00.2
Chillicothe bridge N41.05.13.6 W92.31.35.6
Railroad bridge, Ottumwa N41.03.26.4 W92.28.47.8
Black Hawk Access (West), Ottumwa N41 01 25.1 W92 26 07.8
Coliseum Access, Ottumwa N41 00 42.9 W92 24 45.3
Cliffland Access, Agency N40 57 30.7 W92 20 34.8



Journal Entries

Red Rock to Eveland to an appreciative audience


I love a rainy day on the river

The Ottumwa Courier River Ripple attracted 115 boats and 217 people



Black Hawk Access, Ottumwa, city of swift water 

After a 16 mile run against strong winds and waves, in a rain squall, I was met by wonderful family members. 



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