Because the Des Moines River doesn't begin at Hwy 20 and end at Hwy. 92
Trip Reports 2008
Reports from 2008  (Best viewed in Classic mode on mobile devices)

December 9, 2008

It was great to be out with eagles below Red Rock dam. I have a new Panasonic FZ28 with 26x optical zoom, I'm always looking for that perfect eagle pic.  Howell Station recreation area is all closed off, but the river had just a little ice and I was able to paddle to the west shore to approach the eagles.

It looks like Pleasant Hill is putting in a breakwater upstream of the boat ramp, lots of trucks going in and out. The ice is in the river at Pleasant Hill.

The river was open at Hartford, but full of ice. Below Red Rock is open. Sycamore was iced in, we may have to go south to Red Rock for New Years.

October 8 and 20, 2008

Gorgeous river trail kiosks are up at Sycamore and Cottonwood north of Des Moines and at Pleasant Hill access at Hwy 65 and Vandalia.  Water trail signs will go up all over Polk County, with a dedication next spring. 
Check out pix of the 4 panels of the Sycamore Access kiosk.

Harriet St. to Pleasant Hill (6 miles) was great.  I saw 5 herons, 3 eagles, and about 100 pelicans.  One pelican swam with me for several miles.  (10/8)  

On 10/20, I did the whole 11 miles to Yellow Banks on a warm and windy day, I had my camera and got pics of a pelican, a heron and an eagle, plus colorful foliage (
click for pics).

October 2, 2008

South Des Moines River update

Photos at

It was a great day to paddle upstream from Bentonsport.  The current was moderate, there was adequate water for paddling, a great blue heron led me upstream for a half hour before I turned back.

The floods took a toll on Van Buren County, and I hope there is some water trail program money to replace damaged kiosks and lost signs. Boat ramps will need to be fixed, and Austin Park took a big hit from an ice dam this past winter.  We wish the county and state workers the best in their repair efforts.

It was great to talk with water trail friends.  The new bridge at Keosauqua is fantastic, with design cues from the classic iron truss arched span it replaces.    What's new is a pedestrian walkway going south and a wide bike path going north, plus gorgeous period lighting.

Plus the library in Keosauqua is getting a makeover and there are fantastic mums at Iron and Lace in Bentonsport.  And I am pleased to report that the SSTs at Farmington and Bentonsport (the sweet smelling toilets that are truly a marvel) were undamaged by the floods.

I also stopped at Cliffland Access by Ottumwa.  Oh my, what a mess.  There are giant dumpsters that are full, and more trash all around.  It's a pity, that is a lovely section of river.  Hopefully, this will get fixed.

September 24, 2008

Flash boards are up at Center Street, water levels are good up to Prospect.   I paddled from Birdland to Prospect and back with a good south wind and some decent waves.  Highlights were seeing the Spirit of Des Moines with polished wooden superstructure docked at Birdland, and the 40 ft. wide section of repaired levee by Riverview Park.

September 5, 2008

River cleanup extends to Yellow Banks.

Great job with the clean-up.   See photos at the link below.

Pleasant Hill is open, the ramp held up well.

Harriet St. ramp was badly damaged, carry down access only. (graded earth ramp)

Birdland ramp and dock are in good shape.

Water levels are very low, expect to walk in shallow areas.

July 14, 2008

I scouted the river from Harriet St. south last Thursday, 7/10.

Harriet St. access is usable, the water trail sign is gone. (found during the river clean up)

Pleasant Hill/Vandalia access is usable, the ramp was damaged and is closed to trailers.

Yellowbanks is open.  There is a new water trail sign at the access, plus a cool sign that gives the downriver access points and distances.  Very cool.

Hartford Access was under water.

Also, Polk County and Des Moines are about to complete the water trail grant with new signs and kiosks from Cottonwood Access to Yellowbanks.  Good deal.  Now if we could reconnect the river at Scott Ave. and Center St.

Canoe Van Buren July 12-13 was cancelled due to flooding.  This an outstanding event.  Registration information is available, hopefully next year.  Check out info on the new water trail on the registration page.

July 7, 2008

I got out for a visit to the access points in Boone County.  The county has done a great job of posting water trail signs along the highway and at each turn in the road as you approach the access.  It was a thrill to see our water trail sign right there on Hwy. 30 west of Boone, where it is seen by thousands daily.  My report is as follows:

Laurie Access, Hwy 210 W of Madrid-water is up to the access road, covering the boat ramp
Sportsmans Access, off Peach Rd by the Iowa Arboretum-ditto
E57 Acces by Luther-ditto
Hwy 30 Access-cleared of mud, river running nicely
Boone Waterworks Access, upper and lower, off E26-Both cleared of mud and ready, signs have taken a beating and portage trail is in bad shape
Fraser Accesses,  upper and lower-cleared of mud, signs are in good shape, no sign of portage trail above the dam (which is a problem because the sign at the upper access promises a portage trail 1500 feet downstream)

Also, Sycamore Access at NW 66th in Johnston is open for business, as is Birdland.


The river is still above flood stage in many areas, water quality is poor, be careful on the river.  We are very sorry for the loss of homes and businesses in the Birdland area and hope that problems with the levee will be fixed so that there will not be a repeat of the tragedy.

Trail Daze, June 7

Central Iowa Paddlers held a Trail Daze celebration in Des Moines Saturday, June 7, 2008.

[Note that several experienced paddlers for ritual purposes only, paddled from Prospect Park to Birdland.

Second, the good news: We met at 2:30 p.m. in Union Park near the Carousel for ice cream floats and a special program.

John Wenck, Des Moines area native, presented a program on a fascinating man, Tacitus Hussey. Tac Hussey was a citizen of Des Moines who started the Des Moines Canoe Club in the late 1800s. He helped organize the 50th anniversary of Des Moines with a boat float from Center Street Dam, around Thompson's Bend to Union Park, where some 22,000 people turned out for the celebration. Tac was a Des Moines River promoter who organized a trip on the river from Humboldt to Des Moines.

This week John Wenck and his merry band of paddlers floated from Humboldt to Des Moines and arrived in Des Moines on Saturday mid-day at Union Park.


Several river improvements observed:

Dam warning signs and safety lines with orange buoys at the River St. pedestrian bridge before the Raccoon joins the Des Moines at Scot  Ave. dam are now in place.

Water trail signs are up at the Laurie access west of Madrid, very classy.


It was quite the New Year's Day paddle.

Five started, four made it to the dam and back.  (I went about a halfmile and decided it was enough).  It was bitter cold, the wind was in our faces, but congratulations to the four who kept the tradition alive.

 I got some pics of the ice encased paddlers that CIP folks might enjoy, especially a shot of icy paddler Rick Dietz emerging from the river:


It was a lovely cold day for a paddle from Birdland to the new pagoda.  It's about 3 miles round trip.  There's ice in the water, eagles overhead, and the pretty reflections of the bridges and buildings.  There was very little current, it took me a little over an hour with some lingering.

I'm doing it again Friday morning at 7:30 AM to catch the early morning sun.  Join me if you would like.  Birdland Access is off Pennsylvania Ave. in East Des Moines (off 235).  (240-2628)

The Register ran a great series on people who are river keepers and river lovers.   See the story about the "father of water trails

People who paddle, bike, hike, skate, walk, fish and boat, and anyone else who enjoys the Des Moines River and the trails along it!

Great job with the clean-up.   See photos at the link below.




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