Because the Des Moines River doesn't begin at Hwy 20 and end at Hwy. 92
Yellow Banks to Red Rock

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

updated 8/19: 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 Yellow Banks Park to Hartford Access, past Runnells Bridge,, Bennington Access and the Boxcar Bend, across Lake Red Rock, to Red Rock dam
Estimated Distance:48 miles

This is a 1 or 2 day trip through the Red Rock flood plain, and some very wild and remote territory.  There are several access areas where you can camp, including Yellow Banks Park, at Webb's Camping near Hartford Access,  and numerous camping areas above and below Red Rock dam.  There are also numerous sand bars along this stretch, except in very high water (above 20,000 cfs)

From Yellow Banks Park, after 3 miles, the river begins to bend about every mile.  There are 6 mile long bends in the river (which also mark the border between Polk County and Warren County) that lead to the remains of  old Hartford access point.  The narrows approaching Hartford have high banks and some of the deepest water along the river.  The run to Hartford is about 10 miles.  Another 2 miles brings you to Hartford Access (watch for duck hunters) then under the bridges of Hwy. 316 near Runnells.  The river banks are very low to the water, and the river is frequently spread out over several miles on either side.  Another 6 miles brings you to Bennington Bridge boat ramp and some very scenic bluffs.

From Bennington, the river winds through wetlands bursting with herons and egrets.  It's about 10 miles through this wilderness to the Boxcar Bend area, where boxcars have been sunk as fishing reefs.  The marsh area adjacent to the Boxcars is home to hundreds of egrets and herons.  It is about 26 miles from Yellow Banks to Boxcar Bend.

The Boxcars are the launch point for the trek down Lake Red Rock.  Don't try this trip in low water.  The river looks wide and deep, but it is only a foot  deep in most places.  There is a sand island about a half mile from Boxcars, and there is usually enough water to pass around the island and set out for the mile long bridge, about 9 miles to the south and west shore.  I was in awe of the red cliffs, the trees in the water, the wind and waves, and the vastness of the lake.  Once you go under the bridge, you can stop at the Elk Rock ramp or continue on to the South Access, 9 miles further south and west.

For more options as to paddling routes from Boxcars to the numerous  access points on Red Rock, see the Red Rock Water Trail Map,


Driving Directions Yellow Banks Park is off Vandalia Road about 2 miles east of new Hwy. 65.  Go south 1 mile at SE 68th.  There are excellent signs along the route to the park.

To reach the Hartford access, take the 3rd gravel road to the left past Hartford, which is Delaware, and which is marked with a Webb's Camping sign.  After .6 miles, the gravel road becomes 228th.  Go 1.4 miles, past the KIOA transmitters, turn right on the gravel road at the campground sign onto Carpenter Pl., 1 mile to the river.

Bennington and Boxcar Bend boat ramps  are on the east side of the river off in the wilderness.  North of Runnells on Hwy. 316, take F70 east (also called SE 64th), then go south 2.5 miles on 117th.  Follow the boat ramp signs. 

The south ramp is Boxcars.  The Boxcar  ramp can be reached off Hwy. 14 on Carpenter Ave. south of Monroe.  Turn West on Carpenter (follow the signs), turn South on 68th (all other roads dead end).  Or, off F70 take W 93rd South to Carpenter, West on Carpenter, South on 68th.

Elk Rock boat ramp is just south of the intersection between G40 and Hwy. 14. 

South Access is just to the west of Red Rock dam, off T15, which crosses over the dam 

Access/Landmark Latitude Longitude
Yellow Banks, near Carlisle N41 32 42.8 W93 28 30.3
First bend N41 30 40.5 W93 26 12.8
Third bend N41 30 41.2 W93 25 04.5
Fifth bend N41 30 07.0 W93 23 54.9
Sixth bend N41 29 26.4 W93 24 13.1
gone N41 29.15.8 W93.23.43.7
Hartford access N41 29 10.2 W93 21 32.4
Bennington boat ramp N41 29 12.3 W93 16 25.9
Boxcars N41 27 58.0 W93 12 39.4
Elk Rock boat ramp N41 24 09.5 W93 06 08.3
South Access N41 21 54.8 W92 59 37.2
 Great blue herons showed me the way from the
Boxcars out onto the lake


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