Cedar River in Iowa

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

From Palisades Kepler State Park to Cedar Valley access.

We put in at Palisades Kepler State Park in Mount Vernon. There is an excellent parking area and boat ramp at this well maintained park. My wife and I took the approximately 18 miles downstream to Cedar Valley at a relatively slow pace, total trip time was just about 4 hours in our 14 foot Mad River Winooski. Note that if you put in north (upstream) of this area, there is a dam at Palisades that must be portaged.

The Cedar River is almost always low in late summer and fall, there were two spots where we grounded on bars and needed to get out and walk for 50 yards or so. It is VERY important to keep your PFD on if performing this seemingly simple act, holes in this river have very steep drops off of sand bars and you can get a rude surprise if you are not practiced at reading the water. (Please note that it seems we lose a fisherman or swimmer somewhere between Cedar Rapids and the Mississippi every year in this river, please dont let the apparent tranquil nature of the water fool you. A few areas have very powerful currents, even during low water.)

All in all a wonderful day trip. This portion of the river only has one short stretch that can be less than relaxing. The area at Sutliff is a favorite spot for bikers, so there is generally a bit of big twin music in that area. If youre not fond of loud motorcycles, just paddle on through and youll be back in the quiet in no time.

Note that there is camping available at the State Park, and about 4 miles south at the South Cedar access point.

Some waterfowl hunters already had their decoy spreads out, during waterfowl season a polite approach on any portion of the river is to try and avoid blinds during hunting hours. We planned our trip to start at 10 AM, and finish well before dusk.

With two vehicles it is relatively easy to pre-stage one at your exit point. Ive not heard of any vandalism or theft problems at the river landings south of Cedar Rapids.

Paddling the Cedar late in the season generally means few powerboats or fishermen, and abundant peace and quiet. If you are so inclined this stretch is heaven for catching catfish. We saw lots of wildlife including mallards, black ducks, canada geese, snow geese, heron, wood ducks, and two deer down for a drink.

If you are looking for a relaxing quiet-water paddle, the Cedar is easy to access, and has lots to offer.


Water, Outhouses, Barbeques and Picnic Tables available at Palisades State Park. Nicely maintained.


None other than the standard Iowa requirement for Canoes to be registered.


Palisade Kepler St Park is on Rt 30 in Mount Vernon. Cedar Valley access is at the crossing of County Road X-40 over the river, on the north side of the road. There are additional boat ramps at various points between these two. Please see the maps in the Iowa DNR Canoe Guide link provided below.


Iowa's Dept of Natural Resources has published an excellent guide to in-state canoeing. The Guide can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat at http://www.state.ia.us/dnr/organiza/ppd/canoe/canoegui.htm

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location