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Des Moines River in Iowa

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

High water on the Des Moines River makes for an easy trip on a beautiful extended Spring day. I paddled from the hwy. 92 bridge over the river to Eddyville and took out in the east slough next to the train bridge. After climbing the levee I made it into town three blocks to eat lunch at Sisters restaurant. The waffles were great but I got a lot of looks, since I was in kayak mode with Tilley hat and neoprene boots. I continued on to Ottumwa but had to portage the dam. After a strenuous exit up the east rip rap and a long carry to the dam the manager of the water plant graciously ferried me in his van to the put in below the dam a quarter of a mile. The ramp is on the west side below the dam and a difficult portage for a solo. Before you get to the last bridge above the dam paddle to the west side and get out on the bank below the bridge. If together with another kayaker it can be portaged easier.

I continued on to Eldon about 15 miles south and made the whole trip in 8 hours of paddling at a speed of about 7mph. When the water is running higher and faster the river is free from snags and strainers. Check the Army Corps web site for Red Rock Dam discharge. The take out in Eldon was difficult but there must be a ramp by the old bridge south of the hwy bridge.

The Eveland Access west of Oskaloosa, IA is an easy entry point but I was completing a previous trip from the Red Rock Dam. The Des Moines is an interesting larger river and usually navigable all year, but especially better in the late spring.


Knoxville is a great place to stay with lots of campgrounds and Red Rock Lake nearby.


Iowa hwy 92 to the Des Moines River between Knoxville and Oskaloosa. Check river maps for the Eveland Access on a county road, and Ottumwa, IA on hwy. 34.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location