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Iowa River in Iowa

Trip Overview

Mark & I took an overnight canoe camping trip on the Iowa River in late July 2000. Mark had just gotten done coaching softball, and I was about ready to begin with football, so it turned out to be about the only time all summer we could take an "over-nighter". We left a vehicle at Pine Lake State Park near Eldora, then drove up and put in our canoe at the east edge of Iowa Falls. The water was moving swiftly right away, but there were some very slow stretches as well along the trip. The water was flowing about 600 cfs, and we soon found out that this is not the ideal flow rate for this river. During the two days, we probably had to get out of the canoe 15+ times and walk through some shallow stretches. Wasn't too bad though, as it's nice to get out and stretch your legs anyway.

We picked this section of the Iowa River, because the water quality & scenery are excellent. The river bottom is almost entirely rock / gravel - no mud. We didn't catch many fish- a few catfish & Mark lost a smallmouth bass - but the wildlife were plentiful. We saw raccoons, mink, many deer, ducks & geese, and turkeys. We camped on a sandbar on the river, and cooked up some chicken rice and instant potatoes. That night we were awakened a few times by wildlife, especially by a deer who apparently didn't appreciate our presence- It kept walking up near the tent and loudly snorting. This probably went on for about 10 minutes, and had us wondering for a minute if it was going to come into the tent or not.

The next morning we got up and paddled into Steamboat Rock, where on river left, there is a "portage" around the dam, consisting of a slightly worn trail and then a ~ 70 degree descent down a cliff. After Steamboat Rock, you get into a very pretty area, with more swiftly flowing water and limestone bluffs along the riverbanks. About 6 miles downstream, we reached Pine Lake, and took out. It was a very enjoyable trip, although I'll wait until the water is a little higher before taking this route again- it's a little tough on the canoe's bottom, although it came out with just a few scrapes.


Campgrounds at Pine Lake.


Canoe launch on east edge of Iowa Falls. Take out at Pine Lake State Park in Eldora.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip