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Red Rock Lake in Iowa

Trip Overview

Over the course of 6 weeks I was able to explore the shoreline and backwaters of Red Rock Lake, the largest lake in Iowa. Red Rock is a Corp of Engineers reservoir on the Des Moines River and during spring flood stage backs up to Des Moines, 50 miles away.

If you are interested in a peaceful day trip my journey around Red Rock might appeal to the novice or intermediate kayaker. In 2 or 3 hour trips I covered all the shoreline of the lake from mile-long bridge on the west end to the dam nine miles east. The many miles of shoreline yielded wildlife, rock formations and peaceful vistas with spectacular sunrises/sets. I was able to utilize several boat ramps/beaches from which to launch and recover and make progressive loops connecting with the previous trip. The weather varied from dead calm to white-capped and accompanying boat traffic from sailboats racing and several fishermen to no other craft on the water. On a beautiful warm fall afternoon I completed my journey at the mile-long bridge with the sun setting orange and disappearing into the water. I had made my pilgrimage in solitude and respect for the joy of exercise and meditation - with a renewed desire to continue to regain my health and sanity. I also had lost 10 pounds and two inches off my waist. My stomach muscles were firmer than in ten years and my energy level allowing me easier days at work.

I would recommend Red Rock for anyone desiring a short or long trip and also should mention the many campgrounds available there. The nearby towns of Knoxville and Pella have great people and interesting attractions to make this more than worthwhile for the time spent.


Excellent camping at Red Rock, many hotels in Knoxville and Pella and nearby Newton. Also cabins to rent at Cordova, on the lake. These are operated by Marion County Conservation and next to the observation tower on the north side of the lake by the mile-long bridge on hwy 14.


Nominal fees for boat ramps only.


South from interstate 80 on highway 14 - 20 miles Take the Newton/Monroe exit. Knoxville is 35 miles southeast of Des Moines, IA

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip