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Turkey River in Iowa

Trip Overview

2-day float trip on Turkey River in Northeast Iowa. Put in at 3rd bridge South of Fort Atkinson (Southwest of Festina, Iowa approx. 3 miles) - destination Clermont, Iowa, approx. 25 miles downstream. Small river initially until we reached El Dorado where the Little Turkey empties into the Turkey River; mostly rock and sand bottom; very, very few sandbars along the way.

A few miles East of El Dorado the river starts to pool up every 1/4 mile or so and then the pools empty out over riffles; most riffles we could manage to float thru, but a few had to get out and walk canoe thru; 2-3 riffles had a sharp drop and very swift current with a 90 degree bend in the river; my partner was brave enough to shoot thru them, but I chickened out and walked my canoe (loaded with gear) around these spots; plenty of excellent fishing spots for smallmouth bass; saw numerous eagles East of El Dorado and spotted one eagle nest in the top of a lone cottonwood tree; did not see any other canoes or people on the river the whole trip; camped on a sandbar 2-3 miles East of El Dorado

Might consider doing this section of the river again; would not recommend traveling any distance if water level were much lower than what we experienced; one of the rockiest bottom rivers I have seen in Eastern Iowa (ie: vs Uppper Iowa from Kendalville to Bluffton and Decorah to North of Waukon; Maquoketa River - both North fork from Cascade to Maquoketa and South fork from Monticello to Maquoketa; Wapsipinicon from Waubeek to Stone City and Olin to Jungletown)

Good section to canoe if you want solitude!


17 foot aluminum and 15 aluminum canoes; would not recommend anything else because of the rocky bottom and the dragging across the riffles.


Festina approx. 8 miles North of West Union Iowa and Clermont approx. 15 miles Northeast of West Union Iowa.

  • 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