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Upper Iowa River in Iowa

Trip Overview

We did a weekday kayak trip in midsummer on the Upper Iowa River near Decorah. This is a beautiful river with lots of wildlife and great fishing. The average water debth on our trip was about 3 feet of water. I would recommend paddling the upper Iowa with a kayak as there are some shallow spots that would be challenging to canoe through. Pack a lunch and a few drinks and enjoy the trip. This is a great trip for the family, scouts or anyone who wants an easy trip with a few riffles and slight currents in spots.

We used Off the Driftless for both kayak rental and livery shuttle service. Off the Driftless is the only Kayak/Canoe outfitter based in Decorah which is located on the Upper Iowa river a few hundred yard walk from the Pulpit Rock campground. Off the Driftless provided us two Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayaks Sit on Top (SOT) that were in excellent condition. We planned to do the trip the day before but due to weather we had no problem moving our reservation to Monday. An easy paddle down the shallow river with several gravel islands provided us a nice 4.5 hour trip down river.

We saw several bald eagles, deer, birds, turtles, etc..... and the beautiful Malanaphy springs waterfall. This section of the Upper Iowa River has excellent fishing for Brown and Rainbow trout along with walleye. The owner of Off the Driftless is a fishing expert on the Upper Iowa and can mention a few hotspots for the fishermen if you are interested. I would highly recommend Off the Driftless if you want to kayak the Upper Iowa river near Decorah.


Camped at the Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah IA.




Off the Driftless shuttled us up to the Hutchinson Family Farm Campground off of the "Scenic River Rd." and Upper Iowa River. We kayaked downriver to the Off the Driftless camp on the Upper Iowa River about half a block south of 5th Ave bridge in Decorah, where we were parked.


Upper Iowa River Canoe Guide with break out maps and written descriptions of the entire river way and towns. The Northeast Iowa RC&D can be reached at 563-864-7112. Available at the Pulpit Rock Campground office in Decorah.

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

Locations on this Trip