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Upper Iowa River in Iowa

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

The Upper Iowa River is a clean, clear stream in a rural area of Northeastern Iowa. I have paddled this river for several years during all three seasons. I usually start by advising my paddling partners to purchase a small guidebook titled "THE UPPER IOWA RIVER" written by G.E. KNUDSON -Professor of Chemistry - Luther College. (Availalbe at Luther Book Store).

This book enables the paddler to become familiar with the area, geology, history, points of interest, wildlife, fishing, hiking, camping and most important CANOE MAPS of the river from it's source to the Mississippi River.

The river has what I will call two separate sections. The first section from Kendallville to Decorah has limestone bluffs that rise from 100 to 330 ft. next to the river.

There are sections that have riffles and a moderate current speed. One needs to be observant of down falls of trees from time to time. I always checked with the local canoe rental service for water level conditions.

I usually pulled out of the river in Decorah and then put in down below the two dams for the second section which is more wild with one or two rapids grade one.

The second section is quite different in that the valley widens and the bluffs rise further away from the river. The take out of this section is Highway 76 or up stream from there at a private camping facility.

The upper section should be canoed in spring or early summer as water levels drop in summer and fall, which can lead to walking or dragging over shallow areas.

The lower section is canoeable all year. I usually canoed this section in summer or fall.

Great trip for a week, weekend or just a day paddle. Get the guide so you will be prepared for your parties experience level.


Canoe livery services at Kendallville & Decorah, IA


Northeastern Iowa - Find Decorah, IA and plot your course from there.

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location