Canoe on Red Rock Lake in Marion County (courtesy Iowa DNR)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has released a manual designed to help Iowans reconnect with the state’s rivers. Scott Olson, a river programs assistant with the DNR, says the publication showcases the agency’s “water trails” initiative which was launched three years ago. “There are about 643 miles of designated water trails currently and then there are a little under 800 miles of water trails under development,” Olson said.

The newly published plan includes information for groups wishing to pursue the creation of a water trail in their area of the state. Those organizations can apply for a DNR grant to help pay for water trail development, signage and the construction of land trails to river access points. “If they’re awarded that grant, they have to follow certain guidelines such as having trail signage saying where accesses are and how many miles it is to the next access,” Olson said. Other signs are needed to warn boaters about the locations of dams.

Iowa is believed to be the only state in the country with a water trails program. Olson says the currently developed water trails in Iowa offer a wide range of experiences. “You can have just an easy paddle that kind of provides a gateway experience for people that are novices or there are more nature involved (water trails) that require someone to be an expert paddler,” Olson said.

Link to Iowa Water Trails Plan: here