After navigating through the specifications for several years, the West Fork of the Des Moines River in the Estherville area is now a state-designated “water trail.”

Lexie Ruter, the executive director of the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce, says they had to have a launching area for boats, plenty of nearby parking and signage with maps so people know where they’re going.

“It’s just been a long process working with the DNR to figure out if we could qualify here on the West Fork of the Des Moines River,” she says. “We were able to do that after several years and we’re really excited.”

The water trail starts north of Estherville. It’s rare for motorboats or jet skis to be on the stretch of river according to Ruter.

“Obviously this summer is a little bit different so far since we’re in a drought, but most years we’ve seen lots of kayakers and canoers and tubers on our river,” Ruter says. “It’s a great tourism draw and a lot of fun, personally, so it’s great to finally be designated with the Iowa DNR.”

A dedication ceremony is scheduled next Wednesday. It’ll be held in the parking lot for the Swinging Bridge in Estherville that lets pedestrians cross the river and get a glimpse of its fast-flowing rapids. The bridge was built about a century ago and has recently been repaired. More than a thousand miles of rivers in Iowa have been designated as “water trails” by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

(By Ed Funston, KILR, Estherville)