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In just 50 miles, the Middle River Water Trail passes through rolling hills and timbered river valley, past 80-foot-tall limestone outcroppings and fossil rock bars.

“People think there’s no wilderness left in Iowa, but they’ll find really cool wild places on the water trails,” Liechty says.

He also acknowledges that Middle River paddlers will see eroded riverbanks and areas where crops are planted to water’s edge. 

Liechty is not discouraged. “We have a long way to go to get our rivers in the shape they should be. The best way to get significant change is to get people out on the water to see the good and the bad.”

Water trails reconnect people with Iowa’s geologic and cultural history, says Hoogeveen, and when people get on the water, they become aware and come to care.

“Rivers have a lot to teach us. There’s a peace, a solitude, on the rivers that we don’t encounter in the real world.”

Iowa has 10 different sub-ecoregions, each including unique landforms, soils, and features. State-designated water trails are already in six of the ecoregions.

Top photo courtesy Todd Robertson. Photo at right courtesy Madison County Conservation Board

Gerry Rowland’s passion continues to propel Iowa’s connection to its vast water resources. “My vision is to see the entire Des Moines River, all 404 miles from Estherville to Keokuk, a designated water trail.”  

Row Your Boat

Learn more about Iowa’s water trail projects and find maps and paddler resources on the DNR website: > Recreation > Canoeing & Kayaking > Water Trails.

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