Monthly Feature: Get Acquainted with a Water Trail: Lower Des Moines River Water Trail

The Lower Des Moines River Water Trail from Eldon to Farmington is approx. 43 miles with 8 access points for put in’s and take outs. It flows through lowland lush forests of large sycamore and cottonwood trees. There are limestone cliffs with interesting geology and archaeological features. The first 14 miles are straight corridors with steep banks, then several 90 degree and horseshoe bends occur downstream.There are several historic river villages along the river on the lower sections in Van Buren County.

Meandered Stream: Meandered means private property begins at the high water mark, typically where vegetation grows. Sandbar camping is allowed.

Skills Needed: Beginner, Intermediate and advanced levels, section dependent. It is important to download or acquire a map (see below) so you can be aware of the changes in difficulty.

River drop:
< 2 feet per mile

Lowland forests, limestone cliffs, sandstone outcrops, interesting geology features, historic towns. Will need to be aware of upstream water releases at Lake Red Rock before paddle trip begins.

Possible wildlife views of:
Great Blue Heron, Eagles, rare bird species, warblers, vireos, tanagers, whip-poor-wills.

Invasive Asian carp that reach up to 60 pounds with 4-15 pounds as average. They can be a safety hazard, if struck.

To learn more specific information, connect to these links.

Brochures and maps: can be downloaded and paper copies can be picked up at assorted Conservation offices and Nature Centers.
Go to for online viewing.

A good way to plan your trip is by using the IDNR Interactive Mapping Services resource. Go to the IMS Guide for instructions on how to use the Interactive Mapping Services, or access the IMS directly by going to Recreation Map at