Monthly Feature: Get Acquainted with a Water Trail This Month: Wapsipinicon River Water Trail: Buchanan County


The Wapsipinicon River has a romantic past as the local Wapsi Folklore has several stories about how the Wapsipinicon got its name. A common story has the young Indian maiden named Wapsi and the son of an Indian chief named Pinicon canoeing on the river on the eve of their wedding day. The jealous Fleat Foot sneaks along the shoreline, and shoots Pinicon through the heart. As Wapsi jumps to the aid of Pinicon, the canoe overturns, and the two lovers drown in the swift current. To commemorate the sad event, the Indians combined the names and called the river Wapsipinicon.*

Classified: a navigable “non-meandered” stream. That means that the State of Iowa owns the water flowing through it, but not the land adjacent to it or under it. Except at access sites and public areas marked on the map, the land adjacent to and underneath the river is private. Please respect it and do not trespass.*

Access Points: 11 access points with 40 total miles of river corridor

Skills Needed: Beginner and intermediate, section dependent, check map at

River drop: < 2 feet

Features: quality backwaters, wetlands, woodland habitat, scenic forests, oxbows, backwater sloughs, 10-80′ limestone bluffs, numerous sandbars

Possible wildlife views of: Beaver, muskrat, river otter, painted, soft-shell and snapping turtles, 15 species of mussels

Birding: Designated Bird Conservation Area (2007) due to extensive diversity of bird species

Fish: One of the best fishing rivers in the state. Species found: northern pike, channel catfish, crappies, bluegill, smallmouth bass, walleye

Tree species: Silver Maple, Oaks, Willows

* Credits: Excerpts taken from the Iowa DNR Water Trail brochure: Wapsipinicon, Buchanan County

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 at