Explore Iowa Rivers and Plan Trips from your Desktop


The Iowa DNR has an active and ready for use interactive paddling map that helps with trip planning, getting directions, and just exploring rivers from your desktop. Go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle to view it. You can also download a PDF that offers detailed instructions on how to use the map at this same page.

Last year a number of bridge construction projects located on popular stretches of river created barriers to navigation. Projects, to name a few, were reported at North Trailhead Access on the West Fork of the Des Moines River, just downstream of Bever’s Bridge Access on the Boone River, and at I-35 on the South Skunk River. These projects employ coffer dams that behave no differently from a typical low-head dam so it became critical to get the word out. A one-time press release just wasn’t enough, as some of these projects are under construction throughout the paddling season.

The River Programs utilized ESRI’s ArcGIS Online tools and functionality to deploy an online interactive map to display river data so it could be used in relation to these temporary hazards. While some data have discrepancies, the team continues to improve data quality and add more functionality to the map. It’s a work in progress, but offers a lot of information to assist paddlers in trip planning or exploring Iowa’s rivers.

All features of the map are clickable, providing more information. You can click on river or portage lines to get distances, or click on access symbols to find out maximum slope or the number of parking spaces. You can also change the map under the data (basemap) from a topo map to aerial photo coverage-there are more than six different maps to choose from. Lastly, you can get street directions between two or more points, which makes it easy to determine your shuttle route.

There is more to come. As we improve the quality of the data with the help of field workers and volunteers, we will also add more functionality, like the ability to print maps and add stream gauge information. If you’d like to assist the DNR in making our data more accurate and useful, please contact:John Wenck, DNR Water Trails Coordinator at john.wenck@dnr.iowa.gov  or 515-725-8465.