Spring Migration Paddling


Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms

Photo Courtesy of Central Iowa Paddlers

There are many area’s in Iowa that are perfect opportunities to paddle plus view returning or migrating water fowl. One such area is Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms, located 30 minutes from Des Moines.

Chichaqua Greenbelt Bottoms is a 24-mile stretch of the old meandering Skunk River channel between the northwest end of the park boundary and the Polk-Jasper County line. It’s not just the birds that make it special.

Since 1960, Polk County Conservation in partnership with other organizations acquired more than 9,000 acres of land along the old Skunk River River corridor, preserving and protecting wetlands, such as, old river channels, backwaters, marshes, upland potholes, side hill seeps, alluvial floodplains, and upland drainage ways.

Marsh habitats are great for birds, especially migrating waterfowl that stage and rest while traveling through our state. Bring along a camera, dry bag and bird book and enjoy a day on the water identifying non-resident spring visitor species.

Two other great Marsh areas are in Northern Iowa in the Sunken Grove/Shimon Marsh Wetland Complex in Pocahontas County near Fonda. It is a birding/paddlers paradise in early to mid April. They are located 1-2 miles west of Fonda, just off of Hwy 7.

Another great paddling and birding area is Sweet Marsh, located in Bremer County in the Northeast part of Iowa between Tripoli and Sumner. It has a summer breeding population of Sand Hill Crane as well as large flocks of migrating, breeding White Pelican, Trumpeter Swan and large populations of water fowl that can be seen from March end when the marsh waters thaw until April end when migration wraps up.