Wonderful news! The low head dam south of Gotch Park just below the confluence of the East Fork and the West Fork of the Des Moines River has been removed. This was a dangerous structure and a difficult portage. The river is now passable from Gotch Park to Fort Dodge. Work is proceeding on mitigation of the 2 low head dams in Fort Dodge. Thanks to the DNR Rivers Program and their many partners for this great improvement.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to create a master plan for improving the water trails and nearby greenways in the Greater Des Moines region. Once complete, the master plan will provide a long-range regional vision for how local governments, businesses and other organizations can collaborate to improve the region's waterways for better recreation, enhanced conservation and improved economic vitality. It was a pleasure to participate in several planning sessions and to be able to offer suggestions on upgrading the water trails in Polk County.
The Master Plan has been approved, the engineering and design phase will begin as soon as funding has been secured. For more information, click here.
Access Points --404 miles from Estherville to Keokuk
Des Moines River Water Trail
Mileage estimates are based on Corps river gauges (marked with a *), printed distances in various guides, and my own GPS readings.
This chart includes the river mile for each access point, dam, or bridge. This listing is updated regularly, but makes no claim to completeness or accuracy. It was used for the adventures of Ben and Libby in May of 2015, and includes new information from their trip. Please contact the DNR or your local conservation board for the most current information.
|Access||In or Near||County||Approximate
|17 county conservation boards . . (including Hamilton County and Kossuth County) endorsed the water trail in 1999-2001. There is much more work to be done, since only Van Buren, Polk, Webster, Marion and Boone counties have developed a water trail in their sections of the river (also Hamilton for the Boone River.)||*Corps Gauge|
|River Runner||West Bend||Palo Alto||6||359|
|Rutland Dam (portage required)||Rutland||Humboldt||3||341|
|Hydo dam (portage required)||Humboldt||Humboldt||1||335|
|First Ave. bridge||Humboldt||Humboldt||6||334*|
|Deer Creek access||Ft. Dodge||Webster||7||321|
|Hydo dam (portage required)||Ft. Dodge||Webster||3||314*|
|Estherville to Ft. Dodge||. . . . . . . .||91|
|Low head dam, boat ramp (portage required)||Ft. Dodge||Webster||13||311|
|Dolliver State Park||Lehigh||Webster||3||297|
|Lehigh, upper and lower||Lehigh||Webster||3||294|
|Hwy. 175 bridge||Stratford||Webster||1||276|
|Carlson Recreation area||Webster||9||275|
|Fraser, upper and lower (portage required)||Fraser||Boone||6||266|
|Boone Waterworks (rock arch rapids makes for safe passage)||Boone||Boone||7||261|
|Boone Hwy. 30||Boone||Boone||5||254|
|Woodward sub-1 ramp||Woodward||Dallas||9||233|
|Jester Park||Saylorville Dam||Polk||11||224|
|Saylorville dam (portage required)||Polk||1||213*|
|Ft. Dodge to Saylorville||. . . . . . . .||102|
|Birdland (portage required around Center St. dam below Birdland, no paddling allowed between Center St. dam and Scott Ave. dam)||Des Moines||Polk||3||203|
|Scott Ave. dam (portage required)||Des Moines||Polk||1||201*|
|Harriet St.||Des Moines||Polk||6||199|
|Vandalia Rd./Hwy. 65||Pleasant Hill||Polk||4||195|
|Yellowbanks State Park||Vandalia||Polk||10||191|
|Elk Rock||Lake Red Rock||Marion||9||153|
|South Access (portage required)||Lake Red Rock||Marion||1||143*|
|Saylorville dam to Red Rock dam||. . . . . . . . . . . .||72|
|Tailwater||Lake Red Rock||Marion||19||142*|
|Hydro dam (portage required)||Ottumwa||Wapello||1||95|
|Austin Park||Keosauqua||Van Buren||6||59|
|Des Moines River||Bonaparte||Van Buren||3||35|
|St. Francisville||St. Francisville, Mo.||11||12|
|Red Rock to the Mississippi||. . . . . .||141|
|Total River Miles||404|
Dick was the mover and shaker in the establishment of the Ding Darling Greenway from Saylorville to Center St.
I would also like to see Dick LeCroy honored with the full development of the rest of the Des Moines River Water Trail. One key project is the conversion of the Boone Waterworks low head dam to a paddler and angler friendly rock arch rapids. (completed in 2015) My suggestion: make this project a memorial to Jim Mills (paddling from the stern in the pic below), deceased, who embraced the Des Moines River Water Trail in his postion with the Army Corps of Engineers and participated in the trail dedication in June of 2000 which ended at the Boone Waterworks upper access.
Read a tribute to Richard V. Lecroy from Gov. Vilsack celebrating his many decades of work on the Des Moines River Greenbelt.