5 Spots To Paddle In Central Iowa

Beaver Creek in Johnston provides a canopy of trees for cover from the sun. Photo: Greater Des Moines Partnership

With two rivers converging in the heart of the city—the Des Moines and Raccoon—plus lake escapes, there are plenty of ways to get out on the water.

Raccoon River
Edging the east-flowing Raccoon River in West Des Moines, Raccoon River Park is a top destination for families, fitness fans, and fishing and boating enthusiasts. New as of last year, the Raccoon River Boathouse offers even more reasons to visit the park, thanks to watercraft rentals available for exploring the 232-acre Blue Heron Lake. The structure houses single and double kayaks, fishing kayaks, canoes, pedal boards, and paddleboats to cruise the lake. Rent boats by the half-hour, hour, or full day (cash or credit accepted; prices start at $10).

For another water experience without much effort, spend a day tubing through Raccoon River Excursions. Trips include a rental tube, life jacket, cooler and a shuttle on the business’s party bus.

Gray’s Lake
Centrally located just south of downtown, this lake is a city favorite. Rent paddleboards, pedal boats, kayaks and canoes to explore the water. Or try your hand at sailing for just $25 an hour. While at the lake, go for a quick swim, enjoy a shady picnic or grab a brew outside at Confluence Brewing Co., located just south of the lake off the Meredith bike trail.

Quarry Springs Park
East of Des Moines in Colfax, this lake offers a relaxed getaway. The 240-acre lake is right off the interstate, and kayak rentals are available through Quarry Springs Outfitters at the lake. Stroke to the back pool to enjoy some solitude.

Beaver Creek
Just north of Interstate 80 in Johnston, this meandering creek is covered with a shady canopy. Rent kayaks—and get a shuttle—through Quarry Springs Outfitters. Also in Johnston, Terra Lake is an easy paddle, with rentals through the same outfitter.

Des Moines River
You can cruise through the city’s east side, putting in at Euclid and taking out at Captain Roy’s near the Birdland marina. Grab a burger or maybe fish and chips to enjoy with an adult beverage before being shuttled back to your vehicle. Quarry Springs also runs this rental. Kayak costs are $25 for 2 hours, $50 for 5 hours. You can also catch a shuttle back for $10. 

For more great spots around Central Iowa, check out Catch Des Moines’ website.

  • Show Comments (1)

  • Jordan

    The pricing for Des Moines isn’t correct. It’s $25 for a 2 hour float, and $10 for the shuttle!

Comments are closed.

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