Five spots to paddle in Des Moines

With plenty of places to rent gear, you’ll never be up a creek without a paddle. Photo: Filip Mroz

If the current heat wave has you craving some watery relief, you’re in luck. With the confluence of two waterways in the heart of Des Moines — the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers — plus a few small lakes, there is a handful of places to drift off to some peace and quiet.

Raccoon River
Edging the east-flowing Raccoon River in West Des Moines, Raccoon River Park is a popular destination for families, fitness fans, anglers and boating enthusiasts. For a fun float without much effort, spend a day tubing through Raccoon River Excursions. Trips include rental tubes, life jackets, coolers and a party bus shuttle.

Gray’s Lake
This lake just south of downtown is a local favorite. Des Moines Parks and Recreation rents out paddleboards, pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and even sailboats to explore the water. While you’re there, enjoy the beaches or a shady picnic, or grab a drink on the patio at Confluence Brewing Co., on the bike trail just south of the lake, or the Des Moines Biergarten, through the rainbow-lit tunnel to Water Works Park.

Quarry Springs Park
The 240-acre lake at this park offers an easy getaway right off Interstate 80 in Colfax, about 20 east of Des Moines. Quarry Springs Outfitters rents out kayaks on site, so you can paddle to the back pool to enjoy some solitude.

Beaver Creek
Quarry Springs Outfitters offers a similar setup in the other direction, at this meandering, shade-covered creek just north of Interstate 80 in Johnston. You can rent kayaks and get a shuttle for the creek or head over to nearby Terra Lake for an easy alternative, with rentals through the same outfitter.

Des Moines River
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 a beer before being shuttled back to your vehicle. Quarry Springs Outfitters also runs this rental.

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