Iowa water conditions still not favorable for kayaks, canoes

DES MOINES — We’re more than a month into spring and the experts say Iowans who are itching to get on the open water with their kayaks and canoes may want to wait a little longer for safety’s sake.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Nate Carr says with rain expected today and through much of the weekend, water levels will likely rise. “It does help with having to get out and push or pull your boat from time to time, but it also creates more hazards,” Carr says. “The quicker that water is moving, as you encounter different deadfalls and trees that have fallen in the water — creating strainers, that can be a hazard and something you have to be cognizant of.”

While we’ve had some warm days in recent weeks, there were also many chilly nights and this spring weather pattern is keeping our lakes and streams on the frigid side. “Water temperatures are still fairly cold,” Carr says, “which can make someone who’s a very confident swimmer into someone who does struggle in the water.”

The DNR says when the temperature of the water is 60 degrees or below, you are automatically at risk for hypothermia if you become wet. Folks in kayaks and canoes need to wear the right gear, know how to read a river, and be fully prepared for immersion. “We certainly encourage people to wear life jackets anytime you’re in a boat, including canoeing, kayaking,” Carr says. “It may be ankle- or knee-deep throughout large stretches of the river, but there are holes throughout the river that can be over your head.”

Large bodies of water take time to warm up, so it may be a few more weeks before it’s safe for lesser experienced paddlers to load up their boats. In addition to life jackets, the DNR says let a friend or loved one know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and bring a dry bag with extra clothing to change into should you get wet.