Majority of Iowa rivers too low for safe canoeing, kayaking

DES MOINES — An Iowa Department of Natural Resources expert says many of the state’s rivers may not be deep enough for canoes and kayaks right now.

The DNR’s Todd Robertson is a certified canoe instructor.  “The majority of water trails and rivers that we have right now are too low to really get out and enjoy a paddle without scraping, without dragging, without getting out and having to drag the boat and what happens is you go out and you plan a two or three hour trip and all of a sudden it turns into an eight hour trip,” Robertson says, “and if you didn’t take enough drinking water or you didn’t take enough sunscreen, you can be in a lot of trouble.”

Temperatures are expected to return to the 90s, another factor that makes heat exhaustion and heat stroke a possibility if someone is forced to drag a canoe, a kayak or an inner tube down the river.  “When it’s really this hot and you’re out there and you’re dragging your boat and you’re walking your boat instead of paddling, you are going to get overheated superfast, especially when the temperature’s 95 and, say, the heat index is around 100,” Roberton says. “…Just getting lost, getting hurt — those things can happen because we want to float on the water, not walk through it ankle deep, so you’ve got to know what those levels are.”

If you do have paddling plans on a river this weekend, Robertson suggests checking with the county’s conservation officials to see if water levels in the area are safe. And Robertson says wearing a life jacket is essential — even if water levels are relatively low. “People need to remember that a river is not like a flat road. Think of it more as a road with a bunch of potholes,” Robertson says. “You may be walking your boat along in ankle deep water for 50 feet and the next step you take you may go under water.”

The variety of canoe and kayak rental options has been on the rise in Iowa in recent years. However, Axios Des Moines is reporting low water levels mean the business has dried up for many.