A nice group of seasoned paddlers trekked to Northeastern Iowa for a few days of swift water paddling.
On day one, we paddled the Upper Iowa River, near Decorah, from Kendallville to Chimney Rock Bridge, about 14 miles. Usually a crowded livery river, we only passed 3 canoes on the river. The most probable reason that we had the river to ourselves was a recent small bridge collapse at Cattle Creek Rd. but that had been cleared the day before, and not yet made public. The Upper Iowa is blessed with rich scenery. We paddled through miles of beautiful rock bluffs and woodlands. We had a fantastic day lazing in the unseasonably warm temperature near 90° watching eagles and taking pictures.
Day two, we paddled the Yellow River, from Volney to Ion Bridge Access, about 12 miles, with a gradient of 8 fpm. Much like the Upper Iowa with limestone cliffs, lots of eagles, cliff swallows, and turtles, but with a quicker current and more riffles.
On the third day we paddled the Volga River from Klock’s Island Park in Fayette to Heron Rd, about 11 miles, with a 8.5 fpm gradient. Yes, more bluffs and eagles! The Iowan paddlers told me it is very rare not to see eagles on a trip. I also saw a passel of baby water snakes. The Volga is more water dependent and does not have a working gauge. Water level was what I would describe as adequate as you needed to really pay attention to the gravel bars. The many riffles and “rock gardens” made for a fun trip but I wouldn’t recommend it for novices.
Our base camp at Gouldsburg County Park, near West Union, was the most reasonable, clean and quiet camp. With showers! Less than $10 per tent.
Our hardy bunch made it through an early evening storm that bent a few tent poles and peppered us with hail. With the forecast changing we opted to end a great paddle trip two days early. Time to head home and get ready for the next trip!
Thanks to Keith Garrett for sharing his favorite Iowa rivers with us.