Canoeing, Kayaking, & Paddle Boarding

Where to Go

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt

A 7,300-acre wildlife area, Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt features the old oxbow river channels of the Skunk River. Wildlife species such as river otters, great blue herons, beavers, wood ducks, and painted turtles are just a few of the animals that can be seen while canoeing the backwaters. Chichaqua is the largest county owned park in the state of Iowa. Sandy upland hills, wetlands, native and reconstructed prairie, and forests are other habitats found in the park.

  • Rent canoes between May 1 - October 1 (water level dependent).
  • $8 per hour. Includes paddles and life jackets.
  • Rentals are 7 days a week from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. (last rentals go out by 6 p.m.).
  • Reservations can be made in advance (for groups of 10+) by calling 515-249-5925. All other rentals are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Easter Lake Park

Easter Lake Park features a 171-acre lake, the largest lake in Des Moines! The lake was constructed in 1967 on an old coal-mining site. Slag and mine tailings can still be seen today on the south side of the lake.

Watercraft access is available from the boat ramp on the south end of the lake off Easter Lake Drive. Boaters are advised to follow the "no wake" rules for this prime walleye, bass, and catfish spot on the southside of Des Moines.

Currently rentals are not available at Easter Lake Park. However, rentals will be available at the much anticipated Athene North Shore Recreation Area upon its opening in spring 2024.

Jester Park 

Jester Park is a 1,675 acre park situated on the western shores of Saylorville Lake and provides ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors by boat. The lake shore is accessible from the Lincoln Access boat ramp under the Mile Long Bridge or from the Jester Park boat ramp.

The area just north of the bridge is set aside as a wildlife sanctuary from April 1 - August 31, and is open only to non-motorized water vessels such as canoes and kayaks during this time when lake levels are at normal pool. Look for migrating species such as pelicans in the spring and fall as they congregate in this area. Click here for further information about Saylorville Lake sanctuary restrictions.

Discovery Pond in Jester Park also provides great space for paddlers. Located across from the cabins and nestled amongst the pine grove, this 2.8-acre pond is the perfect site for beginners, families and anglers to get their watercraft out on the water. 

Yellow Banks Park 

Yellow Banks Park rests high atop bluffs overlooking the Des Moines River offering some of the most scenic beauty central Iowa has to offer. Named for the yellow-tinted, loess-rich soils that line the river banks, this feature can be viewed as you paddle down the Des Moines River. Access to the river is available from the boat ramp. The park also features a 5-acre pond.  


  • No rentals provided at this location.
Thomas Mitchell Park

Thomas Mitchell Park provides a 6-acre pond for paddlers to enjoy. Surrounded by a tall, wooded ridge and hiking trails, the Thomas Mitchell Park pond offers great views from the water. Recent watershed and pond improvements have resulted in better water quality and habitat for aquatic life. 


  • No rentals provided at this location.
Fort Des Moines Park

Fort Des Moines Park's pond offers paddlesport opportunities on a 14-acre pond. Nestled in a bowl surrounded by picturesque Iowa woodlands, this urban park transports recreationists away from the city setting. 


  • No rentals provided at this location.

Des Moines Metro Area River Trips

Take a virtual tour of the section of river you would like to paddle. Each video highlights launch and take out locations, river mileage, difficulty, estimated float time, as well as river history, geology, flora, fauna, ethics and safety. This project was made possible through a grant funded by the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program – Conservation Education Program or REAP-CEP.