Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding opportunities abound in the ponds, lakes and adjacent riverways of Polk County Conservation Board parks.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt is a 7,300-acre wildlife area, which 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 Bottoms Greenbelt has canoes for rent. Cost is $8 per hour and paddles and life jackets are provided. Reservations can be made in advance by calling 515-249-5925 or on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.
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.
Easter Lake Park covers 464 acres and includes a 171-acre lake. 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.
Easter Lake also supports an abundance of fish species such as bluegill, largemouth bass and crappie. During the fall and spring migration, large flocks of Canada geese use the lake as a resting and feeding area. Watercraft access is available from the boat ramp on the south end of the lake.
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. Canoes and kayaks will be available to rent when the Jester Park Nature Center opens its doors in 2018.
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.
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.
Fort Des Moines Park 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.