December 18, 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, many individuals and families are considering what organizations to support with their year-end giving. There are hundreds of fantastic causes that you can invest in, and of course, one of those is ICON Water Trails. Whether you’re passionate about safeguarding our natural resources or improving safety for outdoor recreators, there is an aspect of ICON that just about everyone can get behind.


Rivers are an integral part of Iowa’s natural heritage. In fact, Des Moines was founded at the confluence of two rivers — the Des Moines and Raccoon — nearly 200 years ago. While many Central Iowa residents live close to a river, creek, or lake, most of us have grown out of touch with the hidden gems that make up our region. ICON’s 80+ improvements across 150 miles of waterways will ensure that Iowans of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels can connect with our water in a fun, safe way.


Since the 1990s, Iowa’s nearly 200 low-head dams have contributed to the deaths of around 60 people. These “drowning machines” pose a major threat to safety and inhibit the use of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers throughout Downtown Des Moines. ICON will mitigate several of these dangerous dams which will help make Central Iowa’s waterways safe to navigate for residents and visitors alike.


ICON implements many of the methods American Rivers recommends for confronting climate change and improving endangered rivers:

  • Advocating for federal safeguards and funding.
  • Restoring damaged floodplains.
  • Partnering with jurisdictions, Watershed Management Authorities, and Soil and Water districts to address water management and improve water quality.
  • Removing dams that are no longer necessary.
  • Providing educational opportunities and increased accessibility to develop a robust awareness and support of our waterways.

Together, we’re taking measurable steps to protect our natural heritage and safeguard our land, water, and wildlife for generations to come.

Economic Development & Workforce Attraction

ICON is an investment in our waterways and in our community. Over the first five years of downtown operations, the water trails are anticipated to generate more than $100 million in direct spending, supporting new jobs and new businesses while improving our region’s economy. Additionally, projections show that ICON’s impact will produce $16.2 million in increased earnings — across both ICON-related employment and other local businesses — by year ten.


ICON touches nearly every corner of our region with improvements and access points throughout Central Iowa in a dozen different jurisdictions. From urban neighborhoods to rural communities, ICON is about connection — to the water and to each other. ICON provides opportunities along its banks for everyone in Central Iowa, from the experienced paddler to the novice adventurer.

When you support ICON, you aren’t just making a donation, you’re building a legacy. Investments in this initiative are changing the landscape of our region and stewarding our natural heritage for generations to come. You can be a part of it too — now, and all year long.

About the Author: Jen Cross is the Vice President of Donor Relations for the Great Outdoors Foundation, a regional catalyst for high-impact environmental projects and ICON Water Trails’ fiscal sponsor. An Iowa native, Jen boasts nearly a decade of fundraising experience.