Des Moines River Access Points

Sites along the Des Moines River offer a mix of natural and urban improvements, bringing a greater connection to recreational activities along the water.

SITE 21 SITE 26 SITE 48 SITE 51 SITE 87 SITE 106

Site 21

On the Des Moines River

You can find Site 21 at the Cottonwood Recreation Area. This site currently offers:

  • Primitive and developed campsites
  • A playground
  • Volleyball courts
  • Multi-use trails for walking and biking
  • Picnic Shelters


Used for canoe and kayak access, this site will move downstream where it will be closer to the river channel. Additional future improvements will include:

  • Cast-in-place launch
  • New seating areas
  • Educational signs
  • Habitat improvements for conservation

Site 26

On the Des Moines River

You can find site 26 along the Neal Smith Trail and Ding Darling Greenway. This site currently offers:

  • Hard surface trails
  • Sycamore boat access
  • Trailhead signs
  • Parking


This site is a hub for both water and land-based recreation, so restrooms are planned to accommodate more visitors.

Site 48

On the Des Moines River

Site 48 is located within Des Moines’ Prospect Park. There’s lots to see and do here, including:

  • Drake University’s boathouse and rowing dock
  • Safe access to the Des Moines River for both paddlers and motorboats
  • Disc golf
  • Parking, restrooms and picnic shelters


From athletics to watersports, future improvements include:

  • More fishing and hiking infrastructure
  • Interpretive signage for education
  • Places to sit and relax near the water

Site 51

On the Des Moines River

Site 51 lies within the City of Des Moines and features the Birdland Marina, home to the Des Moines Rowing Club. This site currently offers:

  • Extensive boating amenities like rowing docks and motorized boat access
  • Restrooms and other park facilities
  • Captain Roy’s bar and restaurant


In the future, Birdland Marina will serve as the primary put-in location for the downtown water trails operations. New additions to the site will coordinate with the City of Des Moines’ Birdland Masterplan and will offer:

  • Canoe and kayak launch with nearby equipment rental
  • Improved water access with paved parking area
  • Additional signage
  • Landscaping and outdoor seating

Site 87

On the Des Moines River

This site makes up part of Polk County Conservation’s Yellow Banks Park. There are many existing amenities to enjoy, such as:

  • Both primitive and formal campgrounds
  • An extensive trail network and river access
  • Restrooms, picnic shelters, playgrounds and ballfields


Other future improvements include:

  • Relocated canoe and kayak access
  • Adding additional primitive campsites
  • Outdoor seating near the river

Site 106

On the Des Moines River

The Des Moines River’s final site is found within the Red Rocks Wildlife Management Area. This site currently offers:

  • Public hunting access
  • Boat launch
  • Gravel parking lot


Improvements will benefit park visitors, paddlers, anglers and more. They include:

  • New on-water safety signage
  • Picnic area

Find Your Activity with ICON

Whether you love to spend your weekend under the stars or paddling the Des Moines River, there’s something for everyone on ICON water trails. Learn more about the activities awaiting you.


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