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

Click here to watch a guided tour of this paddling route.



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

Click here to watch a guided tour of this paddling route.



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

Future Sites

This project isn't quite done yet, but we're hard at work preparing this water trail for public use. These improvements will ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for all users while providing the necessary protection for this important environment. Be sure to check back periodically for updates on this water trail, and in the meantime, feel free to explore our other amazing amenities in and along our waterways.

Future Site

Site 4 the Des Moines River

Site 4 is just upstream of Saylorville Lake, along Highway 17. It is currently used by paddlers to exit the Des Moines River.

Proposed improvements to this site will improve safety and access for paddlers and others accessing the waterway.


  • Safety information helping paddlers reach the shore
  • Additional parking
  • Soft trails
  • Bank access for canoes and kayaks
Future Site

Site 10 the Des Moines River

Site 10 connects the Polk City Sports Complex with Saylorville Lake. You’ll find plenty to do nearby.


  • Educational signage along trails and points of interest
  • New soft trails
  • Seating areas near the water
Future Site

Site 46 the Des Moines River

Site 46 runs along Euclid Avenue near the River Place complex in Des Moines. This site is connected to the Sycamore and Trestle Trail systems, providing opportunity for multiple recreational activities.

Benefits all park visitors both on and off the water.


  • Carry-down access
  • Cast-in-place boat launch
  • New trails with interpretive signage
  • Enhancements to the parking area
Future Site

Site 64 the Des Moines River

Site 64 can be found at Harriet Street, offering a gravel parking lot and motorized boat access.

The Harriet Street site will serve as a primary takeout location for paddlers completing the future downtown run.Improvements to the site benefit anglers, paddlers and other park visitors.


  • Carry-down access
  • Cast-in-place launch
  • Improved accessibility
  • Expanded network of hard and soft trails
  • Updates to the parking lot
  • Wetlands
  • Educational signage

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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