Beat the summer heat by getting out on the water to try your hand at paddling. Learn the ins-and-outs of the activity here before hitting the open water.
To start, you’ll need a watercraft. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are popular choices. Bring a paddle and a lifejacket, too – Iowa state law requires lifejackets on all personal watercraft. It’s a good idea to bring along a dry bag for personal items and quick-drying or water-appropriate clothing, such as swimwear.
While you’re out adventuring, it’s important to be prepared. Make a trail plan before your trip and check the weather to make sure water conditions will be safe. If you find yourself in a body of swift-moving water, stay calm and paddle to a safe location before attempting to stand in the water. Be sure to follow local navigation rules and avoid paddling in floodwater.
iowadnr.gov/things-to-do/canoeing-kayaking has water trail maps to help you plan your trip and an interactive paddling map that notes potential hazards, among other resources. John Wenck, Iowa DNR Water Trails Coordinator, recommends heading out in early morning or late afternoon to catch wildlife at its most active.
"If you haven't seen Iowa from a river, you haven't seen Iowa,” Wenck said.
Even when having fun, keep the environment in mind. Clean your watercraft and gear between trips to ensure you don’t contaminate the ecosystem with non-native species. If you want to go above and beyond, consider volunteering in a river cleanup with a local watershed organization. You can help preserve Iowa’s water systems so everyone can continue to enjoy them for years to come.