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I recently had the opportunity to travel through Iowa on my way across the country and stopped by to confirm rumors of whitewater amidst the corn fields.   I was rewarded with a great 3 days of great kayaking, cool towns, and awesome happy people.  To sum up my experience: I can’t wait to get back to Iowa–man, I never thought I’d be saying that!

First, I stopped by Charles City, which was the first IA town to build a whitewater park.  It’s a 3-drop park set in a smaller city.  Lots of good parking, fisherman, restaurants, hotels, and friendly people surround the park to make it easy to want to stay and play.  I was there at higher water, so lots of the play spots looked good.  I’ve been a little injured so played a fun green wave shoulder on the top drop, which was great for airscrews and clean blunts.  I think that this park is best at higher flows, so this is the place to go early spring or after bigger rains.  This website for the park is here:



Next up, I spent two days in Elkader, which had their grand opening ceremony for the shiny-new WW park while I was there.  Elkader may be the smallest town anywhere to build a whitewater park.  It’s a charming small town that’s recently been pouring energy into recreation, and revitalizing it’s main street corridor.  There’s hiking, biking, disc golf, kayaking, fishing, and lots of other opportunities for fun here.  Combine that with good coffee, a cheap movie theater (I saw “How to Train Your Dragon 2” for $5!), and some of the happiest people alive, and this may just by my favorite small town I’ve visited yet.  The whitewater park is one drop, but has two channels around an island–one of which is better at slightly higher flows, one better at lower.  The river right feature has been named “The Gobbler” and should be great for every hole trick.  Unlike Charles City, Elkader should be great at lower flows, so most of the summer and fall will be GREAT here.  I had a blast teaching a Freestyle Fundamentals clinic here with lots of fun paddlers!  The Elkder WW park info is here:

To say that I was impressed is understatement.  I hope to spend a good bit more time in Iowa next year if I can work it into the schedule.  I believe that Manchester, Iowa is also going to be building a whitewater park in the next year sometime, so with less than 2 hours of driving, it should be possible to play in three different towns soon!!!!

Here’s some photos 🙂

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Live from Beachburg, Ontario,

Stephen Wright