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Paddle Boarding in Iowa: A Guide to Exploring the State’s Beautiful Waterways

Iowa is known for its flat landscapes, endless cornfields, and rich farming heritage. But did you know that it’s also home to some of the most beautiful waterways in the Midwest? Paddle boarding, a fun and exciting water activity, is becoming increasingly popular in Iowa. Whether you’re an experienced paddler or a newbie, there are plenty of places to explore and enjoy. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about paddle boarding in Iowa, from the best spots to paddle to the equipment you’ll need. Let’s dive in!

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Best Spots for Paddle Boarding in Iowa

If you’re new to paddle boarding, you might be wondering where to start. Iowa has a variety of waterways to choose from, but some are better than others for paddle boarding. Here are some of the best spots to check out:

  1. Lake Okoboji – Located in the northwest part of the state, Lake Okoboji is a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts. With crystal-clear water and plenty of places to launch your paddle board, it’s a great spot for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.
  2. Des Moines River – The Des Moines River runs through the heart of the state, and there are plenty of access points to launch your board. This river is ideal for those who want a bit more of a challenge, as there are some rapids and currents to navigate.
  3. Maquoketa River – The Maquoketa River is a beautiful and serene spot for paddle boarding. With plenty of wildlife to observe and scenic views, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Equipment You’ll Need

Before you hit the water, it’s important to have the right equipment. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. Paddle Board – Obviously, the most important piece of equipment is the paddle board itself. There are a variety of boards to choose from, depending on your skill level and the type of water you’ll be paddling in.
  2. Paddle – You’ll also need a paddle to navigate your board. Make sure to choose a paddle that’s the right size for your height and the type of paddling you’ll be doing.
  3. Life Jacket – It’s always a good idea to wear a life jacket, especially if you’re new to paddle boarding. Choose a jacket that fits snugly and is comfortable to wear.
  4. Leash – A leash will keep you connected to your board, even if you fall off. This is especially important in fast-moving water or windy conditions.

Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to paddle boarding, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Start in calm water – When you’re first starting out, it’s best to stick to calm water with little to no current. This will help you get a feel for the board and the paddle before moving on to more challenging conditions.
  2. Learn proper technique – Take the time to learn proper paddling technique, including how to hold the paddle and how to maintain your balance on the board.
  3. Don’t forget sunscreen – Even on overcast days, the sun can be strong on the water. Make sure to apply sunscreen before you hit the water to protect your skin.


Paddle boarding is a fun and exciting way to explore Iowa’s beautiful waterways. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there are plenty of spots to explore and equipment to choose from. With a little practice and patience, you’ll soon be gliding along the water, enjoying the sights and sounds of Iowa’s great outdoors.

Before you head out, make sure to do your research and choose a spot that’s right for you. Whether you’re looking for a serene, peaceful paddle or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Iowa’s waterways have something for everyone.

Remember to always wear a life jacket, use a leash, and practice proper technique. And don’t forget to take in the scenery along the way! Paddle boarding is a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

So grab your board, paddle, and sense of adventure, and get ready to explore Iowa’s beautiful waterways on your next paddle boarding adventure!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.