Float the River: Tubing, Canoeing and Kayaking in Eastern Iowa

Hitting the river on a hot summer’s day is a tradition here in Iowa, whether tubing, canoeing, or kayaking.

New to floating the river, or not sure where to go? This guide will help you get started on a river adventure!

Float the River: Tubing, Canoeing and Kayaking in Eastern Iowa* Please, whatever you do, check water levels and make good decisions. Rivers aren’t something to mess around with, especially when bringing children. Wear life vests, stay together, and don’t be afraid to get out and call it a day if it’s more than you bargained for. 

Rivercraft Companies in Eastern Iowa

This option is the safest for newbies, as you are traveling well-known routes and companies can help provide transportation. 

Manchester: Whitewater Park

  • Location: 300 West Main Street, Manchester, IA 52057
  • Cost: Free (local companies such as The Watershed provide rentals if needed)
  • Details: This 800 ft course along the Maquoketa River has several drops and rapids. You can continue to float along the river or get out and run the course again! Visit the website for more details.

Monticello: Monticello Canoe Rental

  • Location: 21430 River Road – Monticello, IA 52310
  • Cost: $10-$40 depending on choice of watercraft
  • Details: located just past the Mon- Maq Dam in Monticello, the 8-mile water trail will take you to Pictured Rocks Park -south out of town. They offer full-service floating, but you can’t bring your own tubes, and if you have your own canoe or kayak, it’s $10/vessel drop fee. Plan on 3-4 hours for canoe/kayak and 5-6 hours for tubing.

Monticello: Lou Lou’s Landing

  • Location: 5088 Hwy 38 Olin, IA 52320
  • Cost: $10/tube, $20-$25/canoe, $3 shuttle fee for groups of 9 or fewer
  • Details: 2 routes appx 7 miles each. No time limit- 2 hours for a quick float or take as much time as you wish to play along the way.

Cascade: Riverview Ridge Rentals

  • Location: Riverview Ridge Campground, 24224 Riverview Rd, Cascade, IA, 52033
  • Cost: $15-17.50 per watercraft
  • Details: Float down the North Fork Maquoketa River. A straight-through float takes about 2 hours, plus ½ hour return time. You can stop at 2 beachy sandbars along the way for a longer adventure. 

Eldora: Rock-n-Row Adventures

  • Location: 23539 1st St. Eldora, Iowa 50627
  • Price: $30-$45/person (discounts available for kids/certain dates)
  • Details: The average float is 3-5 hours. Float includes shuttle up the river and tube: you will return to your parking spot at Rock-n-Row Campground. 

Independence: River Dock Canoe Rental

  • Location: Located in Independence, they will deliver watercraft within 20 miles of Independence to your location. 
  • Price: $10/tube $25/kayak or canoe (includes life vests)
  • Details: River Dock does not transport people, only watercraft. Make a reservation and they will bring it to you! Fee includes rental from sunup till sundown.

Central City: Flying Squirrel Campground Watercraft Concession (Pinicon Ridge)

  • Location: 4729 Horseshoe Falls Rd, Central City, IA 52214
  • Price: $10/hr or $25/day for canoes/kayaks/paddleboats plus $1/hr for life jackets
  • Details: For $25-$35/ watercraft, trips are available for 2, 4, or 6 hours, including a shuttle up the river and a return to the campground. You can also use the campground as a put-in spot to float on your own.

DIY River Trips

With so many waterways in Eastern Iowa, you can put in your own watercraft pretty much anywhere. Just make sure you follow Iowa DNR’s safety tips! Check out the latest information on the Interactive Paddling Map here

Here are some routes our readers suggested for DIY River Trips:

  • Wapsipinicon River- Matsell Bridge to Stone City
  • Indian Creek in Marion- From E Post Rd to Bertram Road (near the Indian Creek Nature Center)- About 3 hours, or continue on to the Cedar River
  • Indian Creek- Thomas Park to 30th St
  • Wapsipinicon River- Paris Bridge to Flying Squirrel Campground in Central City- maybe 2 hours
  • Wapsipinicon River- Pinicon Ridge Park to Boy Scout Rd Bridge (not a great choice when the water is low due to lots of debris)
  • Cedar River- Vinton to Wildcat
  • Cedar River- Wildcat to Lewis Access Rd.
  • If you’re willing to drive even further, check out the Upper Iowa River, Decorah, Backbone State Park, and more!

Did we miss your favorite waterway? Let us know the best places to canoe, kayak, or tube in Eastern Iowa!


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Valerie Earnest
Valerie grew up Naperville, Illinois, and is a Midwestern girl at heart even though she spent 16 years in Phoenix. She moved to Marion in 2016 with her husband, daughter (14), and two sons (12 and 9). Valerie graduated from BYU with a degree in Instrumental Music Education. She is a former band director, a current substitute teacher and accompanist, and an avid reader and crafter.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you! I was totally looking for options last week 🙂 We ended up at Lake McBride; Kayaks (single and double), Canoes, Peddle boats, Paddle boards. Kayaks are 13.75/person for single. I am not sure on the other prices as we kayaked and loved it. It was nice for a 1st time!

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