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The potential for river recreation in Greater Des Moines is significant and largely untapped, a new report finds.

That is a central takeaway from “State of the Rivers,” a new online resource that is rich with research on 150 miles of creeks and rivers in central Iowa. The report documents the current conditions of the metro waterways – identifying existing uses, opportunities, and challenges – as part of a larger effort to develop a Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan.

“We’ll never have mountains or oceans in central Iowa, but we have an abundance of rivers that we should be embracing as a region,” said Rick Tollakson, the president and CEO of Hubbell Realty Co. who is chairing the Water Trails Steering Committee. “If we come up with an ambitious but achievable plan, our rivers can become a signature recreational amenity for Greater Des Moines. The question now is, what is our vision?”


NOW OPEN: Water Trails Input Map

Draw what you want to see along our region’s waterways

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The public is invited to not just imagine — but draw on a map — their ideas for natural-area preservation and recreational development in and along the rivers and creeks of Greater Des Moines. To get started, click here or the map to the left. The Water Trails Input Map will close Wednesday, March 30. 




State of the Rivers Report

The State of the Rivers Report is the culmination of months of research and represents the most comprehensive exploration to date of the current conditions of 150 miles of rivers and creeks throughout Greater Des Moines. The online report of “story maps” was developed by Des Moines Area MPO as part of the first phase of the Master Watertrails and Greenways planning effort — a critical first step before planners and the public move forward with generating ideas and recommendations for what the waterways and greenways could become.

Major takeaways from the “State of the Rivers” report include:

  • Access – Today people have limited access to the rivers and creeks of Greater Des Moines. Expanding the number of access points – such as boat launches, equipment rentals, and information about recreational opportunities – would give people more options to explore rivers in more ways.
  • Water quality – The region’s rivers and creeks are polluted to varying degrees, and they are “flashy” due to excessive storm-water run-off during rainstorms. Improving water quality and stability will attract more people to the rivers.
  • Safety – Threats to the safety of users – whether mild or severe, real or perceived – can act as a deterrent to users. Encouraging a culture of water safety through user education, accurate information on current conditions, and options for safe recreational experiences will be critical to expanding river recreation.
  • Greenways habitat – The rivers act as corridors of natural habitat throughout the region. Conserving these natural corridors would add to the diversity of wildlife and the health of the rivers.
  • Passionate people – Many people in the community – from current users to business leaders – have engaged in this planning process and have great enthusiasm for improving the region’s waterways.

Picture11. Executive Summary
2. Regional Context
3. Des Moines River – Northern Section
4. Des Moines River – Downtown Section
5. Des Moines River – Southern Section
6. Raccoon River
7. South Skunk River
8. North and Middle Rivers
9. Beaver Creek
10. Fourmile, Mud, and Walnut Creeks
11. Issues, Opportunities, and Recommendations