Water Trails

The Des Moines Area MPO played a central role in launching water trails in Central Iowa.

Now known as ICON Water Trails, the effort began in 2015 with a master plan developed by the Des Moines Are MPO thanks to a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The plan was followed by an engineering study that answered key questions about the engineering feasibility and cost of proposed projects.

Furthermore, the MPO participated in a consortium of organizations, organized as Central Iowa Water Trails, that worked collaboratively and collectively to begin implementing the vision set forth in the master plan.

Last but not least, the Des Moines Area MPO successfully secured a $25 million from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program of the U.S. DOT for the redevelopment of the Scott Avenue Dam and related projects up- and downsteam.

The original works of the MPO are preserved here for reference. For current updates on water trails, please visit ICON Water Trails.

Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan

The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan was adopted by unanimous vote of the MPO Policy Committee in November 2016. The water trails plan provides the region a road-map for enhancing citizen experiences in and along the 150 miles of waterways in Greater Des Moines.

Executive Summary
Water Trails and Greenways Plan

Beaver Creek Booklet
Des Moines River Booklet
Fourmile and Mud Creeks Booklet
North and Middle Rivers Booklet
Raccoon River Booklet
South Skunk River and Chichaqua Bottoms Booklet
Walnut Creek Booklet
State of the Rivers Report
Water Trails Appendix

Water Trails Engineering Study

The engineering study determined the feasibility of the recommended projects and provided estimated costs of those projects. With this information, local governments and funding partners were able to begin prioritizing projects and budgeting for their installation.

The engineering study was conducted in two parts — one focused on the three downtown projects, and the other on the balance of projects around the region. The downtown portion of the study was conducted by McLaughlin Whitewater Group, with local subcontractors RDG and HDR. The regional portion of the study was conducted by ISG. The reports are organized by body or bodies of water.

Downtown Water Trails Assessment
Beaver Creek — Engineering Study
Skunk River and Chichaqua Bottoms
Raccoon River — Engineering Study
North and Middle Rivers — Engineering Study
Walnut Creek — Engineering Study
Four Mile and Mud Creeks — Engineering Study
Des Moines River — Engineering Study

Study Funding

The Water Trails Engineering Study is expected to cost about $500,000 and will be funded through a public-private partnership. The full amount has been raised, thanks to the generous support of multiple funders:

  • Leadership Circle of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines – $205,000
  • Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau – $30,000
  • Greater Des Moines Partnership – $30,000
  • Polk County Conservation – $30,000
  • Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS – $16,500
  • Area jurisdictions – $196,000
    • Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Des Moines, Grimes, Johnston, Mitchellville, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Polk County, Van Meter, and Warren County

Steering Committees

Steering Committees were assembled to oversee the development of the master plan, as well as for the engineering study. Records of these meetings have been retained by the Des Moines Area MPO and are available upon request.

boys walking on a path near a stream

Water Trails Appendix

A great amount of community feedback and research went into of the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan. This information is retained here as an appendix for research and reference.