Water Trails Engineering Study


The Water Trails Engineering Study is the first phase of implementation of the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan, which was approved by unanimous vote of the MPO Policy Committee in November 2016.

While the master plan lays out a broad vision for developing a water trails network in Greater Des Moines, the Water Trails Engineering Study will examine list of recommended projects more closely. The engineering study will determine the feasibility of the recommended projects and provide estimated costs of those projects. With this information, local governments and funding partners can begin prioritizing projects and budgeting for the installation of these projects.

Economic Impact Study

An Economic Impact Study was commissioned by Capital Crossroads and completed by Johnson Consulting of Chicago to answer key questions for stakeholders, especially funders in the public and private sectors, as it relates to the Adventure Park and whitewater venue in downtown Des Moines. 

Des Moines Water Trails Economic Impacts Study

Engineering Study Findings

The Engineering Study was done in two parts, with one focused on the three low-head dams in downtown Des Moines, while the other focused on all the other projects in the region.

OVERVIEW — Downtown Dams

The downtown portion of the study was conducted by McLaughlin Whitewater Group, with local subcontractors RDG and HDR.

Click here for the full Downtown Water Trails Assessment.

REPORTS — Regional Projects

The regional portion of the study was conducted by ISG. The reports are organized by body or bodies of water.

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

Engineering Firms

At the MPO Policy Committee meeting on May 25, contracts were approved to begin work on the Phase I Implementation: Water Trails Engineering Study.

The MPO has engaged the services of two teams to accomplish the Engineering Study. One team, ISG Engineering and Architecture, will focus on the proposed projects throughout the region; while McLaughlin Whitewater Group, with local subcontractors RDG and HDR, will tackle the unique and challenging constraints of the water trail recommendations for downtown Des Moines.

Work has begun and we expect to have initial findings back by early fall with final designs and cost estimates expected in early 2018.

Advisory Committee

The Water Trails and Greenways Advisory Committee will oversee the development of a Water Trails Engineering Study. Agendas, minutes and presentations are posted below.

Water Trails Advisory Committee Membership

Agendas & Minutes

Supplemental Items*
June 2018 Agenda Presentation
January 2018 Agenda Presentation
October 2017 Agenda Presentation
September 2017 Agenda Presentation
Discussion Guide
May 2017 Agenda Presentation


The Dam Plan
January 2018 Meeting Presentation
The Dam Debate III
Sample renderings of regional projects
September 2017 Meeting Presentation
May 2017 Meeting Presentation


360 Rendering


360 Rendering — Center Street Dam Mitigation — Des Moines

Video Rendering — Center Street Dam Mitigation — Des Moines

Greater Des Moines Water Trails

Confluence Park — Denver

Boise Whitewater

Columbus, Georgia, Whitewater