Float Trips- Estherville to Dolliver SP, With Descriptions and Coordinates

Estherville to Emmetsburg
Des Moines River Float TripsThe Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Estherville, to Peterson Access in Wallingford, past Graettinger, and on to Emmetsburg
Distance: 26 miles
updated 1/1/24: for stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase gallery
The trip from Estherville to Emmetsburg may be done in one or two days. The West Fork of the Des Moines River is quite challenging when the water is running fast. Just south of Estherville, the river begins to change directions frequently, making the 6.6 mile direct distance into a 10 mile trip to Peterson Access. There are many places where downed trees nearly block the river. I was able to push through the branches, but there needs to be careful attention paid because the snags are above and below the water and could capsize the unwary. About 4 miles south of Estherville, there is an unmarked barbed wire fence across the river. If you are on the east side of the river, along the high ground, you can pass under the wire. There is another barbed wire fence just as you come to the A33 bridge.
The trip from Peterson Access to Basswood Access in Emmetsburg takes one past the long railroad trestle near Graettinger and under the Hwy. B14 bridge. It is about 7 miles to the bridge, and another 9 miles to Basswood. The river is somewhat straighter and wider, and there are fewer obstacles, but downed trees present a challenge in several places. The greenbelt forest is quite deep in many places, and deer are in the forest and in the river, a magnificent sight that I'm going to capture on film.
Driving Directions
There are two places to launch in Estherville. As you come into town on Hwy. 4, look for 4th St., near the wonderful library. Take 4th St. north about a half mile to N26, then just north of the N26 bridge is a driveway down to a field and a hard surface boat ramp. Parking is no problem, and there is room for camping. If you launch from 4th St. you will have to run or portage the dam just before the city park, but there is passage through the dam on the east side.
The city park also has a boat ramp. As you cross the Hwy. 9 bridge going west, turn south to the city park on W.S. 1st St. The driveway to the ramp looks like it belongs to a house.
South of the Hwy. 4 bridge outside town, there is unmarked barbed wire across the river. I nearly lost my head in foggy weather.
The Peterson Access is easy to find. Take A34 east through Wallingford about 1/4 mile. Lammers Landing access is a mile east of Graettinger on Hwy B14.
Basswood Access is north of Emmetsburg on Hwy. 4/18. Don't take the exit for the college and the recreation area. The ramp is just south of the bridge, down a fairly steep incline.
N26 bridge, EsthervilleN43 24 44.8W94 50 24.4
Hwy 4 bridgeN43 23 15.7W94 49 51.2
Peterson Access, WallingfordN43 19 06.1W94 46 44.0
B14 bridge, Graettinger (Lammers Landing)N43 14 31.3W94 44 19.0
Basswood, EmmetsburgN43 07 36.7W94 42 23.3
Watch out for unmarked barbed wire south of Estherville
The southward march of the Dragoons began in Emmetsburg in 1836


Emmetsburg to Rutland
Des Moines River Float TripsThe Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Emmetsburg to Rodman, on to West Bend and Bradgate, and take out at the Rutland Dam
updated 1/09: for stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase galleryDistance: 39 miles
The trip from Emmetsburg to Rutland is truly wild and scenic. You will paddle for miles with only the sounds of the birds to interrupt the rushing of the water. There are otters by the Basswood ramp, and you may linger to watch them at play. I did this trip on four different days, but the water was running fairly slow. In faster water, this is a 2 day trip. There is camping at Mulroney near Rodman, at River Runner near West Bend, at Willow near Bradgate, and at the Rutland Dam area. I caught a football game at West Bend-Mallard High School.
The river winds gently through forest and greenbelt down to Mulroney Access. You occasionally pass under a bridge or near a rural road. The first landmark past Emmetsburg is the Hwy. 4 bridge, about 4 miles downstream. The river begins to turn to the east 3 miles south, and passes under a county road bridge 3 miles from Mulroney Access. The total trip, per my GPS, was 12 miles, somewhat longer than the guidebooks tell you.
Mulroney is set back in the woods about a mile from B55. It is 8 miles to River Runner. The stretch from Rodman to River Runner passes under the B55 bridge after about 2 miles of rowing, and under several bridges, but it is still quite remote and scenic. The play of sunlight on water and the fall colors made for striking photographs. You pass under the B63 bridge about 6 miles into the trip, and arrive at River Runner Access 2 miles downstream. I camped at River Runner, going into West Bend to see the Grotto and get supplies. It is pretty country, and I enjoyed seeing plentiful deer in the forest.
The trip to Willow Access near Bradgate is 10 miles. You immediately get into deep woods, and a leafy canopy that often shades you from the sun. I saw lots of deer along the riverbank. 3 miles downstream is the C20 bridge. Another 3 miles and you are at the Hamm's Bridge access maintained by Pocahontas County. Another 4 miles and you paddle under the C26 bridge near Bradgate, and then it's less than a mile to the Willow Access. This area is set back from the road in a wooded area, and the access road is quite rough.
The 8 mile paddle to Rutland will be one of the most direct on the river. The West Fork widens and picks up speed considerably, and this will be a 2 hour trip in most conditions. There is a pool to the north behind the old pump house, and you can take the boat out up a gentle incline. There was a major restoration project underway to upgrade this area, known as Rose Mill Park
Driving Directions
Basswood Access is north of Emmetsburg on Hwy. 4/18. Don't take the exit for the college and the recreation area. The ramp is just south of the bridge, down a fairly steep incline.
Mulroney Access is 2 miles west of Rodman on Hwy. B55, turn north on the gravel road and go past the park.
River Runner Access is 3.5 miles west of West Bend, on B63, then follow the signs along the gravel roads. There is a major bridge that crosses the river, and the access is south on the east side of the river.
Hamm's Access is North of Bradgate on P19, 1.7 miles W off P19 on C18 (440th St.).
Willow Access is east of C26 just south of the bridge. It is well marked.
The Rutland Dam take out point is just north of the P33 bridge, 1/4 mile west. P33 is off Hwy. 3 just about 3 miles west of Humboldt.
Basswood, EmmetsburgN43 07 36.7W94 42 23.3
Hwy. 4 bridge, EmmetsburgN43 03 58.4W94 40 44.0
bridge, county roadN43 02 00.0W94 37 40.0
Mulroney, RodmanN43 01 02.8W94 34 31.0
B55 bridgeN43 00 36.0W94 32 07.6
B63 bridgeN42 57 32.5W94 31 22.0
River Runner, West BendN42 56 09.2W94 31 15.6
C20, OttosenN42 54 12.7W94 27 45.8
Hamm's Bridge Access, CR C18N42 50 54.2W94 27 29.5
C26 bridge, BradgateN42.48.38.5N94.26.41.0
Willow AccessN42 48 05.8W94 25 40.3
Rutland damN42 45 18.2W94 17 44.7
Journal entryI came across 3 deer swimming in the river; Sparkly water and luminous foliage
Sparkling water, numerous deer, Moingona river spirits in the water on a gorgeous fall float near West Bend


Rutland to Dolliver SP
Des Moines River Float Trips
The Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Rutland dam to Humboldt, to Ft. Dodge, and on to Dolliver State Park
Distance: 44 miles
for stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase gallery
With all of the portages in this trip, it may be necessary to take 2 days. There are camping areas in Gotch Park, Ft. Dodge, and at Dolliver State Park. Ft. Dodge is 25 miles downstream from Rutland.
There is camping and a carry down area below the dam at Rutland. This is a scenic area with a lovely new park. There is a fund raising and restoration effort underway. The Humboldt County Conservation Board and the Board of Supervisors have endorsed the river trail.
The trip to Humboldt is very scenic, with high, forested limestone bluffs and grassy banks. Some 2 miles downstream you pass the Oxbow Park boat ramp to the north and east of the Hwy. 3 bridge. There is also a boat ramp in Sheldon Park below the Hwy. 3 bridge. This is the Lake Nokomis area with lovely landscaped "seacoast" properties along 2 miles of the river. There is a boat ramp just above the Humboldt dam. Portage for about a half mile along the Cottonwood Trail and put in below the rock dam across from the power plant. This dam will tear the bottom out of your boat.
There is one more rock dam along the scenic 5 mile run to Gotch Park. I walked my boat around it also. There is a boat ramp at Gotch Park. The Corn Belt REC dam has been removed, making for safe passage from Gotch Park to Fort Dodge.
It's a quick 13 mile trip to the Ft. Dodge hydo dam access (the dam has been removed, although 1 gate remains and may be a hazard in high water). C49 passes close by the river 2 miles south. The C56 bridge is 3 miles south, and the D14 bridge is 5 miles downstream. There are many rapids, and the cliffs and woods are quite striking. The houses that line the riverbank are built up into the rock formations, and friendly folks will chat with you. There are campgrounds on the east side of the river. There is a boat ramp to take out just before the former hydro dam, which has been removed.
It is a 3 mile run under all the high bridges through Ft. Dodge. The little dam has been removed. There is a boat ramp just downstream of the former little dam, by the railroad bridge and the Hwy 20 (business) bridge.
It's 13 miles to Dolliver State Park. The river is wide, and the current runs quite fast. It is about 5 miles to the Hwy. 20 bridge, and and another 2 miles to the Kalo bridge. Dolliver is about 6 winding miles beyond Kalo, with a 3 mile run to the east and a 2 mile run back to the west. This area has many abandoned railroad bridges, and in some places the rusting tracks and old bridges disappear into the woods. Herons are plentiful on this stretch of the river.
Driving Directions
The Rutland dam area is off Hwy. 3 east of Gilmore City, north on P33, just to the west after crossing the P33 bridge.
Oxbow Park ramp is on the north and east side of the Hwy. 3 bridge just west of Humboldt. The lower Sheldon access is in the park and is just downstream from the Hwy. 3 bridge.
The boat ramp above the Humboldt dam is on 1st St. on the north side of the river. Take 1st St. west off Hwy. 169 at Burger Boy.
The put in point just below the rock dam at the power plant is east and south off Hwy. 3, just to the east of the Hwy. 169 bridge.
Gotch Park is 1 mile N of Hwy C49, Off Hwy. 169, 1 mile E, , N on Gotch Park Rd., N bank Follow the signs. The boat ramp is the second right turn once you enter the park.
Deer Creek access is off 130 th St. going north of Ft. Dodge on Hwy. 169.
The hydro dam boat ramp in Ft. Dodge is east off Hwy. 169 (at the intersection with Hwy. 7), on NW 3rd. St., Off 169, at Hwy 7, N at 2nd St. NW, W bank past Hydo Park.
The new boat ramp below the low head dam in Ft. Dodge is on the west side of the river south of the Hwy. 20 (Business) bridge.
Dolliver State Park boat ramp is 4 miles NW of Lehigh off Hwy. 50, follow the excellent signs. Or, take Hwy. 50 E off Hwy. 169.
Rutland damN42 45 18.2Longitude
Oxbow Park ramp, HumboldtN42 43 55.9W94 17 44.7
Dam ramp, HumboldtN42 43 39.3W94 15 25.5
Gotch Park ramp, HumboldtN42 40 33.5W94 13 44.7
C49, Ft. DodgeN42 39 05.0W94 11 57.6
C56 bridge, Ft. DodgeN42 36 57.0W94 11 22.2
Deer CreekN42 35 59.0W94 12 48.3
D14 bridge, Ft. DodgeN42 32 37.0W94 13 32.4
Hydro Park ramp, Ft. DodgeN42 31 11.0W94 12 58.5
Former little dam ramp, Ft. DodgeN42 29 27.3W94 11 58.1
Hwy. 20 bridge, Ft. DodgeN42 26 55.3W94 11 03.0
Kalo bridgeN42 25 54.6W94 08 04.3
Dolliver St. ParkN42 23 24.1W94 07 57.3
W94 04 44.2
Journal EntriesI could hear deer rustling in the woods at night
The local police came down to the river to see if I needed help
Rose Mill park is a great place to camp. We will miss Doug Wood.



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