Float Trips-Red Rock to Keokuk, With Descriptions and Coordinates

Red Rock to Ottumwa
Des Moines River Float TripsThe Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Red Rock dam to Tracy and Eveland Access, on to Eddyville and Chillicothe, to Ottumwa and down to Cliffland Access
Updated 3/23/24: for river stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase galleryDistance: 53 miles
This is a 1 or 2 day trip. The paddle from Red Rock to Ottumwa begins at the boat ramp just to the south of the dam, on the east side of the river. This is Howell Station, with a partially restored bridge (Horn Bridge) that was one of the first over the river. Paddle under the standing section of the bridge along the east bank, there are submerged pillars to the west. It is about 2 miles to the Harvey bridge, another 7 miles to Hwy. 92 bridge, and 2 miles to Lamphier's Landing on river left. There is a boat ramp, with more facilities to come. A mile further on is the old Hwy. 92 access near Tracy. You can carry a canoe down to the river here, and the neighbors are friendly.
It is another 8 miles to the Eveland Access, which has excellent camping facilities, and is located just off Hwy. T39. The run from Red Rock to Eveland is about 20 miles. This area of the river is alternating areas of greenbelt and riverside development. Folks will wave to you from their decks and their campers as you paddle past.
From Eveland, the G71 bridge is 4 miles, Hardfish Access is another 4 miles. There is a well-kept boat ramp and camping area, no amenities. In another 2 miles, you pass the new levee at brave Eddyville and paddle under the Hwy. 137 bridge. There is no boat ramp at Eddyville anymore. Another 5 miles takes you past the power generating plant at Chillicothe, which presents no obstacles to paddling but is an awesome sight. The Chillicothe bridge is another 2 miles downstream. Amtrak runs through this area, and the trains are a nearly continuous presence down to Ottumwa. This was the route of the very successful River Ripple canoe float on 1999-2005.
South of the Chillicothe bridge 3 miles, the Amtrak tracks cross the river, and trains pass by frequently. The river also twists and turns through mostly forest area. The last 4 miles to Black Hawk Access takes you past riverside homes, beautifully kept. I was paddling in a rain squall against strong winds and waves, but the sights of the river made the effort worthwhile. Black Hawk Access is to the north and east of the island. The run from Eveland to Ottumwa is about 26 miles. If you go right at Turkey Island, you will find a boat ramp on the south shore just off Hwy. 34. It is also fairly easy to portage around the hydro dam by carrying your boat along the levee down to the Coliseum access.
Once past the hydro dam, you will see the Ottumwa Coliseum (now Bridgeview Center) boat ramp, which is unique in that it is outside the levee on a road set on an angle up and over the levee wall. It is a 4 mile trip down to Cliffland Access, which has excellent camping facilities and is close to historic Agency, where Chief Keokuk sold Iowa to the U.S.
The boat ramp south of Red Rock dam is at Howell Station. Take T15 out of Pella, turn right just before the dam, follow the signs to Howell Station.
There is a gravel ramp where old Hwy. 92 runs into the river, on the west side just north of Tracy, off Hwy. 92 east of Knoxville.
Eveland Access is off G71, which runs west off Hwy. 63 just south of Oskaloosa. Turn north on T39 about 3 miles.
Hardfish Access is on the west side of the river north of Eddyville. Take 63 to Eddyville, turn west and go over the Hwy. 137 bridge. Off Hwy. 63, W 1.3 miles on Hwy. 137, N on Heartland Dr., W bank.
To get to the Black Hawk boat ramp (East), turn right at the Hwy. 63 bridge, follow the river road past the UPS building, and turn left. Black Hawk boat ramp (West) is W of the Hwy 63/Hwy 34 intersection, off Hwy 34, N 1 mile on N. Quincy, E on Black Hawk Rd.
The Coliseum/Bridgeview boat ramp is off Hwy. 34 east of the Hwy. 63 bridge, follow the signs to Church St.
Cliffland Access, 1.5 miles S of Hwy 63/Hwy 34 intersection, turn E on River Road J12 for 4.5 miles, left on Cliffland Rd., N across the river, E bank.
Howell Station, Red RockN41.21.47.2W92.58.20.0
Harvey BridgeN41.20.32.4W92.56.23.3
Hwy. 92 bridgeN41 18 31.8W92 52 31.5
Old 92, near TracyN41.17.18.7W92.51.56.9
Eveland Access, T39N41.14.09.7W92.44.09.3
G71 bridgeN41 12 19.6W92 40 41.8
Hardfish Access, EddyvilleN41 09 25.3W92 39 09.5
T137 bridge, EddyvilleN41.08.59.5W92.38.04.4
Power plant, ChillicotheN41.07.22.9W92.35.00.2
Chillicothe bridgeN41.05.13.6W92.31.35.6
Railroad bridge, OttumwaN41.03.26.4W92.28.47.8
Black Hawk Access (West), OttumwaN41 01 25.1W92 26 07.8
Coliseum Access, OttumwaN41 00 42.9W92 24 45.3
Cliffland Access, AgencyN40 57 30.7W92 20 34.8
Journal EntriesRed Rock to Eveland to an appreciative audience
I love a rainy day on the river
The Ottumwa Courier River Ripple attracted 115 boats and 217 people
Black Hawk Access, Ottumwa, city of swift water
After a 16 mile run against strong winds and waves, in a rain squall, I was met by wonderful family members.


Ottumwa to Bonaparte
Des Moines River Float Trips    The Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Ottumwa to Eldon, on to Selma, Keosauqua, Bentonsport, and Bonaparte,and 
take out at the Des Moines River (Van Buren) Access 
updated 3/23/24: for river stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase galleryDistance: 54 miles
The most challenging task in this trip is finding the boat ramps.  The river is wide and free of obstacles, except when there is debris from a rain storm.  When the water is running fast, a 40 mile day is possible.  The trip should not take more than 2 days.  There are 6 boat ramps with overnight facilities along the trail.  The Austin Park is 28 miles downstream, but no longer has facilities for camping.  Keosauqua is another 8 miles, with the Hotel Manning right next to the boat ramp.
Cliffland Access is maintained by the state, but it is difficult to find and there are no signs off Hwy. 34.  Detailed driving directions are in the previous section.  Cliffland has a park and a boat ramp.  It is in the Fox Hills area, and is quite scenic with its tree lined bluffs and deep forest.  It is a quick row down to Eldon, about 11 miles.  Eldon is the home of the American Gothic house (Grant Wood).  The city boat ramp is right next to the fairgrounds.
The next boat ramp is at the Shidepoke Access near Selma, 5 miles downstream.  There are picnic tables, and there is room for camping. 
This is the first access in the new Van Buren County water trail.  Expect informational kiosks, water trail signs, and modern outdoor toilets.  If you are going on, the river begins to pick up speed through this area, about 5 miles to the Douds bridge across V64 (there is a new boat ramp at Douds as of 2/1/07). 
You are 4 miles  from the Big Bend, which is a horseshoe bend to the west, and back to the east and north, past Keosauqua.  As you turn sharply west, it is 6 miles of paddling along a very wide stretch of the river and you come upon Austin Park on the west bank.  It is 15 miles from Shidepoke to Austin Park.
Another 6 miles and you pass Lacey Keosauqua park with it's high bluffs, pass under the new bridge, and arrive in Keosauqua, founded in 1839 just 4 years after the Dragoons took their journey of exploration through Indian territory.
From Keosauqua, the river bends east and north 4 miles , then runs 4 miles to Bentonsport, a retored village maintained by Van Buren County.  There is an excellent campground,  a shelter with restroom facilities, and the buildings are "riverboat gothic."   Check out the new boat ramp and the SST  (sweet smelling toilet).  Iron and Lace and the General Store are must sees.
Another 4 miles downstream is Bonaparte, a Main Street city with historic facilities, including the Bonaparte Retreat restaurant with an old mill atmosphere and great food.  There is a city boat ramp and park should you care to stop.  The rapids can be passed on foot, or run them if you dare.  It's about 3 miles down to the Van Buren Access boat ramp.  Another 3 miles brings you to Farmington, with a rather steep boat ramp but an excellent restaurant and very friendly people.
Cliffland Access, 1.5 miles S of  Hwy 63/Hwy 34 intersection, turn E on River Road J12 for 4.5 miles, left on Cliffland Rd., N across the river, E bank.  
The Eldon city boat ramp is steep and offers street parking.  Stay on Hwy. 16 to the south edge of town, turn east to the river.  Or, ask for directions to the fairgrounds.  Hwy 16 through Eldon,  W on 1st St., S .3 miles on Water St. E bank.
Shidepoke Access is just west of Selma, off Hwy. 16 on J12, across the bridge, and to the east.  Cliffland to Shidepoke is a great one day outing.  Hwy. 16, W on Bridge St., across bridge, N on Eagle Dr., W bank, N of bridge.
The Douds access is just before the bridge on V64 (1 block to the south).
Austin Park boat ramp is about 2 miles from the west end of the big bend.  Take J40 through Keosauqua, cross the bridge at Pittsburg, then go north on the county road.  Off Hwy. 1 in Keosauqua, J40 W, over Pittsburg bridge,  .2 miles N on Bridge St., 1.8 miles NE on Eagle Dr., W. bank
The Keosauqua boat ramp is just east of the Hotel Manning, past the gorgeous new bridge, on the north side of the river.  There are several restaurants and convenience stores, and a very modern library.  Check weather and river levels on the public access internet computer.  Hwy. 1, E of bridge on Park St., N bank.
The Bentonsport boat ramp is just past the J40 bridge, and just before the restored iron truss bridge.  Go past the fudge shop, buy some fudge, then stop in at the general store and museum.  The boat ramp is just down the street, north of the post office.  For real comfort, stay at the Mason House and see the Murphy bath tub. 
The Bonaparte boat ramp is off J40, next to the woolen mill and the Bonaparte Retreat restaurant. 
Van Buren (Des Moines River) Access is on the west side of the river.  From Bonaparte, W on Hwy. W40, cross the Young bridge, 3 miles S on Eagle Dr. W bank.    Just follow the  excellent signs. 
Cliffland Access, AgencyN40 57 30.7W92 20 34.8
Eldon boat rampN40 54 35.8W92 13 03.1
Shidepoke, SelmaN40 52 14.8W92 09 30.4
Douds, V64 bridge accessN40.50.09.4W92.05.19.6
Douds1, bend to sw (2 miles)N40.48.02.4W91.58.31.7
Douds 2, bend to w (4 miles)N40.46.08.3W91.57.50.5
Austin ParkN40 46 03.1W91 58 06.1
Ely FordN40.43.03.5W91.59.16.7
Keosauqua boat rampN40 43 49.6W91 57 35.5
North end, big bendN40.45.38.2W91.54.00.8
J40, Bentonsport boat rampN40 43 31.8W91 51 22.0
J40, Bonaparte boat rampN40 41 51.7W91 48 21.8
Des Moines River (Van Buren Access)N40 40 16.8W91 45 29.3
Journal EntriesThe trick was to find Cliffland Access
I have done the Des Moines
Clear water and golden waves
The Beautiful Land, Near Bentonsport
The last 12 miles of my 400 mile journey began with a winter camp out overnight at the Bentonsport campground, just below this scenic overlook on J40.  It was December, and it was cold


Bonaparte to Keokuk
Des Moines River Float TripsThe Des Moines River is
Iowa's longest trail system
Take a float trip from Van Buren (Des Moines River) Access, near Farmington, to Ft. Pike Access by the toll bridge at St. Francisville, Mo., and on to Red Wing Access in Keokuk
Estimated Distance: 34 miles
updated 3/23/24: for river stories and pix, see the DMRWT PBase gallery
The trip from Bonaparte to Keokuk may be done in one or two days. The Des Moines River runs at 3-4 mph. as it nears the Mississippi. I paddled after a day of heavy rain, and at times was moving along at 6-8 mph. At one point, streams running into the river looked like frothy torrents, and I had all I could do to stay off snags as the river turned sharply east and west. I made the entire 30 miles in one day in October of 1998, with a stop for a snack at the convenience store near the Ft. Pike Access.
The Des Moines River (Van Buren) Access is a hard surface boat ramp with camping and lots of parking about 3 miles north of Farmington, which has a city boat ramp with limited parking. Van Buren Access is about 3 miles south of the Bonaparte rapids, which have dumped many an unwary paddler, including Chuck Offenburger. The water moves right along, past the Riverview Cabins right on the river.
This is a remote area of the river, but it also carries you past the high bluffs and loess hills of the Shimek State Forest, which is ablaze with color in the fall. Some 4 miles down the river is Croton, where Confederate artillery lobbed cannonballs across the river from Athens, Mo. in 1861, the northernmost battle west of the Mississippi. Croton Road runs along the east side of the river from Farmington, and you can visit the war memorial and picnic in a lovely park.
There is an access point called Turkey Run about 10 miles south of Farmington. It is deep in the forest, off a gravel road that winds through the forest called Belfast Road. This access point has an excellent boat ramp. To get to Turkey Run from Farmington, take the Croton Rd. (which is the first right after you cross the Hwy.2 bridge on the east side of the river) through Croton, then turn on Belfast Rd. just outside of Croton. You can also access Belfast Rd. from Hwy. 394 just north of the Hwy. 394 bridge outside of St. Francisville. It is another 10 miles or so down to the Ft. Pike Access, which has camping, a hard surface boat ramp, and a convenience store. I made the run from Farmington to Ft. Pike in 4 hours.
Once you pass the St. Francisville, Mo. bridge, it's a winding 11 mile run to Red Wing Access. I have marked out some major bends in the river in the coordinates section. The river is wide and fast, and you need to pay attention or else you'll be swept into snags as the river turns sharply. There is lots of activity in the greenbelt, but there are false turns and deceptive lagoons that can be bypassed by drifting with the current until the true channel is identified. Blue herons in considerable numbers will be your escorts.
In December of 2001, I was caught in the ice in this part of the river. In my wet suit I went in up to my chest, broke through the ice, and got over to the shore. I pulled my boat out, followed the GPS to a farmhouse and got help. This is my river, but it owns me.
This is the wild and scenic river that was first seen by Marquette and Joliet, the river the Indians called Moingona. There is an Illinois Indian encampment excavation just outside of St. Francisville that was visited by Marquette and Joliet.
Van Buren Access is on the west side of the river. From Bonaparte, W on Hwy. W40, cross the Young bridge, 3 miles S on Eagle Dr. W bank Just follow the excellent signs.
The Farmington Access is south of the Hwy. 2 bridge along the river. The road that passes the city boat ramp becomes Croton Road and takes you to Croton.
Turkey Run Access is west off Hwy. 394 to Belfast Road. Hwy 394 at Argyle, W 2 miles on 295th St., NW 3.7 miles on Belfast Rd., E bank It can also be accessed from the north by following Croton Rd., then turning onto Belfast Rd.
The Ft. Pike Access is south and east of the Hwy. 394 bridge at St. Francisville, Mo.
Red Wing Access in Keokuk is the last ramp before the Mississippi. North of the Hwy. 61 bridge about 2 miles, turn west on Hilton Rd. There is a large sign visible travelling north or south. Hwy 61, Hilton Rd. W .5 mile, Larson Ln S 1 mile, Valley Rd. W .4 mile, N bank The access area is clean, the boat ramp is new and excellent.
Van Buren, FarmingtonN40 40 16.8W91 45 29.3
City Ramp, FarmingtonN40 38 19.7W91 44 37.7
Croton, Riverbank markerN40.35.23.3W91.41.37.9
Turkey Run, Bryan HillN40 33 00.1W91 39 14.9
Ft. Pike, St. Francisville, Mo.N40 27 40.0W91 34 00.5
RR09, turn to southwest (1 mile)N40.27.25.2W91.31.27.1
RR09A, turn to south (1 mile)N40.26.02.3W91.31.45.8
RR10, turn to southeast (1 mile)N40.25.03.8W91.31.35.7
RR11, turn to east (3 miles)N40.24.16.9W91.30.20.5
Red Wing , KeokukN40 23 14.3W91 26 53.1
Journal entry
After a heavy rain, debris in the water and a fast 30 mile trip
There's more to Croton than just a few cannon balls
Near St. Francisville, Mo., the outline of the toll bridge by the Ft. Pike boat ramp casts a shadow in the muddy water. Conservation, anyone?



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