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Best Places to Paddleboard in the United States – Iowa 2021

Iowa SUP

1: West Okoboji Lake

Okoboji Lake SUP
Lake Okoboji is one of the most popular lakes in Iowa, with 3,847 acres of water that paddlers can explore, surf, and engage in other popular SUP activities. Fishing is very common here, with an abundant number of Yellow Perch, Bluegill, Walleye, Bass, Pike.

Windsurfing and foiling are attractive to newcomers and expert paddlers alike, with multiple clubs and vendors providing lessons for those trying to get into these sports. West Okoboji Lake is also noted to be one of the bluest lakes in the world, and while not quite as large, it does match the beauty of some of our other favorite paddleboarding destinations such as Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake.

West Okoboji Lake is a bit out of reach, with the nearest municipal airport over 45 minutes away. Still, between its beauty and size, it remains one of the most popular paddleboarding locations in Iowa, and the United States, for a reason.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 206
Distance to Major Cities: 45 Minutes to Estherville, 3 Hours to Des Moines
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

2: Gray’s Lake Park/Raccoon River

Gray's Lake SUP
While it might not be the largest or most popular, Gray’s Lake Park is our top recommendation for those who are paddleboarding in Des Moines. The 166-acre park has easy access to paddleboard rentals located right next to sandy beaches, great for laying out or launching.

This is one of the few paddleboarding locations in the whole United States that isn’t just popular during the day, but also at night. The walkways that cross over the lake, and most of the shoreline, are lit up with neon lights so you can have fun exploring during the day or at night.

Motorboats are limited on the lake, so this is a very family and beginner friendly option for those still trying to learn how to maintain their stability in the water. If you are more advanced, you can also walk a dozen feet over from the lake to the Raccoon River, and explore the city from the water and link up with another entry on our list.

If you’re in Des Moines, make sure to visit Gray’s Lake Park at least once while you’re in the city, and do it at night for an unforgettable paddling experience.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 204
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Des Moines
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Limited
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

3: Terry’s Trueblood Recreation Area/Sand Lake

Sand Lake SUP
The 152 acre Terry’s Trueblood Recreation Area is just a short drive away from the University of Iowa. It is the go-to paddling area for many university students during their school terms. Students and their families make sure to visit Sand Lake (the name of the lake within the greater recreation area) at least once, though humans aren’t the only visitors who migrate to the area.

This is a very popular spot for migrating Giant Candian Geese to visit. At the same time, Bald Eagles live year-round and compete with anglers for the Bluegill, Pike, and Perch that live within the lake and adjacent Iowa River. If you or someone in your family is attending the University of Iowa, show your college pride by paddling Sand Lake at Terry’s Trueblood Recreation Area.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 204
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Des Moines
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Limited
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

4: Des Moines River

Des Moines River SUP

Multiple rivers flow through and around the Des Moines area, but our recommendation is to paddle on the Des Moines River. The Des Moines River cuts right through the center of the city, letting you get a close up on the many homes and businesses within the city without having to compete with the abundant foot traffic.

Being 525 miles long, you don’t have to stay in the city either and can leave the borders of Des Moines and paddle north or south alike. Catfish, Gar, and Sturgeon, are some of the popular catches you can find within the Des Moines River, though adventurous paddlers will want to test themselves on the up to Class IV and even V Des Moines Rapids. You’ll be traveling a bit more to see everything, including the many historical forts and encampments, but you’ll find something new every day you paddle on the Des Moines River.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 204
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Des Moines
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Limited
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

5: Saylorville Lake

Saylorville Lake SUP
If you want to get out of Des Moines, Saylorville Lake is a very fun, popular, and relaxing lake to visit located just ten miles outside of the city. Controlled by a dam, the overall water surface area varies throughout the year, ranging from a still large 6,000 acres to an overwhelming 16,000 acres.

While you’re on the water, you can get your taste of yoga or touring in as you paddle near the water or pull onto the shore to camp for the night. Bullheads, Catfish, and even Eels are common catches for anglers when the water is calm, though you can paddle near boats or wait for the wind to pick up to get some beginner to intermediate level surfing in as well.

Saylorville Lake is an excellent option for those who want a large waterfront that isn’t as crowded as other places on our list and worth visiting at least once for dedicated paddleboarding adventurers.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 204
Distance to Major Cities: 15 Minutes to Des Moines
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

Conclusion: Plan Your Paddle Board Trip and Have Fun!

Thank you for reading over our suggestions of the top places to paddleboard while you’re visiting Iowa! We’ve had the privilege of visiting a few of these locations, but a few of the recommendations come from paddlers other than those working at our site. As such, we welcome your feedback on these destinations, along with any other top paddleboarding spots found within the state of Iowa.

Be sure to leave us a comment below or send us an email with your thoughts, or check out our other states and our list of top fifteen paddleboarding locations in the United States! If you’re looking to learn more about paddleboarding in general, you can also find our latest paddleboard reviews, instructional guides, and in-depth videos at SUPBoardGuide.com.

Thank you again for visiting! Stay safe, but also put on some sunscreen and have fun SUPing in Iowa!

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SupBoardGuide

Heyo! At SupBoardGuide.com we are a team who love the water, the outdoors, and are more than grateful that our full-time job allows us to review stand up paddle boards. We paddle year round (it helps that we are just about 2 hours outside of Las Vegas), and we bring in a wide range of paddlers with the goal of providing our readers with the best, most in-depth, and accurate stand up paddle board reviews.

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