Middle River Water Trail

See historic bridges and wildlife on this 38.6-mile paddle through America’s heartland.

Close wildlife encounters are an unexpected perk of both boat travel and Iowa’s little-known Middle River. The easy current delivers us past rolling farmlands, beneath historic bridges, and by animals unaccustomed to human presence. In summer, the river is low, so we find ourselves pushing and pulling our fiberglass canoe around boulders and snags in several places, but it’s a fair trade for the peaceful travel as we float nearly 40 miles. Cottonwood fluff floats lazily beside us, and we drift past turtles and great blue herons so closely that I’m sure I can reach them with my paddle. This is America’s heartland at its finest.  = Backpacker June 2019

The Middle River Water Trail begins in the Middle River Forest Area in northeastern Adair County and ends at the historic Holliwell Covered Bridge in Madison County. Other public accesses on Middle River are Schildberg Access and Middle River County Park Access. Folks will appreciate Middle River’s natural beauty of limestone outcroppings, woodlands and abundant wildlife. A moderately challenging paddle for experienced canoeist especially at high and low water levels. This stream provides an exciting paddle with occasional chutes and ledges that can be navigated with moderate effort. Middle River is a scenic stream that flows easterly through a mixture of countryside of croplands and pasture, rolling forested hills and limestone bluffs. Middle River Forest County Park – Access #89 (gradient of 4.44 feet/mile): Middle River Forest Park Access is the Trail-head access to the water-trail.

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