Map: Des Moines River
The Des Moines River rises from Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota and flows 525 miles to join the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa. The river ranges from 50 to 200 feet wide as it passes a mix of agricultural land and wooded bluffs. This is a great river for beginner paddlers when river levels are normal; however, heavy rains can cause the river to flood and flow quickly. Stream flow usually peaks in early to mid-April. The river level is usually enough for canoeing.
Hazards include dams; be aware of portage locations. Watch for snags (fallen trees) in the river that may tip an unwary paddler. The river also has several Class I rapids. From the Talcot Lake Dam to the Iowa line, the river drops 135 feet, an average of 1.98 feet per mile. The watershed covers 1220 square miles.
Recommended day trip
Mayflower Park to Christianna Bridge
- Put-in location: Mayflower Park carry-in access, river mile 36.1
- Take-out location: Christianna Bridge trailer access, river mile 29.1
- Length: 7 river miles
Enter the river just below the city of Windom. You'll pass a mix of open farm fields and wooded shoreline. A watercraft campsite offers a chance to stretch your legs during your trip.
Explore on shore
Hike trails along the tranquil Des Moines River. You'll find pleasant surprises as you explore small creeks, prairie grasslands and oak savannas.
This large WMA has over 5,200 acres to explore. Watch for deer, small game, pheasants and waterfowl.
Parks and Trails Windom office
175 County Road 26, Windom, MN 56101-1868
Nearest medical facilities
Windom Emergency Services
2150 Hospital Drive, Windom, MN 56101
1430 North Highway, Jackson, MN 56143
The Des Moines River in early autumn.
Spring rains raise river levels.