Kayaking In Iowa

Living in Iowa or are you planning a vacation to Iowa and looking for some adventures? Kayaking might be precisely what you’re looking for. It could be an extreme sport depending on where you decide to kayak.

There are many spots in Iowa that one can kayak, such as Clear Lake State Park, Beed’s Lake State Park, Claybanks Forest State Preserve, and many others. You are required to have one paddle per paddler and a spare on board, and any minors on board are required by law to wear life jackets.

Kayaking is a fantastic adventure, an excellent way to clear your head, or a fun way to bond with your loved ones; now that you know in which state you would like to have your adventure let’s look at the ins and outs of kayaking in Iowa.

Kayaking In Iowa

There are many lakes in Iowa where you could go kayaking; the Iowa river itself is listed as one of the best places to go kayaking in Iowa. There are some spots in Iowa where you can turn your kayaking adventure into a camping adventure, and some areas would even rent you a kayak for a reasonable price, so you don’t need to bring yours.

There are some laws regarding kayaking in Iowa; one of these laws is that children under 12 must wear a lifejacket. A law also exists stating that there needs to be a life jacket on board for every person; although it is not explicitly said that people older than 12 are required to wear them, they are only to be on board.

Kayaks shorter than 12 feet are required to have whistles or horns on board to signal their intention or position. Longer vessels are required to have specific sound devices on board. The whistle you take with you on your kayak needs to be small so that it isn’t challenging to take with you while on your adventure.

It is also recommended that the whistle you use on your kayak is plastic or another durable material so that if and when the whistle gets wet, you would still be able to use the whistle. It is also suggested that the whistle is “pea-less”; in other words, it does not have the small ball inside that helps it to make the sound.

The whistle needs to be on the easier side to use; imagine being on a kayak with your kids something goes wrong, and they need to blow but can’t get the sound out since they don’t have strong lung capacity yet this is a situation that should instead be avoided by having an easy to use and blow the whistle.

Lastly, the whistle needs to be loud. It has no merit if you have followed all the other guidelines, yet when you blow the whistle, it can’t be heard for more than a couple of yards, which completely defeats the point. I would make the suggestion that you look into purchasing a safety, outdoor, or survival whistle.

Do You Need Papers To Kayak In Iowa?

An Iowa Registration Certificate and decals are required to operate vessels on the public waters in Iowa; there are some exceptions to this requirement, thankfully. Inflatable vessels less than 7 feet tall do not require the certificate and decals, and canoes and kayaks less than 13 feet with no motor or sail do not need them.

Kayaks that have no mechanical propulsion generally do not have to be registered, as most kayaks average about 10 feet long. However, if your kayak is longer than 13 feet, even if it has no mechanical propulsion, it will be required to be registered.

Do You Need A License To Operate A Kayak In Iowa?

In Iowa, all motorized vessels over ten horsepower require boater education, an operating license. To operate a motorized kayak unsupervised, you would need to be over 18; when under the age of 18, they may be educated and may steer the vessels themselves but do need to be under adult supervision.

For a non-motorized kayak, this is not necessary. If you as the guardian or parent are comfortable with the skill level your child has to kayak on their own that’s your prerogative, do remember that under the age of 12, they will need to wear their life jacket; over the age of 12, it just needs to be on board, but they might as well wear it.

When Is A Bad Idea To Go Kayaking?

The greatest time of year to go kayaking is late spring to early summer when you won’t mind tipping over (not that kayaks tip over easily if you know what you’re doing) and cooling off a little bit. With the sun out and the water temperature rising, it is all but guaranteed to be a fantastic experience.

However, there are times that it won’t be a good idea to go kayaking. It should go without saying that kayaking in the rain would not be the most enjoyable experience as you would struggle to see firstly, you would be freezing, you could risk hypothermia if the weather is cold enough, and you could end up getting sick.

Kayaking in the rain is not suggested; kayaking in the wind is not a great idea either. Kayaking in the wind would make it more difficult to control the vessel; if you are new to kayaking doing it in the strong wind could completely steer you off course and possibly even send you down dangerous routes.

It is not recommended to kayak with wind speeds greater than 15 knots is not suggested when there is a stronger wind, which means that there will be more waves, and your adventure might turn into a disaster; instead, check the weather before you plan your trip.


Kayaking in Iowa is a great way to have fun and find adventure; there are many unique spots in Iowa where you can enjoy the sport on the water. As long as your kayak is not mechanically propelled and under 13 feet long, you can take your kayak and get going any day of the week.

The perfect time to go kayaking is in the spring or summer, and it is not suggested to kayak in rain or windy conditions. Kayaking is a fantastic sport and a great way to be close to nature if you’re planning to do it on vacation or take it up as a hobby you won’t regret it!