Your next great whitewater getaway is waiting, though it might not be where you think. Iowa is leading the Midwest in an exciting new trend: converting low-head river dams into whitewater parks. Iowa’s three whitewater parks in Elkader, Manchester, and Charles City provide opportunities for tubing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Since the parks are located on rivers, they can be accessed as long as water is flowing. 

Each park is located in the heart of its respective city. Once you’re finished on the river, it’s an easy walk to a local restaurant to refuel. And if you want to make a weekend trip of it, the three whitewater courses are conveniently located within just a couple hours of each other. 

“Each of Iowa’s whitewater parks offer something totally different from each other,” said Hannah Ray J, a frequent paddler from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Since each one is on a separate river, they offer their own unique challenges. Also, unlike some whitewater features in the country, Iowa’s whitewater parks are open year-round. In certain regions, whitewater features like this depend on snow melt and are only open the first part of summer.”  

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or just starting out, Iowa’s whitewater parks are great for the whole family to enjoy. It’s important to remember, however, that Iowa’s parks are on rivers, not in waterparks, so if you’re traveling with children, make sure to exercise caution. While the Manchester and Charles City parks are great options for beginners and families, the Elkader whitewater park is more technical and better suited for intermediate and advanced paddlers.