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Much of the river's course is very scenic, coursing between vegetated limestone cliffs. The watershed is located in northeastern Iowa's un-glaciated Driftless Area. The catchment measures 154,666 acres (625.91 km2) and is mainly state forest or farmland. Much of the region is quite rugged, and little urban development has encroached upon it.
Its beauty, lack of development, recreational potential and interesting wildlife habitats make it a candidate for development as a park. The state has developed Yellow River State Forest over time. The Yellow River is the coldest, fastest moving river in Iowa.
The best time I have found to paddle the Yellow is in early summer when its levels are higher from runoff. The ice cold water feels good in the hot summer months as well.
The Yellow River is spring-fed and normally runs clear cutting through rugged terrain. It is managed by the Iowa DNR as a coldwater stream and some classify it as primitive. The Yellow River is considered by many to be one of the more scenic and challenging runs in Iowa.
This section of the river is on average about 45-65 feet wide. The overall gradient from Sixteen Bridge to Yellow River State Forest is 10.3ft/mile making it one of the more exciting and swift runs in Iowa. Some paddling experience is recommended to ensure an enjoyable outing. Many novice paddlers make this trip with no problem but occasionally even experienced paddlers will take an involuntary swim (occasionally me). There is one mandatory short portage around culvert grates on Kurt Warner's land about 3 miles down river from the put-in.
The river is also known for producing trophy trout. Smallmouth fishing is also good. Walleye, pike, and white bass are common. The final 7 miles of the Yellow River pass through Yellow River State Forest and Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa's only national monument.
Paddle, float, fish or just enjoy the woods, clear cold water and limestone bluffs and trees along the way. This is a very fun and scenic run. Very few people leave this river disappointed.
The trip ends at the Ion Access.
Canoes/$25 per day and kayaks/$20 per day.
Kayak Motor Kit
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer