On the water
Webster Co. Conservation director urges safety on rivers, lakes
With Memorial Day weekend being the unofficial kickoff to summer, more and more Iowans will be spending more time on and in the water around central Iowa.
“In Webster County, we’ve got the Des Moines River water trail and the Lizard Creek water trail,” said Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director. “The Des Moines is more of a larger river experience and right now, water levels are running kind of high on the Des Moines, a little higher than normal.”
Cosgrove warns that paddlers — whether they’re on a kayak or canoe or other vessel — should pay attention to water levels and current flows and paddle within their ability.
“If they’re not an experienced paddler, probably stick to non-moving water like Badger Lake or Brushy Creek,” he said. “Those are good options for those that are just learning or ones that aren’t that experienced with moving water yet.”
The other main moving water trail in the county, Lizard Creek, is more challenging, the conservation director said. The creek is tighter and has some rapids and downed trees to navigate around.
“It’s a bit more of an experienced route for paddlers,” he said.
First and foremost when spending time on or near water, safety should be paramount. Every paddler on a canoe or kayak and every passenger on a motorized boat should wear a lifejacket at all times. When consuming alcohol, it’s important to drink responsibly, especially around bodies of water, which can be extremely dangerous when intoxicated.
“That’s an important message,” Cosgrove said. “It starts out as a fun experience and you want to keep it a fun experience, so anything you can do to encourage safety within your family or your group — lifejackets are of primary importance when being on the waterways, and if people are drinking, do it in moderation and make good decisions.”
With several water access points up and down the Des Moines River and Lizard Creek, paddlers have the opportunity to choose different lengths for their trips.
“If they’re looking for shorter trips, they can certainly do that,” Cosgrove said. “Or if they’re looking for a longer trip, we obviously encourage people to do a little research on the section of water they’re going to be on so they know what they’re going to be experiencing.”
Paddlers should have an idea of how long their trip is going to take and let someone know where they’re going and when they’re going to be back. Cosgrove said it’s also a good idea to have a cell phone in a waterproof container in case of emergency.
For paddlers who want to spend time on the water but don’t have their own kayak or canoe, there are local options available.
Boat rentals at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park will begin soon, Cosgrove said.
“We’ll start renting here on June 5,” he said. “We’ll be able to return to renting kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.”
For vessels over 13 feet, current state registration is required.
“Most kayaks are under 13 feet, but anything over 13 feet for kayaks and canoes have to be registered, and those are done every three years,” Cosgrove said.