Whoever thought that people would be attracted to Northeast Iowa just to go kayaking. Every year a group of people, sometimes up to 20 of them flock to Northeast Iowa’s Yellow River. Iowa, known for cornfields is seldom thought of as a great place to kayak. Low and behold in a remote region of Iowa that is full of limestone bluffs, valleys, trees and scenery beyond belief with eagles and vultures flying overhead, there is a clear stream with rainbow and brown trout and smallmouth bass. The Yellow River has the steepest vertical elevation fall of any river in Iowa.
Your launch may be at a bridge called 16, a name that was given to a small community that existed there in the late 1800’s. Spend four hours on the Yellow River, stopping to fish or have a shore lunch with friends on a hot July day and you would swear that you were in Colorado or somewhere out west having the time of your life. There are beautiful vertical walls lush with liverworts and often the more observing kayakers will stop by the walls and pet the Lichens or Liverworts as they are known because they have a feel that is so special and unforgettable. Takeout may be at Ion, a ghost town now with nothing left. A huge flood destroyed the whole town of 149 people back in 1916. There was a hotel, a hardware store, a sawmill and a gristmill. An old timer, Bill Aard, saw his best friend cut in half at the sawmill. Bill never traveled more than 20 miles out of the valley during his whole life. He died at 103 years of age.
There now exists just downstream from Ion a well known native seed and plant nursery and The Natural Gait. Many people stay at The Natural Gait in one of their exquisite log cabins for their venture down the Yellow River.
Whether you go to kayak or scenery or just to relax, the Yellow River is a place to remember.
By Howard Bright