This river drains the largest watershed of any tributary of the Missouri River in Iowa. In fact, many of the Little Sioux River's tributaries, such as Waterman Creek and Mill Creek, are also fun streams to paddle when water levels permit it.
The Inkpaduta Canoe Trail on the Little Sioux runs from Spencer, in Clay County, Iowa, to Smithland, in southern Woodbury County. This span of river is approximately 134 miles in length. Safe, convenient public access areas in each county characterize the Trail area.
Some public accesses include camping and restroom facilities, concrete or gravel boat ramps, and walking trails. Information about each access is available from individual county conservation boards and can also be found in the 2007 Edition of the Outdoor Adventure Guide (on sale now at most CCB offices).
Within Cherokee County, the Little Sioux River strikes a scenic pose, meandering through a valley rich in historic and natural resources. Native American villages hidden by time, abandoned homestead sites, virgin prairies, and rich woodlands line the riverbanks, along with productive cropland and working pastures.
The Cherokee County Conservation Board maintains 12 river access areas from the northern county border to the southern. These various access points permit paddlers to experience a relaxing 1-4 hour float or to escape for a camping and floatingadventure over three or more days. Even during low-water conditions, the Little Sioux is generally navigable by kayak or canoe. High water warrants caution and perhaps a voluntary delay to wait for safer conditions and currents.
The river is ever changing, as it winds through shifting sand, soil and gravel deposits left behind by ice age glaciers. Sandbars are littered with mussel shells, modern and petrified bones, fossils, polished stones, ancient shark teeth and the tracks of elusive river otters and bobcats.
Whitetail deer, wood ducks, great blue herons and soft-shelled turtles are common sights.
Fallen trees occasionally bar the way, and depth varies from too shallow to float to eight-feet deep. This slow river is a safe river, however, with few dangerous obstacles, and no fences or dams within Cherokee County. An open mind to adventure is the only requirement beyond life preservers and paddles.
You can rent a 16-foot canoe from the Cherokee CCB. Cost is $25 a day or for the weekend. Rental terms are: renter picks up canoe, paddles and personal floatation devices during normal CCCB hours (M-F, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). If four to six canoes are rented the CCCB will deliver and pick-up within Cherokee County. A $25 damage deposit is required and the CCCB staff reserves the right to refuse rentals during very high or low water conditions.