One of the most enjoyable experiences that anyone can have here in Northwest Iowa is to spend a day floating down the Little Sioux River.
Owners Neal Guthrie and Abby Grundman-Guthrie have tubes, canoes, kayaks, plastic cattle tanks, and coming soon, stand- up paddleboards.
Iowa River Tours is located at 509 Hughes St. (the former Lubeck's Car Wash).
The new Cherokee business offers more than just rentals. You can also get a guided trip down the Little Sioux from Neal and Abby. They offer several River Packages, from a two-day trip to a full day trip or a quick trip that lasts for just a couple of hours.
They offer a wide variety of meet and shuttle times for the day and guided trips. They also have shuttle service for those who have time commitments outside of their regular schedule. You must make arrangements in advance.
Drop off points up river also vary and includes Mill Creek Bridge, Barnes Access, Martin Access and the Burned Out Bridge near the Prairie Heritage Center by Sutherland. On-site tent camping is also available at the Iowa River Tours.
Iowa River Tours is great for groups. Recently, they have had several groups utilize their services, including this year's Cherokee County Fair Queen Contestants and the 2011 Fair Royalty who took to the waters to promote the fair, tourism and conservation within Cherokee County.
"This is just an outstanding group of young ladies," said Neal. "These women really know how to make any situation fun!"
Neal was referring to the change of weather that happened during that trip. When the group put on the water at Mill Creek Bridge it was hot and sunny with a small chance of precipitation, but the last hour of the trip turned into driving rain with strong winds.
"These candidates are incredible, strong-minded women. They just paddled through the elements, continually chatting to each-other, like they were on a leisurely Sunday drive," said Abby.
"No one was ever in danger as there was no lightning, but it could have turned into a swamp of complaints. Instead, they were simply delightful ladies, no matter what the weather threw at them," she added.
And when the weather let up and it was time to get off the river? Playing in the mud ensued.
The other co-sponsor of the event, The Big Red Bus, a chauffeur service run by C & L Taxi, shuttled the candidates and royalty to the put-in location. While on the bus participants were given an extensive river safety talk about the dangers of moving water and how you must act and swim differently than in lakes and pools. Also covered was what to do if they suddenly found themselves in the river without a boat.
"I learned that there is a lot more to think about while you are on the river than just boating or canoeing. You have to think about the dangers of being on the water and what could happen if you get caught in a strainer," said Queen Candidate Paige Cedar.
"Abby and Neil definitely know what they are talking about and know how to run a safe and fun trip. It was an amazing day!"
The Fair Queen Candidates paddled the five-mile stretch from Mill Creek Bridge to Iowa River Tours - just North of Wescott Park, in canoes, inner tubes and professionally guided cattle tanks.
"The midwest is very unique in its love for floating giant cattle tanks down stretches of scenic rivers; you just don't find that in other parts of the country. It's really refreshing to have such a focus on fun, family and teamwork," said Abby, who has guided professionally on many of America's most difficult whitewater rivers, on both coasts, since 1999. "We also thought the cattle tanks would be quite appropriate for a Queen Candidate's trip because of the obvious agricultural component of the fair," she added.
Safety is foremost at Iowa River Tours, and on their river trips life jackets are required. They offer these for a "token" deposit. You may bring your own, but it must be appropriate for the type of activity and you must indicate on a release waiver that you are providing your own life jacket.
Neal and Abby are both Class V whitewater river guides (that's the highest professional rafting rating one can acquire) with professional guiding experience in the river and guided tour fields that spans decades.
Neal is an excellent resource for the environmental education component of Iowa River Tours and loves teaching river ecology classes at their facility and on the river.
In addition to his formal environmental science education (Neal graduated with a BS from Humboldt State University, Arcata, Calif., with a Natural Science Graphic Communications degree) he has hands on experience in the field including: Raven capture, research and release, water pollution testing, and has done Environmental Impact Assessment research.
Neal also traveled the waters of the Amazon River administering vaccines to indigenous river populations. He trained as an EMT as well, and has been swift water rescue certified.
Abby is a 1991 graduate of Cherokee Washington High School and graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from University of Iowa and in 1993 also graduated from Sea School in Panama City, Fla.
Some of Abby's accolades include: Captain of University of Iowa sailing team and sailing at the U.S. Collegiate National Championships.
Abby also worked for the U.S. Women's Ski team. Whitewater rafting stunt work stints led her to work on Hollywood projects. She was once the youngest woman to get her 50-ton U.S. Merchant Marine License, at the age of just 23.
For reservations and equipment rental you can call Iowa River Tours at 712-229-1888 of visit their website at www.iowarivertours.com for all pricing information.