Red Rock Water Trail

The 36 mile Red Rock Water Trail is located on Lake Red Rock near Pella and Knoxville, Iowa. The loop can be paddled in its entirety or broken up into shorter sections. The water trail features 8 access points, which are conveniently close to the many campgrounds around the lake. Most of the campgrounds are equipped with shower facilities and electrical hookups.


Length: 36.00 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Type: National Water Trails System
Agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Entry Fee? No
     Certain types of boats will need to be licensed. Visit

Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Boating, Motorized
Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Boating, non-motorized: Sailing
Heritage and History
Wildlife Observation

     Walking, birding and nature viewing, more than 20 miles of trails

See more details.


Location: The Red Rock Water Trail is located on Lake Red Rock, which is part of the Des Moines River. The Water Trail is close to the Iowa towns of Knoxville, Pella and Pleasantville in Marion county.
State(s): Iowa
Counties: Marion
Longitude: -92.98742001
Latitude: 41.36605659

Driving Directions

Boxcars: N41 27.967/W93 12.650; Elk Rock West: N41 24.160/W93 06.132; Elk Rock East: N41 24.061/W93 03.619; Hickory Ridge: N41 21.605/W93 02.027; Whitebreast: N41 22.923/W93 01.915, off of S71; South Overlook: N41 21.918/W92 59.628; Marina: N41 23.862/W93 00.042; Cordova: N41 25.320/W93 04.027


The Red Rock Water Trail is a 36-mile loop on scenic Lake Red Rock. It can be paddled as a whole or broken into sections and includes many types of paddling: sheltered coves for beginners, as well as open water with long crossings, and wide fetches that can produce large waves for intermediate and advanced paddlers.

Moonlight paddlers are also welcome to explore the trail by night. There are 8 access points which are in close proximity to the many campgrounds and historic sites. Most campgrounds have shower and restroom facilities, electrical hookups, and most are close to playgrounds or beaches. Hickory Ridge is a hike or paddle-in only camp, and the only primitive campground in Iowa. Lake Red Rock is a great place for learning about history and the environment.

Paddlers have magnificent views of the sandstone bluffs as they travel the trail, and can watch the many species of birds and wildlife. Fossils and plant species are fun to find, and fishing on the lake is both challenging and rewarding.

The lake was built over the town of Red Rock, which was a lawless frontier town on the edge of civilization in the mid-1800's, and has many historical stories to discover. 'Peace Tree Stump' was said be a settler and Indian trading post, and Horn's Ferry bridge was the first wagon bridge in the county to cross the Des Moines River. Visitors have the opportunity to use a GPS and paddle to the exact location of abandoned towns below the water.

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Not Available
Secondary Surface: Rock, boulders
Rock, smooth
Snow or ice
Water, still

Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: Brochure
Brochure: Brochure
Map: Map

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Sherri Duey
Project Operations Manager of Lake Red Rock public
US Army Corps of Engineers
1105 Highway T-15 North
Knoxville, IA 50138
(641) 828-7522
[email protected]

Trail Management:
Diane Lowry
Water Trail Champion
Red Rock Lake Association
P. O. Box 292
Pella, IA 50219
(641) 828-7522
[email protected]













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Trail Managers: please use the official NRT update form to update your trail for any of the following changes:

  • Change in trail mileage through trail extension
  • Change in trail mileage through trail retraction
  • Change in trail mileage through significant trail reroute
  • Change to trail name
  • Change in trail description or use
  • Undesignation of trail (removal of NRT designation status)
  • Other significant updates

>> Download the official NRT update form.

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