The Maquoketa River originates in southeastern Fayette County and travels 140 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River. The Maquoketa River is a popular and scenic river with relatively consistent flows and excellent fishing. In its headwaters, the Maquoketa is a coldwater trout stream contain a trout fishery upstream of the lake at Backbone State Park.
A number of watercraft campsites are available offering downriver paddlers opportunities for multiple days on the river. Downstream of the dam at Backbone, it transitions into a walleye-smallmouth bass fishery.
The Canoe trail begins just below the dam in Backbone State Park. Camping, water and restrooms are available at this departure point.
River Sections/Access Points
Backbone to Dundee – 1.8 miles
Dundee to Lindsey Bridge Access – 2 miles
Lindsey Bridge to Tirrill Park in Manchester – 9.3 miles
Just above the Quaker Mill dam, located between Lindsey Bridge and Tirrill Park, there was a breach in the levy which is passable by water craft or a short portage on the south bank.
Tirrill Park to Howard & Helen Shelly Memorial Park Home of Manchester Whitewater Park – .5 miles
Howard & Helen Shelly Memorial Park Home of Manchester Whitewater Park to Schram Park– .6 miles
Schram Park to Pin Oak Park – 2 miles
Pin Oak Park to Bailey’s Ford Access – 1.6 miles
The river below the Bailey’s Ford access begins to become impounded by the dam at Delhi. Note that there is no portage to get around the Delhi Dam, and that the section of river above it is primarily flanked by private residences along the still waters of Lake Delhi. This requires a vehicle shuttle from Turtle Creek Park to the Maquoketa River access downstream of the dam. Weekends and holidays are high-traffic situations, so be cautious. If you are mainly interested in canoeing and kayaking a river environment, it is recommended you take out at Bailey’s Ford and begin a new float trip starting at the Maquoketa River Access near Delhi. The dam at Delhi has a vehicle access road to a boat ramp on the north side of the dam.
Maquoketa River Access to Retz Wildlife Area – 2.4 miles
Retz Wildlife Area to Dunlap Park in Hopkinton – 6.4 miles
The dam at Hopkinton has been removed and can be navigated during high water, during lower flow you can portage on the west bank.
FLAT WATER PADDLING on the Maquoketa River Map