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Odessa Water Trail

Canoe Front

A picture perfect day to canoe.

On a splendid late July day we packed up food, loaded the canoe, paddles and life jackets and headed out to explore the Odessa Water Trail. It’s one of Iowa’s several water trails and part of a larger system of water trails in the Midwest.  What a blast!

Two hours south of Cedar Rapids the The Odessa Trail in Louisa County offers a way to explore backwaters safely. It winds through two wildlife management areas. The map we picked up at the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters  ensured we would not get lost in the maze of channels that form the meandering floodplain. Tucked in the inner elbow below Iowa’s bulge with the “Father of Waters” this refuge, managed for waterfowl and wildlife, encompasses 6400 acres and sports three tails ranging from an easy three mile paddle to a moderate 4.5 mile cruise to a 6.5 trek that can extend to 17 miles!

The Refuge closes from mid-September to January first to accommodate migratory waterfowl.  Other times it is open to boaters, canoeists and kayakers, fishermen, and birders. Hiking and bicycling trails line the main islands, but those adventures could be dicey in high water and just plain buggy in hot weather. A campground is conveniently located near the Odessa Wildlife Unit Headquarters. 

This day was just right.  High pressure kept winds down, the sun was warm, but the air cool, especially for July.  Sunscreen, long sleeved shirts and hats  kept the sun’s rays at bay. Mid summer is quiet for bird life after their busy nesting season. Still we heard and saw a variety of songbirds and kept annoying a Great Egret and at least two Great Blue Herons. They would nervously watch us approach then with a loud squawk lift off and wing a few hundred yards down stream. Only to be annoyed again, when we approached. We did watch a heron catch and swallow a fish.

Along the banks frogs of all sizes croaked and leapt into the murky water. Lots of fish were rising up, but Rich decided not to wet his line, and rather studied the trail map carefully as we floated and paddled. Partway down, we pulled in for lunch balancing snacks in the canoe as the day drifted by.

It was great to try out one of Iowa’s many water trails. Check out the link to the National Park’s National Water Trail System. And, enjoy the short videos and photo gallery below. Go Outside and Play!

Great Egret Flies Off Click this link to see.

Great Blue Heron fishes.

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