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Stand up Paddle Boarding at Lake Manawa

This blog and all photos were provided by Melissa Peterson. Melissa is the Director of Marketing at TS Bank and an active biker, hiker, and paddler who loves exploring all that southwest Iowa has to offer. Connect with her on Instagram at @melissakpeterson

Unleash Paddle Boarding!

Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs, Iowa is a great place to stand up paddle board, also known as SUP boarding. The lake is over 784 acres in size with a maximum depth of 25.5 feet. I’ve identified a few areas with public access on Google maps where you can find gradual entry into the water, check them out here and here. 

When on the water, make sure to check out party cove, an area where boats (and paddlers) pull up to anchor for a while. This large shallow area with a nice sandy bottom is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Another highlight on the water are the various canals. The first is near Lakewood Villa and Lakewood Lane and is about a mile long to get down and back. The other two are along South Shore Drive and to enter these canals you paddle underneath the road. In total, the South Shore Drive canals are about a mile long or two miles if you paddled each one down and back.

Additionally, make sure to check out Boy Scout Island and Lake Manawa Beach. Boy Scout Island is actually a peninsula not an island and is a very popular destination for photographers. Sunrises and sunsets look extra special when the trees of Boy Scout Island are in the shot. You can see Lake Manawa beach from the water but you will need to enter the beach from the road. Entry costs $3 per day and food, floaties and grilling are available at Lake Manawa Beach.

Rules for Stand up Paddle Boarding

Make sure to check with the Iowa DNR on the water quality before you enter the water at Lake Manawa. According to the DNR, if your paddleboard is under 13 feet, you do not need to register your board. However, SUPs 13 feet and over need to be registered. A lifejacket must be worn or on board of the SUP. Kids 12 and under must have a property-fitted lifejacket on at all times while on a SUP board. You will want to bring a light with you when paddling before sunrise or after sunset, or in poor weather conditions. Make sure to always keep an eye out for other watercrafts and use your best judgment before entering the water.

What to Bring on your Paddleboard

In addition to a lifejacket and light, you may want to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, water, and snacks with you on your board depending on how long you plan to paddle. Most boards come with a paddle and a leash for connecting the board to the paddler. Additionally, you may want to bring a cell phone size or larger dry bag with you to store anything you don’t want to get wet.

Other Local Resources and Attractions Near Lake Manawa

Before or after your paddle, you can stop by Doozies for burgers and ice cream Tuesday – Sunday during the summer. Or, you can stop by Anchor Inn Bait & Tackle for some snacks and drinks along with fishing supplies. Additionally, you can consider becoming a member of the Council Bluffs Fish & Game Club or the Lake Manawa Sailing Association. For the perks of each club, check out their websites.

How to Connect with Other Paddlers

I was very lucky to meet a group of people who were already paddle boarding regularly who helped show me how to inflate my board and offered other tips and tricks. There are two local groups, Omaha SUP and Kayak and Lake Manawa SUP and Kayak, where you can connect with other paddlers and learn how to get started with this fun water activity. Hope to see you on the water soon!

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