the whitewater park was first opened in 2014, it has gone through
some “fixes” The first fix in about 2015 changed the once awesome
half wave, half hole main feature to just a hole. This first fix
eliminated the great little SUP surf wave but it was still fun for
main feature continued to degrade from the first fix, so another
“fix” was attempted in 2017/2018 The result is now a shallow,
powerful, retentive (for swimmers too), boxed in hole at most
boatable ranges. The rock pad/weir to the surfers left of the main
feature is also degrading, leaving under water body pockets. If you decide to get in it would be wise to know how to read water, know your skills, and what what level of risk you are comfortable with.
FYI: keep in mind the older photos in the gallery section show the feature before fixes, so they may no longer accurately portray what the features are like presently.
Main Feature (river right) (referred to as the Gobbler by the
locals): For the main feature to be fun look for 3500-4500 cfs.
4000cfs is great play boating! These flows typically only happen
with heavy rains/flooding. Its finally deep enough and the shoulders
soften so that the feature is accessible from the eddy and you can get out when you want. It’s retentive
enough for freestyle but not so much that it’s un-nerving. It’s
fun at 4000cfs. There is no longer any worthwhile river surfing,
its a hole not a wave.
Above 4500cfs, to some where around 5500cfs, its a catch on the fly feature. The eddy access becomes increasingly difficult to impossible to reach the feature. So make the most of your pass before you flush and have to hike back up for another pass.
3500cfs the main feature is still a hole and now becomes painfully
shallow (sharp rock too), retentive (for swimmers too), boxed in on
both sides, difficult to get out of under control and difficult to
actually get out when you want to. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.
At low water (somewhere around 1000cfs or less) the main feature just isn't really formed into anything. So still not much if any play. During low water and when the water is clear you can clearly see the jagged limestone rock that 'forms' the main feature.
fish passage side (river left): It’s a one trick pony at best, if
you can find the perfect 2ft spot deep enough to plug. It just
doesn’t have much pop and is very flushy. For serious play boating,
you may want to pass. For intermediate boaters who can safely
navigate across the river to the fish passage may find some mild
entertainment, but know that it could be shallow in the wrong spot.
‘high flow’ center feature: This supposedly comes in at flows
higher than 5000cfs. Once it gets high enough is a small mellow wave
in the middle of a flooded river with no eddy access. Below high
flows its a pour over that should be avoided. And low flows it’s an
little string of island rocks.
rating for this park has been given a III. You need to know where to
go and where not to go. Given the persnickety retentive nature of the
features, just didn’t want a beginner/intermediate paddler to have
a nasty surprise.
you’re enjoying the quaint town, be sure to stop and get a 2 Mitt
and you must go to Pedretti’s Bakery (not open on Sundays). There’s
are all sorts of neat shops and restaurants too.
The city removed a low head dam and created a whitewater feature. According to their website, the main feature is a 22' wide wave, designed to provide low-water surfs and spins down to 300 cfs, while flows of 1600 to 3000 cfs should provide more advanced freestyle moves (blunts, loops, cartwheels). A rock island below the main feature will be inundated at flows over 3000 cfs, and will provide 'big water' play for advanced boaters at flows of 3500 to 5000 cfs. Above 5000 cfs, expect the features to be mostly washed out, providing little or no play opportunity.
Check out the live webcam:
For more info (and photos) go to: Elkader Whitewater.
For more info about the overall park plan, go to: Elkader Park Plan
i paddled this today at about 1190 cfs. the main wave on river right was a flushy, fast white pile wave with nice green ramp. on the river left was a smaller spin wave that a local told me was for canoes to navigate through. in between the two features is a line of large flat rocks that makes a little island at low flows and becomes the high water feature at higher flows. the river right feature looks like it could have some playability down to a pretty low level. there is a park there that is still under construction. there are porta-crappers but no obvious places to change so be careful. the locals are very nice and fairly curious and the town is really pretty.
Yes, the wave was improved…for boating. It sucks for sup surfing now. The wave does not support a sup for surfing at all. It would not be worth it taking the sup, just bring your boat and have fun in that. Its great for boating!
Elkader is likely the smallest town in the US with a whitewater park. It also is on the Turkey River Water Trail which runs through forested bluffs to Motor Mill for great flatwater paddling. Off the water, Elkader is the smallest town in Iowa with a designated Cultural and Entertainment District including an opera house, movie theater, 2 museums, restaurants, coffee shops, a vibrant shopping district with many specialty stores, and the Pony Hollow Nature Trail (bring your bike!). The entire downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places. A great place to spend the weekend.
The Gobbler (main wave) was significantly improved in June 2014 when the alluvial berm of construction material was removed downstream of the feature allowing it to function better. The wave was amplified and puffed up at all levels. Should function well down to 500 cfs and lower for beginners, allowing flat spins in both directions. Wave grows in intensity up and through 3100 cfs before starting to flush out. Levels of about 1800 and above allow all vertical moves. River left feature allows vertical moves down to about 1200 cfs.
also check out "Elkader Whitewater project" on Facebook for more photos and description.
i paddled it today at 751 cfs. it was lower but still good for front surfing and clean right hand spins. its shallow at this level so tuck well. i met a lot of locals today who seem pretty supportive of boating so its important to be respectful of their space.
A gauge is just downstream and will accurately reflect flows in the park.
Permits are not required for this reach.
This is a park-and-play in a downtown park, so 'shuttle' is by foot (from your vehicle in a parking lot to the river).
Use the text-entry box below to input your home or other starting address/location (it actually accepts almost any format, not just zipcode) to get drive time, distance, and directions to this location.
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Elkader Whitewater Park
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