10 Best Boat Tours in Iowa

Iowa is bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and crisscrossed by many others. And what better way to explore the state’s waterways than taking a boat tour? Whether you’re looking for an old-school river boat experience or a quiet paddle, there are some awesome ways to get on the water. Here are the best boat tours in Iowa. 

1. Riverboat Twilight, LeClaire, IA

Riverboat Twilight is Iowa’s highest-rated boat tour. They offer their passengers an experience that harks back to the Mississippi Riverboats of the 19th century. With departures from LeClaire and Dubuque, you can take a short tour of the Mississippi or immerse yourself with a one- or two-day cruise. 

2. Argo Adventures, Des Moines, IA

Folks in Des Moines and the surrounding river can contact Argo Adventures for a guided paddle trip—or even a custom-tailored paddle—on the rivers of central Iowa. The trips can accommodate paddlers of most any skill level who are interested in exploring the state’s waterways on a much closer and more-personal level.

3. Queen II, Arnolds Park, IA

Launching from the Coney Island-style Arnolds Park Amusement Park, a tour on the Queen II is an awesome way to explore Lake Okoboji. Modeled after the steamers that once plied the lakes in this popular resort area, the Queen II—“flagship of the Iowa navy”—offers several daily excursions.

4. Canoesport Outfitters, Indianola, IA

Canoesport Outfitters takes paddling enthusiasts—and beginning enthusiasts—out on guided canoe and kayak adventures. From eco-tours of Lake Red Rock (Iowa’s biggest) to Mississippi and Raccoon River paddles, you’re sure to find an adventure that suits your interests and abilities. 

A post shared by Kevin Sassman (@uncleverde) on

5. Maiden Voyage River Tours, Marquette, IA

Folks looking for a boat tour in Northeast Iowa will enjoy one of the several excursions offered by Maiden Voyage Tours in Marquette. You can explore the backwaters of the river and the wildlife that inhabits them, take a music cruise or if you’re a birder, enjoy a bird-focused eco-tour.

6. Maquoketa River Rental LLC, Maquoketa, IA

If you’re looking for a low-key tour of one of Iowa’s most scenic rivers, hit up Maquoketa River Rental LLC, located on the river and in the city that bear the same name. Not only do they rent vessels, they take folks out for guided paddles and river tours. 

7. Spook Cave, McGregor, IA

Those who want a slightly different kind of boat may enjoy those offered at Spook Cave and Campground near McGregor. The only way to tour the allegedly-haunted, flooded cave is by boat. The campy feel of this roadside attraction makes the fascinating cave adventure even more unforgettable. 

A post shared by Lea (@lea.holden) on

8. Lady of the Lake, Clear Lake, IA

One of the best ways to explore one of the state’s most beautiful lakes is to hop on board the Lady of the Lake, a stern-wheeler that plies the spring-fed waters of aptly-named Clear Lake. In addition to their regularly-scheduled public cruises, the Lady of the Lake also makes several special, themed cruises.

9. Scenic City Empress, Iowa Falls, IA

The Scenic City Empress offers regular boat tours to members of the public who wish to see more of the Iowa River’s gorgeous upper reaches. You’ll see gorgeous limestone bluffs, wildlife and the historic swinging bridge—all illustrated by the river boat captain’s narrative.

A post shared by Dustyn Keepers (@dkeeps) on

10. Mississippi Explorer, Lansing, IA

Another awesome way to explore the wild Mississippi River is on one of the many tours offered by Mississippi Explorer out of Lansing. All of the cruises leave the main channel of the river to explore the backwaters, but throughout the year, several special cruises are offered focusing on events like autumn wildlife, nesting bald eagles, and the lotus and lilies that bloom on the water.

Select a Iowa town to find the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you
Find Boat Tours Near You
Enter City / State or Zip code below
Select your town to find the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you:

Adair County

Adams County

Allamakee County

Appanoose County

Audubon County

Benton County

Black Hawk County

Boone County

Bremer County

Buchanan County

Buena Vista County

Butler County

Calhoun County

Carroll County

Cass County

Cedar County

Cerro Gordo County

Cherokee County

Chickasaw County

Clarke County

Clay County

Clayton County

Clinton County

Crawford County

Dallas County

Davis County

Decatur County

Delaware County

Des Moines County

Dickinson County

Dubuque County

Emmet County

Fayette County

Floyd County

Franklin County

Fremont County

Greene County

Grundy County

Guthrie County

Hamilton County

Hancock County

Hardin County

Harrison County

Henry County

Howard County

Humboldt County

Ida County

Iowa County

Jackson County

Jasper County

Jefferson County

Johnson County

Jones County

Keokuk County

Kossuth County

Lee County

Linn County

Louisa County

Lucas County

Lyon County

Madison County

Mahaska County

Marion County

Marshall County

Mills County

Mitchell County

Monona County

Monroe County

Montgomery County

Muscatine County

Obrien County

Osceola County

Page County

Palo Alto County

Plymouth County

Pocahontas County

Polk County

Pottawattamie County

Poweshiek County

Ringgold County

Sac County

Scott County

Shelby County

Sioux County

Story County

Tama County

Taylor County

Union County

Van Buren County

Wapello County

Warren County

Washington County

Wayne County

Webster County

Winnebago County

Winneshiek County

Woodbury County

Worth County

Wright County