The Upper Iowa River is rich with recreation

  • It's one of the state's most popular rivers for canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and fishing.

  • The Upper Iowa River offers the most public land access of all Iowa Rivers.

  • The Scenic River and Water Trail meanders through limestone bluffs and driftless trout streams and draws visitors from all over the country.

Walleye caught near the lower dam on the Upper Iowa River during electrofishing surveys.

A river full of life

  • 3 of the 64 species of fish that are found in the Upper Iowa River are game species.
  • 15 different species of freshwater mussels
  • Lake Sturgeon, Shovelnose Sturgeon, Freshwater Drum, Sauger, Golden Redhorse, and Walleye have the potential to move into this river for spawning in the springtime.
Map shows the distance from each dam to the Mississippi River. It illustrated how many miles would be available for fish to use if the dam was removed or modified to allow for fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.

Learn more about fish passage

Proposed next steps

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing to create fish passage at the Upper and Lower Iowa Dams of the Upper Iowa River near Freeport in Winneshiek County, Iowa.

Sign warns visitors about the hazardous recirculating currents that occur below dams.

Why address these dams?


Drownings have occurred at these dams due to the dangerous recirculating current they create.


Will create 119.5 miles of contiguous Water Trail for canoeists, kayakers and tubers to the confluence with the Mississippi River.

Lake Sturgeon found near the lower Iowa dam during electrofishing survey.

Eliminate Repair Costs

Over a century ago these dams were used to produce hydroelectric power. Operations had ceased by the late 1950s and have degraded greatly since then. Repairing and maintaining dams that have been out of operation for decades would be very costly.

Migratory Fish

Restores over 670 mainstem and tributary miles for migratory Mississippi River fishes like Lake Sturgeon, Freshwater Drum, Walleye, Sauger, Channel Catfish, Smallmouth Bass and Redhorse.


Restores upstream Coldwater tributary access for brook trout. Creates more habitat for smallmouth bass.

Upper Dam on the Upper Iowa River which is 45.1 miles from the Mississippi River.
The lower Iowa dam proposed to be removed on the Upper Iowa River.

Contact Information


Juvenile Northern Pike in aquarium at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, South Dakota
The Fish and Aquatic Conservation program leads aquatic conservation efforts for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We are committed to tackling the nation’s highest priority aquatic conservation and recreational challenges to conserve, restore, and enhance fisheries for future generations.
A person is walks through a large wide culvert that passes under a gravel road. A small river runs through the culvert.
Across the country, millions of barriers are fragmenting rivers, blocking fish migration, and putting communities at higher risk to flooding. Improving fish passage is one of the most effective ways to help conserve vulnerable species while building safer infrastructure for communities and...
A view of the Sacramento River. Its flat, blue water is lined by bright green trees and vegetation. Blue skies are overhead.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership is a comprehensive effort to treat the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms. The Partnership is a national investment strategy to maximize the impact of conservation dollars on the ground. Funds are leveraged through regional partnerships to...


Woman on boat with fish net in hand on Mississippi river.
La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office was established in 1981 and works to monitor and control the spread of invasive species such as invasive carp and round goby as well as restore threatened and endangered freshwater mussels and fish like the Topeka shiner and  inter-jurisdictional ...