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River Getaway in Bentonsport

Kayaking, Canoeing and Other Summery Sports

by Megan D. Robinson

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River enthusiasts get ready to glide down the Des Moines River.

Hot summer days are an ideal time for river exploration. Located on the Des Moines River in downtown Bentonsport, Paddle, Pedal & More offers many possibilities for summer relaxation and adventure.

About a year ago, when Sandi and Keith Dimmitt moved to Bentonsport, one of the historic villages of Van Buren County,  they spotted a building for sale that looked like the perfect place for a kayak rental business. They jumped at the chance, then spent eight months deep cleaning and renovating the space.

“We had to do a lot of work on the building,” Sandi says. “It had flooded three times.” She’s happy to report that “everybody liked it when we were done.”

Sandi and Keith traveled quite a bit to build their water-sport inventory. They drove all the way to the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky to buy a pontoon. When the trailer for the pontoon blew out, they ended up marooned in a small town for two weeks waiting for a new trailer to be built. “We made lots of new friends,” Sandi says.

Now the Dimmitts have nine kayaks, one tandem kayak, two three-seater canoes, six single tubes with bottoms, and one double tube for floating down the river.

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Sandi and Keith Dimmitt of Paddle, Pedal & More in Bentonsport, Iowa

For those who prefer to stay on land, they also rent a range of bicycles for kids and adults. Their most popular bike is a surrey that seats four. “People love it,” Sandi says. “It makes them giggle to ride in it.”

The Dimmitts are happy to shuttle people to nearby Lacey-Keosauqua State Park to bike on the trails, and will shuttle canoeists or kayakers too. “We’ll take them from Austin Park down to Farmington,” Sandi says. “We’ll take them where they want and pick them up where they want.” For people who find the river a little too fast, shuttle services also go to Lake Sugema or Lake Lacey. 

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Kids and adults alike relish the mellow experience of paddling on the water in summertime. (Photo by Juliet Jarmosco)

The Des Moines River area is full of scenic beauty. Sandi’s favorite paddling route is from Austin Park down to the Pittsburgh Bridge. Right before you reach the bridge, you turn into a small creek. “It is beautiful,” she says. “There are tall rock formations and the water is really clear. It’s hard to believe you’re in Iowa.” If you continue back to the bridge and follow the river to Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, there are even more gorgeous rock formations, and in the autumn, there’s glorious fall color.

Paddle, Pedal & More offers a number of fun seasonal activities, including a Geode Paddle. The Dimmitts have also worked with the DNR, providing kayak rentals and shuttle service for river floats organized by Brittney Tiller of Jefferson County Park.

Sandi encourages people interested in renting canoes or kayaks to call in advance. She recently had an 18-person wedding party rent all the canoes and kayaks on a Friday before the wedding. An Amish family reunion in the spring used all the bicycles.

For those who want to experience more than just a day trip, the Dimmits also own a former church in Bentonsport that’s available to rent. The 1857 historic building held services until 1988. The Dimmitts have converted it into a lovely getaway space, with beds for 11 and a fully equipped kitchen.

“It’s a cool place,” Sandi says. “Everybody who stays there wants to come back with their friends. We have people in the church almost all summer.”

Paddle, Pedal & More is located at 21903 Hawk Dr., Bentonsport, (319) 592-3220.

 

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