Floating down a river in a kayak, canoe, or tube can be a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the outdoors. If you’re new to river adventures, the idea can also seem a bit daunting. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for and enjoy your first river trip with Seven Oaks.


River adventures offer a chance to immerse yourself in nature and leave the stress of daily life behind. Gliding across the water surrounded by wildlife and natural beauty is incredibly calming and fun. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of renting equipment, what to wear and bring, safety guidelines, and tips for making the most of your time on the river. With the right preparation, you’ll be ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy your first river adventure to the fullest.

Understanding the Basics

River adventures involve traveling downriver in a small boat like a kayak, canoe, or tube. At Seven Oaks, we offer rentals for all three.

Kayaks we use sit-on-top kayaks that are beginner friendly. Kayaks use a double-bladed paddle. They’re great for one person, and offer a little more control steering than a canoe.

Canoes are larger, open boats moved by single-bladed paddle, and are more stable and roomy than kayaks. We use 17’ aluminum canoes with 1 seat in the front and 1 seat in the back. We do allow a 3rd person (normally a child) to sit on the floor of the canoe between the seats.

Tubes are large, inflatable inner tubes that you sit in and float leisurely downstream. Tubes are relaxing and fun for groups.

As a first timer, any of the three can be a great option. Our friendly staff is happy to talk with you about your needs. All rentals include life jackets and transportation upriver so you can simply relax and float to your pick up boat ramp. Instructions on your pick up boat ramp and some safety pointers will be reviewed with you prior to leaving our parking lot.

Before You Book

Before booking your first river adventure, consider a few factors to make sure it’s the right activity for you:

  • Water conditions: Check our Facebook page for the latest information. We’re typically floating 7 days per week through the summer. When the river is a little lower, you’re able to stop and enjoy sandbars along the way.
  • Health factors: Consider your swimming ability, fitness, and any relevant health conditions.
  • Age/size: Children over 2 years old can canoe, over 5 can tube and over 8 can kayak. Life jackets fit those 30lbs and up.

An easier, shorter float of 5-7 miles is a good place to start. And review all safety rules before booking. River adventures are beginner-friendly at Seven Oaks, but do carry inherent risks that can be avoided with proper preparation.

What to Wear and Bring

  • Swimwear or quick-drying clothes
  • Water shoes or strapped sandals
  • Sunglasses & sunscreen
  • Hat or visor
  • Water bottle
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Dry bag for keys/wallet
  • Towel & change of clothes

Pack light, but don’t forget sun protection and water to drink. A waterproof bag keeps valuables safe. No styro foam coolers and no glass allowed on the river.

The Day of Your Adventure

Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled launch time to check in. By law, anyone in a canoe or kayak must have a life jacket with you in the boat. If your kids are 13 or younger they must be wearing a life jacket while in the boat. If you are river tubing, you do not need a life jacket, but we do recommend everyone wear a life jacket. We provide the orange horse collar lift jacket but you can upgrade to a vest for only $2. We’ll provide life jackets, give a safety briefing, and transport you upriver to begin your journey.

Listen closely to the guided river instructions on the bus ride to learn more about the route, stopping points, water hazards, and emergency procedures. Safety is our top priority.

During Your Adventure

As a beginner, you’ll quickly get the hang of steering and controlling your kayak, canoe, or tube downstream. Here are a few key tips:

  • Use gentle paddling strokes to maneuver
  • Sit low and keep centered for stability
  • Watch for obstacles like branches and bridge pillars
  • Stay clear of logjams
  • Take advantage of sandbars to stop, swim, and relax!

If you fall out, stay calm and float on your back (or swim) to a sandbar where you can stand and get back into your boat. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the gorgeous scenery!

After Your Adventure

At the takeout point, our staff will load your kayak/canoe/tube and transport you back to Seven Oaks. Be sure to share your photos and reviews online to encourage others to experience the fun of river adventures!

Get ready to make lifelong memories on the water at Seven Oaks. Contact us today to book your first kayak, canoe, or tubing trip down the beautiful Des Moines River.


Can I bring alcohol?

Yes, but drink responsibly. Intoxication leads to poor judgment and increased drowning risk.

Can I tie tubes/boats together?

We only allow tying tubes with breakaway foam sections (noodles). Tying boats is dangerous and prohibited.

How do I schedule a trip?

Book online or call 515-432-9457. Spots fill fast, especially weekends. Reserve your adventure today!