Soper's Mill Water Trail Access Improvements Complete

Posted:11/9/2023 Story

PRESS RELEASE: October 26, 2023

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Users of the South Skunk River will soon notice major improvements to Story County Conservation’s (SCC) Soper’s Mill Water Trail Access—one of the most-used access points along the South Skunk River Water Trail. At 33 miles long and with 11 access points, this water trail offers outdoor enthusiasts endless opportunities for paddling, angling, tubing, and more.

Soper’s Mill Water Trail Access, north of Ames, re-opened earlier this week following extensive construction to add improved parking paired with improved water access to the historic site. SCC was able to begin the Soper’s Mill Improvement Project early this year with grant funding secured through an Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Trail Enhancement Grant.

Perhaps the most notable improvement are the launch changes. A previous, single dirt launch, located upstream of the rock riffle was replaced with a paved launch at a preferred angle to the channel. Additionally, a second paved ramp was constructed downstream of the riffle, offering paddlers an option to put in or out on either side of the rapids. The newly-paved launches will provide increased accessibility for all users to utilize in a safe manner.

“The rock rapids still provide some nice challenge for those that desire the excitement and good fishing for anglers,” said Dr. Jim Pease, SCC Board secretary and longtime paddler. “Now, an easy exit above the rapids and a much-improved entrance below them make it usable and safe for paddlers of many skill levels.”

An upgraded entrance road and expanded, compacted limestone parking area are better for both users and the river, as soil run-off from the previous design is greatly reduced with the addition of a storm water infiltration area. Users will also notice greatly-expanded trailer parking.

Newly-added, large limestone seating blocks located between the two launches now offer convenient seating for folks to relax and watch the river run by. SCC invites you to do just that as you check out these improvements, while the final warm days of the season linger. The blocks add a clean yet natural touch to the site, while also reducing maintenance needs after high water events.

“The Skunk is an important Iowa river and this makes it easier and safer for all Iowans to enjoy what it has to offer,” said Pease.


The original area of a sawmill built in 1856, the property has been popular with locals for fishing, picnics, paddling, and more since mill operations ceased in the 1890s. The addition of a rock riffle to provide fish habitat in the early 2000s became a prominent feature of the already-popular destination.