Rock Arch Rapids

Vernon Springs Ladder Dam

Rock Arch Rapids

Built in the 1850s to run a mill, the Vernon Springs Dam has undergone many repairs over the decades.  With the support of the community to keep the Mill Pond in place for its visual and recreational importance, Howard County Conservation set out to seek a solution to the existing Vernon Springs low-head dam.

After years of planning and research, Iowa's first rock arch rapids project was introduced and then completed at Vernon Springs in 2010. Instead of an outdated dam, the river now contains 280 ft. of pools and rapids that spreads this drop out with an average grade of three percent versus the previous dam's vertical drop of eight ft. The rapids open the river to fish migration while making the area safer for people of all ages.

The new rock arch rapids reconnects miles of river habitat that have been cut off for more than 100 years and now allows seasonal migration of fish on the Turkey River. As fish are being tagged and studied, this new ecosystem has a lot of potential for local wildlife.

Interaction with this innovative project allows recreation enthusiasts to fish in the rapids or to enjoy the view and rapids up close and personal. This first-in-the-State of Iowa rock arch rapids is safer for people and now wildlife and offers a unique perspective to the Turkey River, Vernon Mill Pond and the environment making this a must-see in Howard County.

Directions from Cresco:

From the stoplight intersection of Hwy 9 / 3rd St SW (Sterling) turn south one block, turn right one block and turn left onto Vernon Rd. Stay on Vernon Road as it curves to the left and turns into Valley Ave. This will lead you to the bridge and just beyond is a large parking lot to stop, get outside, and enjoy the Rapids!