Tailwater River Walk Trail & Devonian Fossil Gorge – Iowa City, Iowa

The Tailwater West Campground and Devonian Fossil Gorge are north of Iowa City, Iowa. Directions from I-80: take exit 244 for Dubuque St toward Coralville Lake, turn right onto N Dubuque St, turn right onto West Overlook Rd NE, and turn right into the Devonian Fossil Gorge parking lot. Parking is free with water and restrooms at the Tailwater West Campground. Recreation includes walking, dog walking, fishing, camping, and exploring fossils. Cell phone service was strong.

The River Walk Trail is a 0.6 mile out and back stroll along the river.  It starts between the Tailwater West Campground and the Devonian Fossil Gorge.

It is ideal for families, dog owners, and/or anyone looking for a quick outdoor activity because it is short and flat. Although it is open to runners and cyclists, it may not be enough to offer a fulfilling workout.

The Devonian Fossil Gorge is an explorable area with labeled geological features and fossils.

It is a 375 million year old sea floor exposed by floods in 1993 and 2008. It is very well documented with exhibits and a map of geological features. We had fun looking for fossils using the discovery map. We walked into the gorge and at discovery point #6 looked for horn corals and brachiopods (seen below).

The Tailwater West Campground, gorge, and trail are all walking distance from each other. We didn’t fully explore the campground but did spend some time at its playground which includes a climbing wall, slides, and swings.

In sum, the gorge is a fun place for a quick family visit because it includes a hands-on learning opportunity, a short walk near the river, and a playground. For more easy hiking, I recommend exploring the Johnson County Veterans Trail on the east side of the dam along with the nearby Squire Point and Woodpecker Nature trails.


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