Changes are in the works at Denman’s Woods!

I wanted to update everyone with the latest information surrounding levee access to Water Works Park trails.

Summary: A single trailhead on the south end is under development to preserve and promote access; it’s a privately-funded project expected to be complete next spring.

Denmans Map.jpg

Over the past year and more CITA, Water Works Park (and Foundation) and the City of Des Moines have been discussing access to Denman’s Woods.  Concern arose from the US Army Corps of Engineers around trail access via the levee and the risk of compromising the flood control it provides. Thankfully, nothing has been compromised and no urgent action has been taken.

That said, discussion on access has been going on for years.

Earlier this year, the Foundation developed a technical design that would provide “legitimate” access to Denman’s Woods without continued damage to the levee.

CITA was awarded a grant from local engineering firm Terracon (geotechnical engineers, via our own Zach Bonzer), and the balance of the project budget comes from the Water Works Park Foundation.  Both groups, of course, wanting to encourage and support continued access to this fantastic trail system right in the heart of the metro.

Where we’re at:
We met Wednesday with the City engineers who will shortly be submitting the proposed design for approvals by the Iowa DNR and the Corps.  Work will begin upon approvals, which we expect yet this fall.

What does legitimate access look like? What is the plan?
The bottom line is we need to eliminate access to the trails via the levee itself without some type of reinforced protection.  The plan is to build a graded, reinforced entrance on the south end of Denman’s Woods.  This would flow naturally into the “lower levee” (connector trail) and enable access into the trail system.  

Three changes would incur as part of that work: 1) the exit swoop on the south end (that flows over the drainage culvert) would be removed.  2) A CITA built bridge would connect the “lower levee” (where you normally enter/exit on the south side) to the actual trail.  3) the north entrance would be closed. The trail would be re-routed to accommodate.  Because Denman’s is already two-way, no significant trail changes would need to be made.

This will eliminate the Corp of Engineer’s concerns about risking damage to the levee and improve access to one of Des Moines’ most popular trail systems.

Although I’m speaking on behalf of CITA, this certainly wouldn’t be possible without the support from Water Works Park (the land manager) and the Water Works Foundation Board.  They really believe in maximizing use of their lands, and we as a user group greatly appreciate all they do to enable such a great playground in the middle of Des Moines.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via all the typical means. Email:, fb: Central Iowa Trails Association, et. al.