The Principal Riverwalk

Rediscovering the Rivers Along The Principal Riverwalk

Running. Biking. Ice-skating. Walking. Socializing. Relaxing. Appreciating. Reconnecting.

A decade ago it was hard to imagine all this activity taking place daily along the rivers in downtown Des Moines. Today, thanks to The Principal Riverwalk, Central Iowa residents and visitors have rediscovered the rivers that lie at the heart of downtown Des Moines.

The Principal Riverwalk began as a gift to the City of Des Moines in celebration of the Principal Financial Group® 125th anniversary.

The Principal Riverwalk Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge at night.

"Our long-term vision for this project was to improve quality of life. From entertainment to activities, The Principal Riverwalk delivers the amenities to enrich lifestyles throughout all four seasons," says Mary O'Keefe, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at The Principal® and president of the Riverfront Development Authority.

"The rivers have always been at the geographical center of the city... but over time attention to them had waned. It was time we refocused on this core area in downtown Des Moines, with a goal of spurring additional economic development—housing, entertainment and more."

The 1.2-mile riverwalk loop is a hub for bike trails, connecting nearly 300 miles of trails in Central Iowa. The loop includes notable new focal points/amenities:

  • Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge - Spanning the Des Moines River, this iconic bridge accommodates walkers/joggers and bicyclists, and displays names of notable women from Iowa's history.

  • Brenton Skating Plaza - A signature destination, the skating rink holds up to 220 skaters. In warmer months, it's a prime outdoor event space.

    Ice skaters at the Brenton Skating Plaza

  • Long Look Garden - Cascading toward the river, this garden outside City Hall features terraced planter walls, formal landscaping, a grand staircase and sculpture.

  • Union Railroad Bridge - The "caboose red" bridge provides a scenic pedestrian link over the Des Moines River.

  • Hansen Triangle - Located along the western banks of the Des Moines River, this serene city plaza features a bronze sculpture and fountain.

  • The Hub Spot - Featuring a landscaped plaza and kiosk that will soon offer a variety of food/drink options for sale and public restrooms, this gathering area also features five sculptures.

  • Promenade and Multi-Use Trail - The renovated western banks of the Des Moines River make it more useful to visitors interested in being near the river's edge.

  • Meredith Trail - The trail connects The Principal Riverwalk with nearby Gray's Lake.

The Principal Riverwalk is also bordered by existing riverfront attractions like Principal Park, the Science Center of Iowa, Court Avenue District, Iowa Events Center, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens, the World Food Prize, the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens and the East Village.

Enjoying the Riverwalk

The Principal Riverwalk is an answer to local residents' wishes for more family friendly opportunities to get outdoors, access local trails and interact with nature. The project has helped create a vibrant social and recreational area that draws residents of all ages and from all walks of life.

And, as hoped, the project has helped strengthen the heart of the city, unite the east and west sides of downtown Des Moines and spurred additional development in the surrounding area, adding to a more vibrant downtown.

To learn more about the features of The Principal Riverwalk, visit

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