Total distance equals 18 miles; up to 6-8 hours depending on flow.
Best floating conditions occur in the Spring or Fall, or anytime flow is above 120 cfs at the
Ames gauge.   Between Bear Creek (above Sopers Mill) and 180th or Riverside Road there are several rocky riffles and small drops.   These are most interesting at flows near 200-250 cfs.
The dam above Riverside Road is easily portaged river-right on a concrete apron which is part of the dam itselt. Approach carefully & be prepared for potentially strong eddy currents when you put back in. The dam at River Valley Park marks the end of the Canoe Trail.   You can portage the dam and continue to the Youth Sports Complex on Billy Sunday Road, or launch there & enjoy a nice float to Story County's Askew Bridge near Cambridge.
Public Canoe Accesses are shown above, as are most areas owned by the County Conservation Board.   Camping is allowed at Bear Creek and at two sites near McFarland Park.   You can get the Canoe Trail brochure and a more detailed map of the Skunk River Greenbelt at the Conservation Center at McFarland Park.   Note that some sections of both the river and greenbelt trail lie outside the public areas, so unless you know differently, assume you are on private property.   See Meandered Rivers.
More than you wanted to know - items of local interest . . .
Large excavation machines were once employed to drain much of the midwest's land.   (The Skunk River was channelized south of Ames to provide drainage of farm lands).   Photo from
The History of Bear Creek Watershed
One of several large cottonwoods being worked by an industrious beaver near the Union Pacific RR crossing  (May 2001).