Six years ago, floods of Mesopotamian proportions washed away the small settlement on the Island of No Worries. Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of sandbags weren’t enough to protect the community from the swollen Midwest river, and when the water subsided, the homes, which numbered about a dozen, were bought out by the government and leveled or burned to the ground by vandals.

Since then, the island was turned into a park. The city mows what used to be the lawns, although most of the land is wild forest. There is no parking, and motorized vehicles are verboten, which means visitors have to walk across a bridge. So, the island remains largely unnoticed.

Another way to get there is by boat, and during one late summer day off, I launched my new Pelican kayak on its maiden voyage, putting in at a nearby ramp and circumnavigating the island, first heading upstream on the island’s east side. The river was calm and very shallow in spots. I followed a pair of ducks until they became annoyed by me and took flight. At one section, I spotted a golf ball and reached down to pluck it from the sandy bottom.

Rounding the island’s northern tip, I glided across some choppy swirls and then floated down the west side with the swift current. Passing under a bridge, I came across traces of the island’s former inhabitants. Concrete steps and walkways led from what used to be shore-side homes to what used to be private docks. Near where the last house on the block once stood were the remains of a loose-stone outdoor oven. Finding a natural landing in an inlet, I headed ashore to explore.

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