It’s not the ocean. But pretty close. Main differences: water color, water movement or lack thereof, the sand, the people, beach treats, the animal sitch… So a lot of differences.
Despite the brown, still water, which you only get into if you a) desperately need to cool off or b)don’t mind swimming in mucky river water (who r u), the beach is kind of nice. Don’t get your hopes up when I say beach, because the sand is like playground sand. Sorry Iowa doesn’t have white sand beaches, idk what you were expecting. The people are also different- no surfers mainly. As for beach treats- I can’t imagine the ocean offering anything better than tro sno, the most amazing snow cone on the planet. The last downfall are the bugs. Do oceans have bugs? I wanna say no. There are plenty of nasty insects to ruin your day at the coon river. And there are no seagulls so that’s lame.
Take those pros and cons as you will- I LOVE the Raccoon River Beach. Free sun, that’s all I really want. You literally can’t get that with the shade at my house (from all of the tall skyscrapers in Des Moines that tower over the south side). And it’s chill for a cute date (we witnessed one and were very jealous). However please be aware that the water carries every word you speak out to the sandy sunbathers. Just keep that in mind. Also you really don’t need to bring your children though, unless they’re adorable and/or quiet. Do bring your dogs (not on the beach though I think that’s illegal).
Other beaches in DSM: Gray’s lake. That’s it. There’s more on the outskirts but not worth the drive.