Fox River: figuring out the mystery of the White River Lock and Dam
Why we went:
The Paddling Southern Wisconsin book, which we use extensively as a reference, describes a dam just downstream from the put-in, requiring a portage. On other trips when we took out at the White River Lock landing, we didn’t see any signs warning of a dam. We returned on a warm July day to solve the mystery of the dam. As it turns out, there is no dam. Checking online after the paddle, we found that it was removed in 2004.
The current is slow, the water murky but fairly clean with relatively little duckweed or other other invasives clogging the river. There are no riffles or rapids, and it was relatively easy for two lol’s (little old ladies) to paddle upstream, eliminating the need for a shuttle. The river flows through a state wildlife area and feels quite isolated. There are sandy banks where one could take out and have a picnic, but those places are usually too buggy for us. The banks are mostly tree lined, which does provide some shade.
As on previous paddles on the Fox downstream from Princeton, motorboats were not an issue for us. We did encounter one rude jet ski which did not slow down at all when passing us. He misunderstood our (ahem) raised hand and responded with a wave.
Overall, this was a lovely trip but not quite as pretty as the section from Princeton to the White River Lock landing.
Put-in, Take-out and Parking
The put-in/take-out at the White River Lock landing is excellent, with a pier and a concrete ramp. The parking lot is large. There are no bathroom facilities.
We left from the east side of Madison and took US 151 to WI 73. For the return route, we decided to go WI 23 through Montello, which is about the same time and distance but a slightly prettier drive in my opinion. Also, More Healthy Foods is in Montello. You should stop there to eat if they are open when you pass through. Watch out for deer in Marquette and Columbia County in the evening. We always see them along the side of the road.
Getting there: Car distance from Madison to put-in at White River Lock and Dam landing: 69 mi, 1.5 hr.
Paddling Time & Distance: 2 mi downstream, 2 mi upstream. 2hrs 20min (Put in 4:55 pm. Take out 7:15)
Flow at Berlin station: 728 cf/s (mean flow for this day-700)
Temp 82, sunny
We saw a number of Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers, one of whom seemed quite upset that we were on his river. We also saw turtles, jumping fish, swallows, a hawk, plover and a small crested bird which may have been an Acadian Flycatcher.