Wisconsin River in November (The Dells)

Setting: Freakishly warm November day-73 degrees! Sunny, breezy.

Late fall is the best time to paddle this section because the tour boats have stopped running.

Put in: The drive from Madison to Wisconsin Dells is about 50 min. There is a parking lot on Finnegan Ave, Wisconsin Dells, just below the dam under Route 16. There is ample parking, no facilities. The path down to the sandy beach is steep and rocky, but we lol’s hauled the canoe and kayak down carefully and without incident. We’ve done this several times over the years, and we’re pretty sure the path gets steeper every year.

The shuttle: 15 min to the Norway Dr. public landing. Right turn off Finnegan Ave onto the main street through Wisconsin Dells (Hwy 23/16), right turn on Hwy 16, right turn on County O, continuing onto Ingebretson Rd, right on Fox Run Rd, left onto Norway Dr. There are several “Public Boat Landing” signs on this route.

The paddle: We launched the kayak and canoe at 2:15 and struggled a bit against a southwest wind for the first mile or so. We passed many people fishing, and encountered several speed boats, some of which slowed but a couple did not.  The wakes are generally not a problem for the kayak but can swamp a canoe.

It was a peaceful sunny afternoon paddle with golden late fall scenery.  The stone bluffs  begin right at the put-in which starts the delightful ride. In addition to the dells rock formations, paddlers encounter other points of interest:

  • the old USGS gauge, now deplete of numbers
  • a very big resort area Rivers Edge
  • the place where Lake Delton washed out the road and emptied out into the River
  • some crazy mysterious swirling water
  • an area of trees where interesting birds can be spotted (but not this time)
  • various private vacation properties with tents, trailers, cabins up to full huge estates

Of course, the highlight is the rock formations. On a previous trip we saw a pileated woodpecker on one of the dells, and we will always be looking for it again. This time the three of us paddled around one of the dells looking for coots in the rocks but only saw one bird which we couldn’t see well enough to identify.

Take out: Norway Dr. public landing which has a concrete ramp and adequate parking.  We took out at 4:15, which gave us just enough time to do the shuttle and load the boats before sunset.

Wildlife: a small heron, seagulls, ducks.

Distance paddled: 5.5 miles

Water level: 7300 cfs (median 4900), good level for paddling.