Otherworldly stark landscape of Scuppernong River paddle

Bark – Scuppernong Meander 2023

Turn left from Prince’s Point boat launch and you’re on the Bark River. Turn right, and you’re on the Scuppernong River. It’s a labyrinth of tributaries so just enjoy the day wherever the heck you are.

The launch

Prince’s Point is about 1 hour drive from Madison. Official location is Whitewater, WI. We paddled with Katia on a weekday – the water was low but it was never a problem.

Stream Flow Bark River Gauge near Rome: 54 cfs.

The Paddle

We have paddled this way many times and have a clear memory of how it was. The mystery this time was that it was totally unfamiliar. The last record of paddling there was 2014. Since then most of the trees have died  – we guess it was from flooding a few years back. Even still there were some “points of interest” that we never encountered. We used to paddle until we got to an island that was always guaranteed to have lots of birds. Did it disappear? Some of our older photos haven’t made it to this blog yet,but I’m a tiny bit motivated to find the “evidence” to support my memory.

The paddle was otherworldly without the trees. At one point we got to a fork and decided to go right, but Katia per her GPS decided that left would be better so we circled back after checking it out. An odd thing about that, too, is that the river map online did not match our movements. We took a right then there was a pooled/lake area on the right so we went left, eventually getting to an obviously engineered straightaway. On the map, there is no T.

After circling back, there was a magnificent downed tree that had its root system intact. Katia named that the “gateway tree” – so now we have a new place of visual interest.

There was a lot of duckweed that made us almost turn around, but we persisted and were rewarded by the first ever sight of two birds – a Yellowheaded Blackbird and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds.  I think they call it “lifers”. Unfortunately, no photos of either. We often see heron but usually they are at the shoreline. On this paddle, we saw them perched in trees.

We also saw a short steep boat ramp which is the first notation on our route map. I haven’t been able to find it via satellite images yet. It might be an alternate put in, but probably it’s on private farmland.

On the way home we stopped at a farm stand in Cambridge and got fresh strawberries, eggs, and a zucchini. We used the strawberries instead of the usual oranges in the main-dish asparagus salad we had prepared for the post-paddle dinner. Jeanne was having a crisis with a baby sparrow and what to do with it, but she did join us for dinner – it was all very jolly.

wildlife: Yellowheaded Blackbird,  Eastern Kingbirds, painted turtle, heron, egret, some brown birds we should look up (thrush?), lots of dragonflies, and lots and lots of fish which was so nice to see.



The schedule was elongated by an hour due to a couple of delays, but this is still a good overview:

12:15 Drive Madison to Prince’s Point
01:15 Unpack
01:30 Paddle
03:45 Pack up
04:00 Drive
05:00 Home