Wisconsin River – Kilbourn Dam to Norway Rd – The Dells 2023

All kinds of things could have gone wrong but it was a golden day of paddling through the Wisconsin Dells.

We have had a lot of windy days this fall.  The wind was predicted to be 11 mph midday but drop down from there later in the afternoon. We studied the predicted wind direction vs the trajectory of the river. If all went well, the wind would be at our back at the beginning, and quite calm at the end.

  • Mary was worried about the wind.
  • Gene was worried about the sun setting before we got off the river.
  • Deb was worried about her knees holding up on the big hill between the parking lot and the beach launch.
  • Deb was also worried that everyone would be mad at her if the any of the above went awry!

Spoiler alert – everything went without a hitch and it was a “golden day” – just beautiful.

The Launch (improved!)

The parking lot just south of the Kilbourn dam is easy to miss since the road sign had been removed. Once in the lot, there is wonderful signage. One could actually portage around the dam but we have never done that.

Parking is at the level of the road, but the launch is down down down by the river. Each trip to carry gear from the car requires down / up / down that hill. Previously this steep walk had no engineered path and it was quite precarious – we even lowered the boat by rope once to avoid carrying the boat down. But they (whoever they are) have made a wonderful gravel path which made it much easier. That doesn’t mean “easy” if you have any body issues – it is still steep. We all did well – the upgrade was fantastic and very appreciated.

There were no facilities but if careful to find a site out-of-sight from fisherman, you can use the woods.

This is a shuttled paddle and we used the Norway Rd launch to exit.

The Paddle

This 5.5 mile paddle took us about 2 hours. There are bluffs right at the launch. After awhile the rock formations appear and they are fun and literally awesome to paddle around. One you can paddle through but we skipped that this time due to time. Other points of interest – the old water gauge. Funky scary stairs on private property. The scar from where the water drained out of Lake Delton. River’s Edge resort. Odd swirling water.

After the last rock formations there are fewer Dells boats, motorboats and fishermen; and even though there is a bit less eye candy, it is relaxing. We lucked out that the wind did what was predicted – it died down so we did not have to struggle.

Norway Rd launch is very easy. Shuttle takes about 30 minutes. We got out at the perfect time – sun was starting to set but we drove off with some light left in the sky.

Flow: 3680 cfs (between 25th – 75th percentile)

Wildlife: Eagle, turtle, kingfisher, a fish or two, and other birds we see in our area


Wisconsin Dells Kilbourn dam beach paddle launch


1:15 Drive via rt 12 (Depart from G&S’s)
2:20 Arrive / unpack (extra time to go down big hill)
3:00 Shuttle – 30 min round trip
3:30 Launch (wind from NW 10.5mph)
5:30 Take out / shuttle (wind 6mph)
6:00 Pack up
6:15 Drive
7:20 Home via rt 51

Pie of the month was banana cream by Mary
Pie of the month was banana cream by Mary
After we got home, we made the final preparations for bringing dinner over. This included the 10th pie-of-the-month gift.