Lemonweir to Louis Bluff on the Wisconsin River

Setting:

The third time we have won Ice House Getaway on Louis Bluff, in the River Alliance Auction. This time we were playfully trying to push the bid up and accidentally won! The Weinhold family offers a 2-day stay in their Ice House cabin on the Wisconsin River to the highest bidder to benefit the organization. With their permission, we invited several friends to paddle the Wisconsin River with us, take out at their private beach on the bluff and then have a picnic in the riverside gazebo. This land is private (not rentable) and part of a nature conservancy so it will not be developed into a tourist attraction in the future.

Initially, we planned the trip for the previous weekend but postponed it a week due to heat (nearly 90 degrees – 4 daily records broken) and wind. The weather for our paddle was perfect-temps in the 60’s, sunny,  with manageable wind 6-10 mph on the river.

Flow

USGS #05404000 Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Dells: 4800 cfs (median for Sept 30 ~4000 cfs)

The shuttle:

About 15 minutes from Louis Bluff (Teisberg on the GPS), to the Two Rivers Public Landing off Cliff House Rd at the confluence of the Lemonweir with the Wisconsin River. It is a very pretty drive.

The paddle:

After last-minute visits to the porta-john and the obligatory group photo, we launched at 1:20. The headwind and crosswinds made us work fairly hard at paddling at times. We couldn’t just sit back and float! Because the water level was lower than on previous paddles on this section, we had to pay attention to our route to avoid getting hung up on sandbars just below the surface. We meandered back and forth from one bank to the other several times which meant we got to see close-up the beautiful sandstone bluffs on both sides of the river.

At the end of the trip, we entered Heron Bay at the north end of Louis Bluff which is sheltered from the wind. We paused to take in the awesome sandstone features and snapped lots of photos of the spectacular bluff.  It was sunny, warm and protected from the wind. As we approached the bluff, we met Craig Weinhold and his family and Dusty the dog in canoe and kayaks heading upstream to paddle around in the sloughs. Coming out of the bay into the main channel the wind kicked up some rolling waves which made for some particularly strenuous paddling the last few hundred feet to the Weinhold’s private beach on the bluff. Take out time: 3:20, about a 2 hour paddle.

Wildlife:

Not much. Maybe one eagle in flight, crows, a few jumping fish.

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.

Ice House Femtilla

We won the Ice House Getaway in the River Alliance Auction. Actually, we were outbid at the very last second of furious bidding, but the Alliance director Denny Caneff got permission from owners Frank and Marianna Weinhold to allow two winners that year. The Weinholds let us invite a few well-behaved women paddlers to land at their private beach on Louis Bluff.

Flow at gauge 0540400 WI River near WI Dells: 6500 cfs (median for this date ~4000). 7 days earlier when we had picked up the key and checked out the beach, the flow was 26000 cfs! The beach was submerged that day, but there was a sliver of sand for us to land on a week later. Marianna told us that the water had been so high for a gathering they had hosted a few weeks earlier that they actually paddled the boats into the woods to land.

A group of 7 boats put in at the beautiful Two Rivers public landing at the mouth of the Lemonweir River. We paddled around a spectacular bluff into the Wisconsin River and floated to Louis Bluff on a perfect sunny afternoon after a vicious storm the previous night. The trip was about 5 miles and took about 2.5 hours. At the end, some of us paddled around in the sloughs at the north end of the bluff. We had a pitch-in picnic in the gazebo and some of us climbed the bluff to the south lookout afterward.