Fox River- in/out at O bridge

Weekday afternoon paddle on a humid mid-70’s mostly cloudy day with minimal wind. On the way, we checked out Neenah Creek and evaluated several landings.

Flow at Fox River Berlin gauge: 1130 cfs (median ~700 cfs)

Put in/take out: County Rd O bridge, which has an off-road parking area for several cars and a concrete ramp. No bathrooms.

The river is considered boring by some, but we find it quiet and mostly scenic, with great reflections that day.  Nothing wrong with peace and quiet. We went upstream past some cabins and deteriorating docks on the right, then a few houses before the surroundings become isolated as the river bends away from County Rd F. Houses and cabins appear further upstream along Fox River Rd.

The trip: in at 5:00, out at 7:15. There are often fishermen here, but we had the landing to ourselves when we put in. We turned around at 6:15 at the point where Fox River Rd comes within a hundred feet or so of the river. There is a quirky quonset-hut-like building here and some other interesting structures which seem more or less permanent and we assume are used for weekend visits.  There were no other boats on the river until the takeout, where we encountered a couple of friendly fishermen loading their boat.

Wildlife: hawk, herons, swallows, muskrat, red-winged blackbirds, fish jumping. Heard cranes nearby.  Saw some interesting blue berries in clusters which we have yet to identify and bamboo-like grasses on the banks (probably invasive).

Fox River at Endeavor

Put in/take out: Endeavor, public landing off Island Dr.

Flow at Princeton gage: 1080 cfs (median 534)

The paddle:

We put in at 3:00 and headed upstream, which is south on this north-flowing river, on a mostly sunny afternoon in the mid 70’s with a light wind.  The water was high but because of the marshy floodplain the current is always slow and easy to paddle upstream. The water was very clear, with underwater vegetation visible several feet below the surface. As usual, we had the river mostly to ourselves. We did encounter a fishing boat, a family in 4 kayaks, and a pontoon boat. We had a little difficulty finding the main channel just after launch. We headed to the left and in short order realized we needed to cross over to the right to get back to the main channel. We turned around at the campground just past the intersection of County Rd T and Glen Rd. at 4:15 and arrived back at the put-in at 5:00. It was a lovely, leisurely late afternoon paddle mostly through a national wildlife refuge.


several great blue herons, ducks, a pair of cranes in flight, swallows, ducks, and a couple of seagulls.

Rock River – Ixonia

With water levels being quite high after all the rainfall this summer, we weren’t sure we could do our usual up-and-back trip on this segment of the Rock River. We hadn’t paddled here for several years, but we consulted past notes and decided to take a chance.  We put in at Wayside Park off Highway 16 at 2:30 on a sunny afternoon with temp in the low 80’s. It is a great oxbow park with restrooms and plenty of parking and a nice concrete ramp at the put-in. The last time we tried to launch here a couple of years ago, the water was too low and there were too many large exposed rocks which blocked our access to the water.

Flow at Rock River Watertown gage 05425500: 1100 cfs (median 162, mean 337).

The river level was visibly high but not scary swift.  It didn’t seem too difficult to paddle upstream, but we got tired sooner than we thought we should have; so we were probably working harder than we realized. We had no trouble getting under the Rock River Road bridge, just had to duck slightly.  The part of the river between Wayside Park and Kanow Park is pretty, so we were glad to paddle this segment.  Kanow Park is also quite nice and has a bank landing which can be muddy in high water levels.  There were several families fishing here.  We met a family coming downstream in a canoe having started at Kaul Park. They said they had encountered no obstructions between Kaul Park and Kanow Park.

Just before the row of houses about a mile beyond Kanow Park, we saw an eagle in flight! And, incidentally, a hornets nest hanging from a branch.

We turned around at 4:00 pm, at the beautiful green hill near the intersection of River Valley Road and Rock River Road.  Heading downstream, we scanned the trees in the area where we had seen the eagle before and saw a pair of eagles sitting side by side watching us as we passed!

Other wildlife: great blue heron in flight, a great blue heron and a pair of sandhill cranes close to each other along the river bank, many kingfisher and swallows, a few jumping fish and another hornets next close to Kanow Park.  We also saw a few fresh water clams.

Take out: 5:00 pm.

Wingra Creek on the Fourth of July

Wingra Creek is a pleasant urban paddle in Madison. We usually try it once a year. If the water is too high, it can be difficult to get through the first railroad bridge; the water is too strong and fast and there is always deadfall to contend with. Sometimes the water is too low and the boat hits the creek bottom which causes an abandoned trip. The waterway can also suffer from invasive plants and algae making the experience extremely unpleasant. This year we were hoping that it would be “just right.” To be sure of our hunch, we walked along the Wingra Bike Path the day before, We found it “all clear” to take our friends Gene and Susan on an Independence Day journey.

Weather: Sunny, temp around 80 but uncomfortably high dew point.

Put in/take out: Olin-Turville Park’s non-motorized boat ramp. Everyone wants to know “Do canoes and kayaks have to pay the same $8 per day fee that big noisy polluting boats pay?” It is not specified on the sign, but a DNR staffer we ran into a few years ago told us that canoes did not have to pay the fee.

Timing: In at 11:30, out at 2:00 at a very leisurely pace.

The Trip: Pleasant urban paddle to the small dam at the end of Lake Wingra near the Arboreteum and St.Mary’s Hospital. The creek parallels the bike path, goes past Quann Park, Goodman Pool and several industrial-looking sites, and passes under many bridges for pedestrians, bikes, cars and trains. After Fish Hatchery Rd, the creek flows past marshy areas of the Arboretum on one side and a residential neighborhood on the other. There was not much trash, probably due to efforts of Friends of Lake Wingra. We saw lots of walkers and bikers and quite a few bank fisherman on this holiday. We met several other canoes and kayaks on the creek and one stand-up paddleboard. To make the route longer, there is a portage at the dam but we find the creek more interesting than the lake, not to mention less crowded.

Wildlife: swallows, ducks, a turtle, red-winged blackbirds, and a yellow-footed bird that we haven’t identified yet. Lots of flowers along the banks, including some beautiful spikey purple flowers with large arrow-shaped leaves growing in the water in two clusters near the Fish Hatchery bridge.

Take-away: Suggest paddling in spring or early summer when the creek is more likely to have plenty of water. Later in the summer when the water levels are lower, it gets sluggish and scummy and not too pleasant to paddle in.

Dear Bark River, we are worried about you…

Burnt Village Park – Upstream and Back – July 1, 2017

We decided to paddle the Bark after several days of rain and to not wait until any later in the season because of a disappointing experience last summer when we found the river, which we always said “never disappoints,” too slimed over to even attempt. It was a nice day but unfortunately, the river is once again headed for problems this summer.

Flow at Rome gauge: 173 cfs (median for this date-73 cfs)

Weather: mostly sunny, low humidity, slightly windy,  mid 70’s F

Time in: 4:50 pm Time out: 7:00 pm

The paddle: The water was quite high but had receded from a few days earlier.  The “Water on Road” sign on the Rustic Road was still up, but the road was dry.

The first thing we noticed at the put in at Burnt Village Park was new facilities! Okay, a port-a-john, but arguably better than the bushes at this popular launch and fishing area. There is also a new donation box for the Jefferson County Parks Department. (We gave) We were happy to see a “Slow-No Wake” sign at the landing, although this was ignored by a motorboat at the end of our paddle. The river was out of its banks in many places, but despite the recent rain and high flow, there were carpets of duckweed along the banks the entire route. In some places, we could see fuzzy stuff growing on top of the duckweed.  What has happened to our lovely Bark River?

The current was brisk, which made the upstream paddle a little slower than usual; and we did not quite make it to where we have seen the eagle’s nest in past years. We had been paddling upstream for about 1.25 hrs by this time, and this being only our second paddle of the year, we were pretty tired. It took 45 min to get back to the put-in but not an entirely effortless paddle due to the wind.

Wildlife: great blue herons, a small heron-probably a green heron, swallows, kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds, dragonflies, and (heard, but not seen) sandhill cranes and an owl.




Starkweather farther than ever

This paddle started out as usual on Starkweather Creek. We took some friends there who had not had the pleasure yet. The day was great for it, perfect water level and no scum issue.

When we got passed under East Washington St and got to the area where we usually turn around due to deadfall we were delighted that the obstacles have been removed. We got to paddle farther than we ever have! We suppose we have Friends of Starkweather Creek to thank for that.

The route took us passed Bridges Golf Course where we interacted with a few golfers and it went on from there. It was very pretty. We turned around due to time instead of obstacles but later recognizance proved there really was not much farther to go – we were almost at the airport!

Lower Nemahbin 2016

Lower Nemahbin Lake is enjoyable because the water is clear; big boats are usually not a problem on weekdays in the parts we like to paddle; and in the channel among the reeds north of the public landing, the Bark River provides a gentle current. We chose a sunny, not-too-hot, mid-July, mid-week day. There is a parking lot and a private boat ramp and public dock off Sawyer Rd. So far, the local residents don’t seem to mind that we launch our canoe from their ramp. We are not experienced at docks and tend to avoid them. One man was throwing tennis balls to his two labs at the ramp. He was very friendly and kept his dogs at his side while we launched.

We encountered a couple of annoying wave runners in the narrow channel among the reeds, but otherwise it was the usual leisurely sparsely-populated float back to the outlet of the Bark River at Sawyer Rd. The bridge is being replaced, and there was a lot of construction equipment and noise. We’ll see next summer if there are any changes to the small dam here and if accommodations are made to make it easier to continue down the Bark. We’ve watched paddlers try to run the dam or drag their boats up the bank and across the road. Apparently it’s considered doable.

Along the channel leading to the egress of the Bark River, there are several homes and docks. We passed a man repairing a canoe who told us he had been repairing boats for 30 years.

Wildlife: we see lots of fish in the clear shallow water.  Otherwise, we haven’t seen much wildlife here except for red-winged blackbirds which have nests in the reeds.

Distance from Madison: approx 50 miles, 45 minutes

Aztalan was not the plan

Instead of working on our weekend “to do” list, we decided to find a river. It was late in the day so headed for one of the closest favorite spots, the Bark River at Burnt Village in Fort Atkinson. To our dismay, it was totally green with algae and was no place for any kind of enjoyment. We headed for the Crawfish.

Something new since our last visit long ago – the city of Jefferson does not want boats using the entry/exit that is in “the canoe book”. Instead, they built a boat ramp 1/2 mile down river from the convergence of the Rock (at the dam) and the Crawfish. With only one care on this day, paddle upstream on the Rock was not desirable – thus and so headed up to the Crawfish River put in at Aztalan State Park.

Water level: 189cfs – much too shallow to go south toward Jefferson and the lowest water level for our canoe going north.

We paddled upstream 1 hour to the 94 bridge.

Wildlife: heron, turtle, shore bird, kingfisher, cranes in flight, carp – big fish.