Crawfish River from Aztalan after Bark River Abort

After finding the Bark River covered with duckweed, we decided we would try putting in on the Rock River in Jefferson and paddle the short distance upstream into the Crawfish River. However, there was a sign at the old landing on the Rock River in Jefferson that read “For Emergency Personnel Only.” Apparently the public now has to use a different landing 1/2 mile further downstream where big boats more likely to be present, and also we felt it would be too far to paddle upstream to get to the Crawfish. Therefore, we got back in the car and proceeded to Aztalan State Park. Temperature 80° light wind.

Flow Crawfish River at Milford gauge 05426000: 189 cfs. (median ~110 cfs) We later found we had made notes in the margin of Paddling Southern Wisconsin that we “should not do the Crawfish if the flow at Milford is <310 cfs," notes we had made after an Aztalan to Jefferson paddle several years ago. However, we didn't have the book with us, or we might have just called it a day. The trip: In at 4:45 PM, upstream one hour to I 94, out 6:30 PM. Shallow, near-grounding once, glanced off rocks near landing. Wildlife: kingfishers, herons, turtles, plover, swallows, cranes in flight, jumping fish.

Mississippi River with a guide

We bid and won an auction item from the River Alliance – a guided Mississippi River paddle with John Sullivan! Since up to four paddlers could go, we gave it to our friends for a Xmas present. We enjoyed our stay in Alma, WI the night prior to the paddle.

… a one-of-a-kind trip that will give you insights about America’s River that you can’t get anywhere else.  John will lead a group by canoe or kayak, into the fascinating world of the back waters and sloughs of the Mississippi River. Paddle through braided rivers of grass, towering floodplain forests, and backwater river channels. Take in the wonder of the flora and fauna that inhabit this unique ecosystem.

John has amazing knowledge of the Mississippi and has paddled quite a bit of it. Read more at his website

A nice bed and breakfast in Alma, WI

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.

Trask Bridge Quick trip

Pretty, late fall paddle

Started at Trask Bridge and went right upstream. In 5:15. Turn around after 1.5 miles. Out: 6:40. Temperature 70 and sunny.

cfs Freeport 675 slightly higher for median on this date. Do not try upstream above this flow. Current is as strong as we can handle.

No boats. No deadfall. Occasional branches or sticking up. River is wide, no problem going around.

Wildlife: herons, turtle, swallows, woodpecker, geese, duck, kingfisher.

Electronic gates were closed when we drove out but we were able to get them open. whew.

Checked out put-in at Pecatonica River Forest Preserve. Looks good.

This trip was after sculpture maintenance and before Skype call with Singapore.

Turtle Creek (first time!)

Setting: We wanted to try this creek after reading about it on We had scouted several landings a couple of weeks ahead of time and concluded that the Co Hwy C (Fairfield) put-in and the “pipeline” take-out (just off S. O’Riley Rd) would be best for us.  We interrogated a group of casual paddlers as they passed under the E.Creek Rd bridge in canoes and kayaks. They seemed to be having a great time.  They had put in at “Fairfield” and were going to take out at the “pipeline.” They said they had encountered no obstructions, floated easily over the weeds and had paddled this creek many times. Flow was about 70 cfs that day.  We watched them navigate the deadfall below the bridge, and no one seemed to have any trouble.  For our outing we chose a sunny Friday afternoon, temp around 80.  P accompanied us in her kayak.

Water level: 87 cfs USGS 05431486 Turtle Creek at Carver’s Rock Road near Clinton, WI (median for 8/21: 65 cfs)   It had rained about 0.5 inches 3 days before which had briefly increased the flow to around 200 cfs.

Put-in: bridge on Co Hwy C (Fairview) at 4:30 pm. There is space along the shoulder on both sides of the bridge for 3-4 cars. Be careful doing a U-turn on the road because the speed limit is 55, and it’s impossible to see vehicles approaching from the north side of the bridge around the blind curve.  We put in upstream left from the bridge.  There is no gravel or concrete ramp, but the put-in is well used, fairly level, and we didn’t have much trouble launching the kayak and canoe.  P took her kayak through the nearest arch.  We paddled upstream a few feet and went through the middle arch.

The shuttle: Southeast on Co Hwy C about 1/4 mi to Clowes Rd. Right on Clowes Rd to the T at E. Creek Rd. Right on E. Creek Rd, over the bridge to S.O’Riley Rd. Left on S. O’Riley Rd to the turn-off (left) to the parking lot at the “pipeline” just past the RR tracks.  Shuttle is 2.8 miles.

The paddle:  Although the current looked fairly swift at the put in, we did not have any difficulty at the launch or during the paddle.  Probably the current is too swift, however, to do this trip without a shuttle, even at low water levels.  The water was clear but with long strands of vegetation under the surface which did not slow the boats.  We did notice that P had to remove strings of vegetation from her paddle every few strokes during the first mile or two.  There were intermittent stands of tall stalks of some type of grass. These could be easily avoided or paddled through.  Depth seemed to vary from a few inches to 3-4 feet.  No grounding. We had to maneuver around some tree debris just below the E.Creek Rd bridge, but with the slow current it wasn’t too scary. Otherwise, the creek was unobstructed by deadfall.  The setting was isolated and pretty with nice reflections in the afternoon light. The creek was fairly twisty in places.  Lots of shade but open sunny stretches as well.  There were no houses.  Probably the part we paddled was entirely within the Turtle Creek Wildlife Area.  The trip was about 4.2 miles.

Wildlife: not as much as we expected. Fish, flycatchers, swallows, dragonflies. No turtles or herons.

Take-out: 6:20 pm at “pipeline” off S. O’Riley Rd, just downstream from the RR bridge. Small drop off at landing but not a major problem for the canoe or kayak. It was not muddy, and we didn’t have to step into the water to get out. There is a nice gravel parking lot.  No facilities.

Two Faces of Starkweather Creek

July 30, 2015

Setting: Friday evening, temp about 80, sunny. We planned a short urban paddle on a creek we hadn’t been on for several years, followed by music of Hanggai in the park across the street from the launch

Water level: adequate, no gauge.

Put in: at the excellent concrete ramp at Olbrich Park at 6:55 pm.

The paddle: M had scouted the creek that day by bike along the Starkweather Creek Bike Path to confirm that it was not obstructed or too scummy.  For the first 1/2 mile or so, we could hear the music of Dengue Fever at the “Silk Road” Sessions on the other side of Atwood Ave. The water level was good for paddling, and the surface was generally clear of invasives.  There was minimal trash (sometimes a problem along this urban creek), and no unpleasant odors.  The Friends of Starkweather Creek organize creek clean-ups periodically. We appreciate the efforts of these volunteers. We paddled upstream to just north of the dog park on Commercial, just south of Hwy 30. We turned around so we could get back in time to see Hanggai at 8:30.

Wildlife: many mallard ducks, one black cat under the Milwaukee St bridge, possibly the pet of the person who put the couch under this bridge?

Take out: 8:15.  We carried our chairs and our beet rollups across the street and arrived just as Hanggai started their set. We split a beer from one of the food stands and enjoyed a cool mosquito-free evening on the shore of Lake Monona under a blue moon listening to our favorite Mongolian band.  #magical


August 4, 2015

Setting: Tues evening, sunny, temp in low 80’s. We wanted to see if we could get past Hwy 30 into the Starkweather Creek Wildlife Area.

Put in: Oldbrich Park launch at 6:45pm

The paddle: We were not able to go much farther than our previous paddle due to an obstruction by tree debris, and since we don’t do portaging, we turned around. The water level was definitely lower than the week before, and the surface was scummier. We got a bit hung up on rocks under the E.Washington St bridge but didn’t flip or have to get out of the canoe.  We passed up the takeout and paddled into Lake Monona a few yards to get some photos of the Capitol before heading back to the takeout.

Wildlife: many mallard ducks, a cormorant?

Take out: 7:30

Take away: best to canoe Starkweather Creek after a decent rain.


August 30, 2015

Setting: Sunday evening, temp in the upper 70’s. We wanted to try the east branch of the creek. We encountered lots of big boats coming and going at the launch, leaving the smell of diesel hanging over the area.

Put-in: Olbrich launch 4:35pm

The paddle: We took the east fork but could not get under the temporary footbridge erected for the bridge reconstruction by Severson’s gas station, so we reversed course and paddled the west branch again as far as the E.Washington St bridge. The water was higher than the last paddle, and the rocks under the bridge were barely visible. The water level was good for paddling, and we took photos of the water level that we can refer to when are thinking about paddling this creek in the future.

Take out: 6:00pm

Wildlife: many mallards, which entertained us by leapfrogging over each other as they paddled ahead of us, and at least 30 turtles sunning on rocks and logs.