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.


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.

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.

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.


Fox River at Lock Rd

Thursday afternoon paddle D&M 82 degrees
This trip is a section of Fox River 2 in Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Flow at Berlin gauge 04073500: 758 cfs (median for this day 700 cfs)
Lv Madison 3:30 PM, put in 4:55, take out 7:15, ar Madison 9:15.

Put in/take out at end of Lock Road, off Huckleberry Rd. Excellent landing with concrete ramp and dock and plenty of parking but no bathrooms.

The trip: downstream for one hour, approx 2 mi. Upstream 1 hour 20 minutes. At least part of this section goes through White River Marsh State Wildlife Area. According to the map, we passed the entry of White River, but we did not identify it. The scenery was pleasant but not as pretty as the Princeton to Lock Rd section. Water level was fine, with no grounding, no blockages, no riffles/rapids. The current is slow so paddling upstream is easy.

Wildlife: many heron, kingfishers, turtles, swallows, ?fly catcher, jumping fish, hawk, plover, one squirrel.
Didn’t identify and treat of white river. Pleasant scenery but not as pretty as Princeton to lock Road section.

Looking for the dam Fox River, White River Park

Fox River: figuring out the mystery of the White River Lock and Dam

We left from the east side of Madison and took US 151 to WI 73.  For the return route, we decided to go WI 23 through Montello, which is about the same time and distance but a slightly prettier drive in my opinion. Also, More Healthy Foods is in Montello.  You should stop there to eat if they are open when you pass through.  Watch out for deer in Marquette and Columbia County in the evening. We always see them along the side of the road.

The Paddling Southern Wisconsin book, which we use extensively as a reference, describes a dam just downstream from the put-in, requiring a portage. On other trips when we took out at the White River Lock landing, we didn’t see any signs warning of a dam.  We returned on a warm July day to solve the mystery of the dam.  As it turns out, there is no dam.  Checking online after the paddle, we found that it was removed in 2004.

The current is slow, the water murky but fairly clean with relatively little duckweed or other other invasives clogging the river. There are no riffles or rapids, and it was relatively easy for two lol’s to paddle upstream, eliminating the need for a shuttle. The river flows through a state wildlife area and feels quite isolated. There are sandy banks where one could take out and have a picnic, but those places are usually too buggy for us.  The banks are mostly tree lined, which does provide some shade.

As on previous paddles on the Fox downstream from Princeton, motorboats were not an issue for us. We did encounter one rude jet ski which did not slow down at all when passing us.  He misunderstood our (ahem) raised hand and responded with a wave.

Overall, this was a lovely trip but not quite as pretty as the section from Princeton to the White River Lock landing.

Put-in, Take-out and Parking

The put-in/take-out at the White River Lock landing is excellent, with a pier and a concrete ramp. The parking lot is large. There are no bathroom facilities.


Getting there: Car distance from Madison to put-in at White River Lock and Dam landing: 69 mi, 1.5 hr.

Paddling Time & Distance: 2 mi downstream, 2 mi upstream. 2hrs 20min (Put in 4:55 pm. Take out 7:15)

Flow at Berlin station: 728 cf/s (mean flow for this day-700)

Temp 82, sunny


We saw a number of Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers, one of whom seemed quite upset that we were on his river. We also saw turtles, jumping fish, swallows, a hawk, plover and a small crested bird which may have been an Acadian Flycatcher.
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Ennis Lake 2015

The Setting: Afternoon paddle before Friday evening dinner and Celtic music at More Health Foods in Montello, which is close to Ennis Lake. We carpooled with DD and LN who went for a late afternoon hike around the lake while we paddled.

Put in/Take out: there is a ramp and dock in John Muir Memorial County Park at the west end of the lake.

The Paddle: leisurely one-hour paddle on this serene isolated lake with clear water very sparkly in the late afternoon sun (see video). DD, who had not canoed for years, accepted an invitation to paddle around with Deb for awhile before we packed up and headed for Montello to have dinner and hear Granuaile, a Celtic trio composed of Joy, Linda and Rory. Driving home on this clear night, Venus and Jupiter were visible close together next to the crescent moon.