5/25/2016 0 comments

Crawfish River III

County Road I to County Road G
☆ ☆ ☆

Probably the prettiest stretch of the Crawfish River, this is a relaxing ride on a slow stream where you shouldn’t ever have to worry about water levels or portaging obstructions, instead take in the outstanding wildlife and attractive surroundings. This trip is a perfect place to decompress with friends and just float downstream on a lazy weekend afternoon.

Agricultural drumlin.

April 17, 2016

Class Difficulty:

1' per mile.

Milford: ht/ft: 4.30 | cfs: 1600

Recommended Levels:
This is a very recommendable level.

County Road I, Portland area, Wisconsin, Jefferson County
County Road G

Time: Put in at 2:40p. Out at 5:30p.
Total Time: 2h 50m
Miles Paddled: 6.75

Wildlife: Great blue heron, sandhill cranes, painted turtles, frogs, flopping fish, muskrat, snowy egrets (in season), groundhog, flopping fish, deer, turkey and pheasants.
Time worth driving to: 1 hour.

The Crawfish doesn’t get much love. It’s wide, slow, deep and flat. It’s mostly surrounded by fields of corn or soy. What’s there to love? Hell, what’s there even to like? Well, the upstream portions – that is, before the Beaver Dam merges with it, after which the two already wide streams become a big fat boring river.

Up here it’s surprisingly pleasant. This trip begins and ends at an official Glacial Heritage Area landing; the takeout in particular provides a designated parking area too as part of the Waterloo Wildlife Area. The mostly contiguous parcels of land comprising the wildlife area are by no means wilderness – you’ll encounter some houses as well as many farm fields and barns – but where the surroundings are isolated, the effect is one of true intimacy.

One fun novelty of this trip is the option for getting sidetracked (in a good way). There are several opportunities for backwater exploration, most of them on river-right and between the put-in and County Road BB. The first of these is within the first mile, where you’ll even see a small undeveloped landing on the right. It leads to a small wetland with very pretty surroundings. Another is the mouth of the Maunesha River itself, which you can paddle upstream as far as your heart desires (the current is slack, so this is easy to do). There’s a surreal rock quarry with almost otherworldly-looking mounds of golden sand that’s pretty cool to look at.

Below County Road BB are the only islands on this trip (and some of the only anywhere on the Crawfish). They break up the stream and offer a couple places to get out and stretch your legs. The stretch between BB and the takeout is a bit more agricultural than the upstream portion but the perspective from the water remains pretty and tranquil. There’s a steep hillside to the right with a couple attractive oak trees and boulders. There’s another backwater to explore on the far left about a half-mile upstream of the takeout. Be sure to look behind you about from time to time, as there’s a lovely hill that provides a great backdrop to this bypassed section of the Crawfish.

What we liked:
Exploring the backwaters is always a fun diversion. You just never know what critters will be hanging out back there. We saw a focused heron hunting for frogs, paying us no mind. There are a few scenes of soft hills in the background – particularly esthetic in autumn.

As you approach County Road BB you’ll see an iconic barn atop a small hill overlooking the river valley, quintessential Wisconsin. The islands in the second “half” of this trip add a dash of distinction, and there are several moments here and there where the landscape feels nicely preserved (despite the development often nearby). All in all, given that the Crawfish is a wide river, there are several stretches just in this short trip where the feeling while on the water is one of intimacy.

What we didn't like:
The first mile is pretty unremarkable. After a right and left bend, you’ll pass a random road with a line of houses tucked in the base of what otherwise would be a very cool looking drumlin. After this another mile of somewhat monotonous woods on river-left (but it all improves after this, where the scenery really is lovely.) To be sure, the current is next to nonexistent and the water is deep and muddy.

You don’t want to paddle against the wind on this river, as it can be very unforgiving. But no one would seek out the Crawfish for its clear water, fun current or sense of privacy. Rather, this is a solid and truly pleasant float trip with friends for an easy day on the water.

If we did this trip again:
I really like this trip and would do it again (actually, this was my second time). I don’t recommend it in spring, however, as the bare trees don’t really add to the experience. Instead, this trip is especially pretty in autumn, with blushing foliage here and there.

Related Information
Crawfish River I: Milford to Jefferson
Crawfish River II: Olson Road to Aztalan State Park
Crawfish River North Branch: Fall River to Columbus-Fall River Road
Miles Paddled Video: Crawfish River I: Milford to Jefferson
General: Glacial Heritage Area
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Video: Wisconsin Paddles
Wikipedia: Crawfish River


Shuttle Information:
10 miles.

Photo Gallery:

Easy put-in at County Road I.

Entering the Wateloo Wildlife Area.

Wisconsin Gothic.

Receding into the reflection.

Another attractive modest hill.

One of several inviting backwater (October 2014).

Peekaboo deer (October 2014).

Very palette of colors in autumn (October 2014).

Approaching the County Road G bridge (October 2014).

Takeout at County Road G.
5/14/2016 1 comments

Honey Creek (Walworth)

Bell School Road to County Road DD
☆ ☆ ☆

Honey Creek is a delightful stream with attractively clear water, a sandy bottom (occasionally gravelly), many riffles, a couple light rapids and a view or two of pleasant hills. Alas, you’ll also encounter some deadfall to portage and increasing development along the banks towards the take-out.

Creekin' on the Honey.

April 16, 2016

Class Difficulty:
Class I

5' per mile


Recommended Levels:
There is no gauge for Honey Creek and correlating would be purely speculative. It’s best to visually scout at either the Hill Valley Road or Highway 20 bridge to determine the height. The creek was relatively low when we paddled it, making for a few scraping moments but still totally paddleable. Higher levels would have made the riffles and light rapids even more fun.

Bell School Road, north of Honey Creek, Wisconsin, Walworth County
County Road DD/Academy Road

Time: Put in at 12:10p. Out at 3:30p.
Total Time: 3h 20m
Miles Paddled: 8.75

Wildlife: At least 30 soft-shell turtles, many painted turtles, frogs, songbirds and a muskrat.
Time worth driving to: 45 minutes.

Quietly meandering between the Mukwonago and White Rivers in southeastern Wisconsin is the charming Honey Creek. We’d heard about this stream before but had never put it on the to-do list. That is, until a fan of the site recently recommended it to us. (Thanks again Matt! We love exploring new places but trip suggestions from readers make the experience extra special. Psst... anyone is welcome to send us suggestions or recommendations - we’re always eager to explore the obscure).

Based on the tip, plus what we could surmise from the satellite map, this trip is probably the best section of Honey Creek. Upstream from Bell Section Road are a couple small dams and downstream from Academy Road, the creek runs parallel to a lake in a skinny canal-like ditch then goes through an extended marsh/wetlands complex before emptying into the White River in Burlington.

That said, the first two-thirds of this trip are great: the water is clear as a bell, lusciously sandy, with little development (except "temporary development" - the near-constant presence of the trains sitting idle on the tracks which flanked the left-bank for a couple miles) and the riffles are frequent and fun.

Wildlife was outstanding and every once in a while, a picturesque hill came into view, reminding us that all things considered, the creek is pretty close to sections of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Downstream from County Road D you’ll encounter the town of Honey Creek, where houses dot the shoreline. Interestingly, it’s between here and the takeout where we encountered the only obstructions of the day.

The three miles from County Road D to the takeout are less pretty and more monotonous than upstream and the water is less riffly. Neither the put-in nor the takeout is developed but both are easy and pretty convenient.

What we liked:
Honey Creek has a steady current, terrifically clear water, a luscious sandy bottom, a number of fun riffles (plus a few minor but fun ledges and drops below Highway 20 and some private bridges), attractive surroundings and outstanding wildlife (by far, we saw the most soft-shell turtles on this trip than anywhere). It’s a very pleasant experience all around and we were delighted (and a little surprised) by it. We were actually expecting a slog of a paddle but that wasn't the case. This is a solid trip to paddle. We didn’t think to check whether County Road D has a decent access point but taking-out there would make for a great little 6-mile trip.

What we didn't like:
OK, before you book the next ticket to the Honey Creek express, bear in mind that it’s not an extraordinary or spectacular trip; it’s just very nice all around. It’s never terribly dramatic or all that isolated (which is notable, considering on how long of a drive you’re looking at to get to the creek).

The segment from County Road D to the takeout is admittedly, less spectacular. While upstream there was abundant evidence of sawed off tree limbs, (thank you volunteers!) the lower section beholds all sorts of crap in the water. Some of the obstructions we could negotiate, some we sawed off and cleared out ourselves (well, Timothy did - to his credit) and some we just had to portage around. None of these were all that bad but after preparing to encounter obstructions yet finding none in the first six miles, this was an unwelcome outcome. Not really a deal-breaker in and of itself but given that up to this point you’ll have paddled the best there is on this trip, there’s little redeeming in this segment.

If we did this trip again:
If we lived in the area, or were nearby on another adventure and the water were a bit higher, we’d revisit this section. But considering it’s a 90-minute drive from Madison, it’s doubtful we’d return just to paddle this trip again. But we’re very glad to have learned about and paddled this creek. It actually exceeded our initial inclinations. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Related Information
General: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


Shuttle Information:
6 miles.

Photo Gallery:

The put-in on Bell School Road.

Pretty environs immediately.

Train tracks (and maybe even cars) flank the left bank.

The occasional mild riffle.

Hill Valley Road bridge.

Easily negotiable deadfall for the first 5 or so miles.

Small farm bridge.

The tracks reappear.

Highway 20/Hill Drive bridge.

Private bridge.

Pretty shallows.

Narrow and woodsy approach to County D/Washington Avenue.

County D/Washington Avenue bridge.

Retaining wall.

A man on a mission.

Old Highway DD bridge.

Some non-negotiable deadfall.

A banana bridge.

Another private bridge with a great little drop beneath it.

One of a number of turtles.

Another private bridge.

And yet another private bridge, this one with a burning stump.

Approaching County Road DD/Academy Road bridge.

The take-out at County Road DD.