4/30/2016 0 comments

Pre-Order: Canoeing & Kayaking South Central Wisconsin: 60 Paddling Adventures Within 60 Miles of Madison

I couldn’t be more excited to announce that one half of Miles Paddled, Mr. Timothy Bauer, has a guidebook about to launch in 45 days.

Following in the footsteps of notable paddling guide staples, Timothy has added to the paddling landscape by highlighting opportunities in the Southern Wisconsin area. Much like Michael Duncanson, or the derivative paddling bible, Paddling Southern Wisconsin by Mike Svob, his guide provides updated information on a few familiar destinations conveniently located near Madison, but much like Frank Piraino, he covers the in-betweens and otherwise undiscovered gems located in our own backyard.

The premise of this book is simple: 60 trips within 60 miles of Madison. In addition to being the capital of the state, Madison provides a tidy geological demarcation such that everything to the east was glaciated in the last Ice Age some 13,000 years ago, while everything to the west wasn’t. With Madison at the center, the 60-mile circumference extends to Platteville to the southwest, Horicon to the northeast, Lake Geneva to the southeast, and Wonewoc to the northwest.

This book primarily offers single-day outings, with the exception of a few trips that require a one-night minimum campout on a river (or two nights, depending on your pace and water levels). The landscapes these rivers and creeks course through are as varied as the streams themselves: Driftless cliffs and glacier-deposited drumlin hills, gentle prairies and wind-swept marshes, oak savannas and floodplain swamps, just to name a few. There are even a few lake trips featured, for flatwater enthusiasts, all of them protected from gas-motor engines.

It is Timothy’s sincere belief that you can find wildness in your own backyard without having to drive five hours to seek out wilderness. While wilderness experiences are certainly wonderful, they’re impractical for most of us who are just looking for fun spots close to home but are still pretty, protected, and offer momentary escapes. This book offers both off-the-beaten path water trails as well as established trips, and for beginner paddlers and experienced ones alike. There’s something for everyone.

He's put in countless hours documentary these paddles, dozens of which are not posted on milespaddled.com. We can't wait to share this with you. Preorder now on Amazon.com.

4/29/2016 0 comments

Yahara River XI

Windsor to Highway 113
☆ ☆

A section fraught with deadfall and other obstructions, this trip will frustrate all but gluttons for punishment and paddling masochists.

Attractive before it gets, well, ugly.

April 9, 2016

Class Difficulty:

4' per mile (first 3 miles), then 2' per mile, then <1' per mile.

Windsor: ht/ft: 1.5 | cfs: 40

Recommended Levels:
We don’t recommend paddling this trip. At all. Ever.

Windsor Road, Windsor, Wisconsin
Highway 113/Northport Drive, Madison, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 1:20p. Out at 5:25p.
Total Time: 4h 5m
Miles Paddled: 9

Wildlife: Huge trout, lots of wood ducks, bald eagles, hawks, turkey vultures and several dozen sandhill cranes.
Time worth driving to: It isn't.

To be fair, I expected this trip to suck (which it did). Being so close to Madison, there had to be a reason why we’d never had any info on this section of the otherwise popular Yahara River. True, there is a 1.5-mile stretch that winds through a golf course (interestingly though, this was the funnest part of the whole trip.) Then there is a wooly (and slightly wild) unknown from the interstate to Cherokee Marsh. And finally there’s slogging through the marsh itself.

It was reasonable to expect the golf course section to be clear, perhaps with a low-clearance bridge or two to portage around (in fact, there was just one requiring a portage). And I knew that the marsh would be open. It’s that middle section that was a crapshoot. I expected there to be downed trees and logjams – though not as many as there actually are.

Also, to put this in context, a trip like this is almost set up to fail in that it combines pretty much everything we dislike about paddling: a manicured golf course landscape, four thousand downed trees, mud, marsh and lake paddling. So why even bother? Indeed, why waste a perfectly good weekend afternoon on something with so little promise? Well, because we’re a bit OCD about completing rivers and this missing link had always felt like an annoying hangnail, especially since it’s in our backyard. The good news is now this is done and out of the way - to be locked up and closeted, never to be done again. The bad news is it took actually doing it to know this.

What we liked:
The golf course section is surprisingly engaging. There are many riffles as well as deep pools. And in those deep pools were schools of huge trout, perfectly visible in the crystal clear water. It was actually shocking to see so many fish of that size over and over. Being a golf course, I don’t think anyone’s fishing there and perhaps the trout have caught onto that fact. But I encountered at least half a dozen such schools with at least a dozen foot-long (or even 18”-long) brown trout. That was very cool.

There are occasional moments between the interstate and Highway 19 where the landscape has a rugged, out-of-the-way feel to it, with little development and some attractive raised banks. There are even three drops in this section – the first a fun runnable ledge, the second (and third), two farmer fords that could be run in higher water but otherwise have to be portaged.

Cherokee Marsh is a pretty wetland complex on Madison’s northside. It doesn’t make for the most interesting paddling per se – it’s better by boots than boats – but we’re awfully glad it’s here. It does have good wildlife, however. I passed at least 15 sandhill cranes standing in the water at one point, while others swooped overhead.

What we didn't like:
The portaging on this trip is pretty horrific, frankly. I kept thinking these two things during the ordeal: A) we should have a second website called “milesportaged.com” and this section of the river should be renamed the “Yahorror.” I stopped counting after 14 because it seemed beside the point. But the actual amount of downed trees or logjams would be easily in the 40s. Seriously.

I was pretty stubborn in the beginning by forging my way through or over obstructions without getting out of my boat. But there’s only so much one can do and after a certain point you need to just give up. Also, this is one of those environments where when you do get out and portage, it’s prudent to take a short walk to scout what lies downstream before getting back in your boat. Because there’s going to be another logjam. And then another. And another after that. Over and over, mile after mile. Fortunately, most of the land from Highway 19 to the marsh itself is public, so when you take your boat for long walks, at least you’re not trespassing. But it’s still freaking miserable.

And then there’s the marsh – 3 long miles of foot-deep water. It was initially a relief to enter it, as it meant no more portaging, and it is indeed pretty at the upper-most section, before development on both banks encroaches further south. There are only two public accesses on the marsh, one off Wheeler Road on the east bank (which cuts the lake paddling by a mile), the other at Highway 113 though technically part of a Dane County park called Yahara Heights, off of Catfish Court, where there’s a dog park. I chose the latter for purely nostalgic reasons, as it’s a place to which I’ve taken my own dog many times when I used to live on this side of town. The only bad thing about this access is it’s a 400’ walk from the dock (which was donated by Rutabaga) to the parking lot – one more “portage” after a long day of it.

If we did this trip again:
Absolutely not. Nobody should. It just isn’t worth it. There really isn’t anything redeemable about this trip.

Related Information
Yahara River Overview: Yahara River Paddling Guide
Yahara River I: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Yahara River II: Stebbensville Road to County Road H, Rock River
Yahara River III: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Yahara River IV: Murwin County Park to Janesville
Yahara River V: Veteran's Memorial Park to Windsor Road
Yahara River VI: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
Yahara River VII: Veteran's Memorial Park to Windsor Road
Yahara River VIII: Lake Kegonsa to Stoughton
Yahara River IX: Stoughton to Stebbinsville Road
Yahara River X: Mud Lake to Lake Kegonsa
Miles Paddled Video: Yahara River III: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Miles Paddled Video: Yahara River VI: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
General: Village of DeForest
Good People: Friends of the Yahara River
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Guide: Yahara Waterways Trail Guide
Map: Yahara Borders Trail
Map: Upper Yahara River Trails
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Wikipedia: Yahara River


Shuttle Information:
6 miles.

Photo Gallery:

Put-in off Windsor Road.

Riffly and beautifully clear water through the golf course.

Just a few of several dozen brown trout in the gold course.

Binocular culverts.

Fun little descent through the culvert.

Approaching the interstate box culvert - with April icicles.

Entering the unknown below the interstate.

You just don't see such a sign too often while paddling.

Fun little ledge before...

...you come upon something like this, the first of a gazillion.

Farmer's ford to portage.

Remnants of another ford or a dam.

Number 7 of 40ish.

A rare pretty stretch without having to portage...

Until this (I stopped taking photos of logjams at this point).

Someone's a little camera shy... or dead.

The backwaters of Cherokee Marsh - no more portaging!

Incoming to Dane County Airport.

Sort of helpful signs acknowledging that you're not really lost.

There are some gentle hills around the marsh.

The new water tower atop Lakeview Hill.

Cooling off their feet in the shallow water.

The dock, signaling the end of this trip, hurrah!

Located at the upstream side, right, of the Highway 113 bridge.

Very cool (but the marsh doesn't make for the funnest of paddling).

Thanks Darren and co.!
4/22/2016 0 comments

Maunesha River VI

Marshall to Firemen's Park
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A return trip to mark an anniversary of sorts, this second time around was even prettier and less difficult than the first. Great wildlife, a surprisingly scenic landscape, fantastically fun moving water and a thrilling ride of nonstop rapids for the last two miles – this is the Maunesha from Marshall to Waterloo.

Little rapid 50' down from the put-in.

April 3, 2016

Class Difficulty:
Class I(II)

4' per mile (except for the last 2 miles, where the river drops 10' per mile).


Recommended Levels:
If the water is high, we recommend paddling this. So, try catching it after some rain or still early in spring. If you’re nearby, a good visual gauge is any of the bridges in downtown Waterloo where there are rapids. If they’re high enough, everything else will be as well.

Marshall Dam off Waterloo Road, Marshall, Wisconsin
Firemen's Park, Waterloo, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 1:40p. Out at 5:40p.
Total Time: 4h (including 45 minutes of clearing jams + a 30-minute backwaters excursion)
Miles Paddled: 8.25

Wildlife: Great blue heron, wood ducks galore, nesting geese, bluejays, kingfisher, sandhill cranes, beaver dams, muskrat, three groundhogs and three deer.
Time worth driving to: 1 hour.

A return trip to the river that essentially started me on the whole “who needs guidebooks?” mindset when wondering about where to go paddling each weekend (ironically, this mindset then inspired me to write a guidebook of my own – about places not found in other guidebooks. This should come out in a couple months, about whose publication/release we shall say more when the time comes). So while the manuscript is in the editing phase with the last touches being put on before it goes to the printer, it seemed appropriate to go back to the trip that more or less started things, three years ago, almost to the day.

This time around we started right below the dam in Marshall and added another mile, which was pleasant (though not essential). You’ll have to schlep your gear about 30 yards from the road. There's an unpaved path that leads to the water but it’s very muddy, ruddy and not approachable unless you have a high-clearance AWD vehicle, and it’s ambiguous whether this is a public right-of-way. The only real advantage to putting-in here is a small rapid about 40’ from the put-in and adding another mile to this otherwise short trip. You’ll see the sights (and in season, hear the sounds) of Little Amerricka to the south as the river meanders underneath Highway 19 twice. Or you can simply skip this and begin the trip at the next two bridges, Koch and Waterloo roads, respectively.

What we liked:
When we first paddled this trip back in April 2013 the river was higher, the current stronger. This time around, the water was lower (but still higher than summer/autumn), the current less pushy. It was a great level, actually, and in retrospect I wish I’d marked a bridge or fixed some kind of visual cue for future reference. Being higher than normal, we could ride/ butt-scoot over a couple down trees that might otherwise pose problems in lower levels. And the rapids towards the end were fantastic!

That said, the 2-3’ drop at the railroad trestle bridge had notably less water flushing through its chute, which made running it a little dodgy. Rather than sliding down diagonally, this was more a boof-esque kerplunk. We both ran it, stayed upright, and then dewatered the boats at the bottom. As we’ve mentioned before, this drop is tricky because there are pylon remnants that you want to avoid but have only very narrow elbowroom to avoid running into. Given the velocity of the current, bumping into one of these can be, um, unpleasant… But it was an adrenaline spike while doing it, and a fist-bumping moment afterwards.

When the river begins to run parallel to Highway 19 you’ll see a large wetlands complex to your right. We first noticed a large beaver dam and then remarked how surprisingly deep the water was upstream of it. To be clear, this is some backwater or feeder stream of the Maunesha, not the river itself. We thought it would be a fun novelty to explore these backwaters. And so we did for about 30 minutes, on water ranging between 1-3’ deep, on a channel only 4-5’ wide, carefully making our way through tree branches like threading a needle. The loop took us to an even bigger beaver dam – right back to the river itself (though one could easily have continued in a different direction to further explore the backwaters). Here as elsewhere we were happily surprised by how pretty the Maunesha is, more so than either of us had remembered from the past. Indeed, there are several small hills (knolls?) reminiscent of Badfish Creek.

Special praise – OK, maybe amazement – must be given to my paddling accomplice, who on this trip who brought with him a battery-operated sawzall to help cut down tree branches and obstructions. A cordless sawzall in a kayak! This has been a daydream of mine for years, never to manifest in real life until now. So much easier than a handsaw. Maunesha, meet the Handyman! Together, we cleared out every clog where otherwise we would have had to portage around, instead paddling through. Alas, these efforts are futile, we know that. When the water lowers, there will be new obstructions exposed. Or the next time the water rises and drags debris down its way, the latter will cluster and create a new obstruction. And so it is, on the river. But still… a sawzall!

What we didn't like:
There was a lot of litter, especially in the first couple miles. Plastic bottles mainly, your basic tractor tire which probably had rolled down a hill and into the water, plus an old door for good measure. It wasn’t awful but the amount of it was surprising, especially since it’s so early in the year.

If we did this trip again:
Leaving aside my own sentimental reasons for wanting to do this trip again, it really is a fun paddle. The surrounding landscape is quite pretty – more so than I remember it from a few years ago – the current is so much fun, and the wildlife is always diverse. It’s a great length for an afternoon trip, and the shuttle is quick and easy. There will be obstructions here and there but they’re definitely worth putting up with.

Related Information
Maunesha River I: Waterloo Road to Firemen's Park
Maunesha River II: Elder Lane to Twin Lake Road
Maunesha River III: Waterloo to Portland
Maunesha River IV: Elder Lane to Twin Lake Road
Maunesha River V: County Road TT to Canal Road
Good People: Capitol Water Trails
Good People: Maunesha River Alliance
Maps: Capitol Water Trails
Wiki: Maunesha River


Shuttle Information:
5 miles, easy and direct.

Photo Gallery:

Put-in below the dam in Marshall.

Close-up of dam.

Duck, goose.

This is one of my favorite trees of all time.

Handyman vs. Maunesha.

A cordless sawzall in a kayak.

Done and done.

"Friends don't let friends do dumb things... alone."

Not the only one standing in a tree.

Attractive tall banks.

Very cool railroad bridge.

Entering the cool marsh section.

Now that's a beaver dam!

Rogue-paddling the backwaters off of the main river.

Beaver country indeed.

In lower water this section would likely be impossible.

Straight down drop.

A surprisingly wet rapid that soaked us both.
4/22/2016 0 comments

Earth Day Paddling

When we’re on the water we tend to think of cleaning up and clearing out in terms of tree limbs, logs, strainers – natural obstacles that get in the way of paddling. This is understandable given the hassle and safety hazard such obstructions in moving current pose. We paddle rivers to be on the water, not to have to climb over or duck under fallen trees, getting muddy, probably wet, possibly inviting exposure to poisonous plants, etc. I often call such obstructions "tree debris.” From the perspective of a paddler, they’re nuisances – even if cleverly engineered by industrious beavers. Much as to a hammer all the world’s a nail, to the paddler all obstructions in the water are simply seen as crap to get rid of to allow for safe passage.

2015 National River Cleanup Photo Contest winner: Montreal River Cleanup, Ironwood, MI. Photographer: Rob Hanson.

But there’s another type of debris that we often encounter on the water, much to our chagrin, debris that is utterly unnatural in fact – and that is human garbage. Aluminum cans and bottles (plastic and glass) are typically the worst culprits, though the range of garbage bobbing on the water, snagged in a tree branch or washed up on shore is as enormous as it is alarming. Tires, front doors, screens, cinder blocks, bricks, coolers, CDs, styrofoam, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, rubber balls, golf balls, backpacks, dry bags, trash bags, car parts, whole cars, refrigerators, microwaves, stovetops, ovens, chest freezers, table tops; fishing rods, fishing line, flip flops, bras, bathing suits, life jackets, paddles, flip-flops... the list of miscellaneous flotsam is seemingly infinite.

Now, it’s one thing to saw off a branch or unclog a log jam by pulling tangled wood from the water and tossing them aside on the banks. But what about garbage? It’s either impractical or just impossible to haul off large garbage in a kayak. A canoe is a better bet, to be sure, but there are far fewer canoes on the water these days than kayaks. But wherever possible, whenever possible – whether in honor of designated Earth Day itself or always having it in mind – please consider taking a trash bag along on your paddling adventures and pick up any items you can sensibly manage in your boat – or tied down on top of your boat. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Every bit helps and does make a difference and every bit is truly appreciated.
4/15/2016 0 comments

Wisconsin River: Lower Dells Video

Part two of our 2015 fall flotilla captures the beauty of the Lower Dells of the Wisconsin River. (Adjust to 1080p for the best picture).

Wisconsin River XIV
River Bay Road to Norway Drive
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
October 11, 2015