4/08/2015 0 comments

Maunesha River V

County Road TT to Canal Road
☆ ☆

A sluggish trip upstream and down to the interior of the Deansville Marsh and subsequent mile of the Maunesha River before the lake impoundment caused by the dam in Marshall. This trip is only for rugged enthusiasts who don’t mind portaging and dodging deadfall in near-stagnant water.

03
A typical scene is the channelized marsh (there's a bald eagle in that tree).

Date:
April 5, 2015

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater

Gauge:
n/a

Put-In:
County Road TT, Deansville, Wisconsin
Take-Out:
Canal Road, Marshall, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 2:40p. Out at 4:40p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 5.25

Wildlife: Sandhill cranes, great blue herons, a bald eagle, tons of turtles, lots of wood ducks, scores of songbirds and two elusive hooded mergansers.
Time worth driving to: 30-45 minutes (if at all)

This was one of those days were just about nothing goes your way. Originally my plan was to start at Twin Lane Road and paddle one-way to Canal Road, a modest jaunt of 7 miles. I had used Twin Lane Road as the take-out for upstream trips of the Maunesha River before, so I knew it would be shallow and prone to obstructions. I just didn’t know how shallow or clogged it would be. After bottoming out ten feet from putting-in and portaging less than 100 yards from my car, (with nothing in sight ahead but more ugly downed trees and shallow water) I decided to bail, a first for me.

OK, I reasoned, I’ll just regroup and put in at the next bridge downstream, only 1.3 river miles away. Heck, this might even save me time (at least a lot of energy) and I wouldn’t end up looking like Pig-Pen from Peanuts after lots of portaging and sawing off tree limbs. Great idea in theory but each side of the bridge at Greenway Road is marked with “No Trespassing” signs and the presumed associated property owners’ houses are all right there. So that bridge is a non-option.

Not one to be easily stymied, I then drove up the road to the nearest public parking area into the Deansville State Wildlife Area in hopes that I could hike in to the river itself and commando launch. Not so much. After 10 minutes of stomping across a wasteland of down trees, brambles, rocks and thistles only to find a drainage ditch, I gave up trying to find passage to the Maunesha (in retrospect, I now know it’s a 0.4-mile walk to the river from the parking area, still a long schlep to paddle a shallow marsh). I wasn’t about to delve even deeper into a pathless woods with a 50-pound kayak on my shoulder, thank you very much.

So in the end, running out of options, I decided to put in at County Rd TT and paddle upstream (something I am loathe to do) as far into the marsh as I could, or would want to, turn around, paddle down the same way I came, past the put-in and down to the takeout a mile or so later.

What we liked:
At the put-in there is a pleasant woodsy backdrop with a couple rugged cabins on both banks (one a quaint hermitage narrower than the length of the canoe just outside of it). As much as I dislike paddling upstream, the current is so slack it’s none too strenuous – it just feels wrong. Some paddlers probably have no problem about this and don’t think twice about paddling upstream. Call me pampered, but I just find paddling upstream a perversion of the natural order. Who wants to go deliberately against the flow? The flow! It’s like intentionally violating the force in Star Wars. It’s like purposefully undermining the Tao. It’s like running backwards up a hill. It’s like playing catch with your feet. It just ain’t right.

Anyway, the marsh is indeed lovely. It’s nowhere as large or surpassing as Horicon, Necedah, or even Grand Marshes but it’s quite pretty nonetheless and generally undeveloped (you’ll pass a dozen or so drainage ditches gouged into the banks, not to mention the occasional deer stand, but being so close to Madison, it feels like a PG-13 wilderness). The wildlife was quite pleasant here – nothing I haven’t seen before or elsewhere but still much appreciated. There were cranes, great blue herons, a bald eagle, tons of turtles and lots of wood ducks. The choragic chirping of songbirds in surround sound was an especially welcome harbinger of spring!

And this has nothing to do with the river itself but there’s a nearby road called Berlin Road where a section of it courses the perimeter of the wildlife area that is so cool in that rustic, countrified way. It’s unpaved, first of all, and an isthmus-like strip of it is flanked on both sides by water (canals, drainage ditches?). It has the look and feel of somewhere exotic. That such a back-in-time stretch lies still within Dane County, 10 miles away from the Red Lobster and Applebee’s at East Towne Mall is downright charming.

What we didn't like:
To begin with, the accesses… or lack thereof. What’s the deal with the landowners of Greenway Road? It’s the Maunesha River surrounded by cow country... how many people are really storming the bridge here? It’s so shallow and obstructed, I can’t imagine paddlers or anglers come here often, if ever. It’s not a swimming hole. I don’t get what the hostility is about.

Then there’s the obstructions, oh the obstructions. We at Miles Paddled haven’t worked out an exact ratio of obstructions/portages worth putting up with per trip divided by perks like scenic beauty, cool rock formations, rapids, etc, but I think a modest corollary would be like 2:1. If there's something truly good, I'd be willing to endure two inconveniences for each individual charm but the trouble one often runs into is when the inconveniences greatly outweigh the good, or worse – when there’s hardly any good because all one can see are the detriments.

For me, this trip had more bad than good. None of it was awful by any stretch. But the payoff was wanting. I paddled 1/3 of the way upstream into the marsh before deciding that I’d had enough. It got to a point where fallen trees were as far the eye could see and since I would be going back down the same way I came up, every portage was double. After four I’d had my fill. Besides, I didn’t know what to expect once I paddled back downstream and past the put-in. For all I knew, there could be more crap to contend with beyond the marsh. Turns out there is, but it was all negotiable – in a kayak at least (earlier in the day I talked to a guy who’d tried canoeing from the takeout upstream the river but could not get through the railroad trestles (there are two), where there’s a bunch of gunky junk – a loose debris of logs and lumber, pond scum, duck weed, no current, etc.) Houses are more prominent below the put-in too. In fact, except for a brief but attractive hill you pass, there’s very little one would describe as attractive in between County Road TT and Canal Road.

If we did this trip again:
If the marsh were more accessible and clear, I’d paddle up and back down it, putting in and taking out at County Road TT, without going downstream to Canal Road. There is a genuine serenity to the marsh landscape and its abandons that invite the admiring paddler, but the cluttered obstructions together with the poor accesses make this more work than it’s worth. For me at least. I’m not at all discouraging folks from checking this out. Just know what to expect beforehand.

Upon reflection, there’s a saying that to a hammer all the world’s a nail, meaning that a hammer really has only one purpose – to strike nails (oh I know that handyman and -woman enthusiasts will protest that a hammer can be used for dozens of purposes but I didn’t invent this expression, so let’s not argue about it). The same can be said about paddlers, right? To a kayaker and canoeist, every stream looks like a potential trip. No matter how daunting, dangerous, or dumb. We can’t help it, it’s how we’re oriented. You cross a bridge and you look out the side to see what the body of water looks like and whether it can be paddled. But not everything should be paddled, even if it can be.

At the risk of offering some varnished rationalization of a trip gone awry, I find it comforting that there remain huge tracts of land and water left to the domain of wings, rodents and mammals, without paddlers, bird-watcher’s with binocs, fishermen with flies or bait and hunters with their rifles. We’re not lacking in navigable public streams and lakes here in Wisconsin. This trip is for the birds, as it should be.

***************
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
Good People: Capitol Water Trails
Good People: Maunesha River Alliance
Maps: Capitol Water Trails
Wiki: Maunesha River


Map:




Shuttle Information:
1.3 miles.


Photo Gallery:

01
Put-in at County Road TT.

02
How cute is this? A hand-painted sign at the put-in!

04
Lots of logjams and deadfall in the marsh.

05
One of umpteen drainage ditches.

06
More ugly crap in the river.

07
Confluence of one of the larger drainage ditches and the river proper.

08
Pleasant uphill farm field.

09
Another drainage ditch leading to... a silo, oh boy!

10
Seriously? The Koch Brothers here on the Maunesha?!?

11
Pretty vignette upstream of the put-in...

12
...Followed by ugly crap downstream from the put-in

13
Attractive little hill by County Road TT and Canal Road.

14
One of two railroad trestles. Notice the stagnant water!

15
Very elusive hooded merganser near the takeout.

16
Convenient takeout before lake-like impoundment just north of Marshall. Also, always color-coordinate your kayak and shuttle bike whenever possible!

17
Rustic, antiquated Berlin Road nearby.
4/07/2015 0 comments

Sugar River IX

County Road A to Belleville
☆ ☆ ☆

A short and pretty but not terribly remarkable trip on the Upper Sugar ending in the delightful town of Belleville. This is a good place to go for beginners or those looking to knock off a couple hours after work.

05
Shallow river shoals.

Date:
March 28, 2015

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater

Gradient:
1.6' per mile

Gauge:
Verona: ht/ft: 3.04 | cfs: 50

Put-In:
County Road A, Dane County, Wisconsin
Take-Out:
Belleville Community Park, Belleville, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 2:10p. Out at 4:30p.
Total Time: 2h 20m
Miles Paddled: 6.25

Wildlife: Mergansers, two wood ducks, lots of sandhill cranes, one great blue heron, unidentifiable fish and a beaver.
Time worth driving to: 45 minutes

March was a tease this year. After a couple weeks of blissful unseasonable warmth at the beginning, the second half of the month has gone out more like a lion than lamb. The forecast was sunny but upper 30s for Saturday, a little bit warmer for Sunday but rainy and windy. Thus, Saturday was the day for paddling. But the Badgers game in the Elite Eight was shockingly early (5:07 pm CST) so a trip closer to home and not too long on the water was the most sensible choice. The Sugar River seemed like a good bet, despite the low water. I’d done this stretch once before, years ago, but I did not truly cover it for the site. So that’s the back-story.

What we liked:
The Sugar is just a pleasant little gem of a stream. It’s not an amazing river in the sense of jaw-dropping rock outcrops, awesome rapids, or even significant riffles. But it’s close to home, the water clarity (at least in the upper river) is clear, the bottom sandy and the meanders are charming. Notable wildlife spotting is almost always a given, too. I really liked the variety of landscape settings on this short trip. The river flows past wide open spaces with sweeping panoramas of the valley and then tree-canopied spots dotted with thick oaks. There are pleasant bends and tight twists, especially in the wooded sections to keep you on your toes.

As you approach Belleville itself you’ll see a huge ridge – more like an escarpment or cuesta – that runs parallel to Highway 92. In the final section the river bends to the left and crawls past an attractive hill lined with pine trees. It’s around this point that the current comes to a silent halt, due to the lake effect impoundment caused by the dam in downtown Belleville. It wasn’t a big deal (the gradient on this trip is pretty skimpy to begin with) but I was surprised it caused a backup so far upstream. The takeout at an actual launch in a pretty and nicely designed park was a breeze. Parking is nearby and there’s water and restrooms, too.

Also nearby is the delightful Belleville Ale House. We didn’t have anything to eat but their beer menu (taps and bottles) was quite commendable. Plus it’s a beautiful interior. Our bartender plied us with free Gardetto’s and sauce, all lagniappe. If you’re in the area, we highly reco this place!

What we didn't like:
When I paddled this the first time, three or four years ago, I (mis?)remembered it having a lot more riffles comparable to Badfish Creek. Maybe that’s due to the natural warp of memory, maybe the water was much higher at the time… Who knows? The water was very shallow during this trip, but that has everything to do with the lack of snowmelt and absence of spring rain (it’s not the river’s fault). Otherwise, there are two sets of wires to watch out for – both well marked with surveyor’s tape and even a warning sign beforehand.

This trip can be narrow in spots and those spots seem always to coincide with tree cover. There’s a fair amount of fallen trees in the water, but none so obnoxious as to require portaging (there were several conspicuous indications of sawed off limbs – thanks volunteers!). I got out of my boat to remove one large tree limb jutting into the water right at a bend where the current was quick. So while it was clear for me, my hunch is it can be prone to fallen trees in the future. Just something to think about if you plan on doing this stretch.

If we did this trip again:
This trip is definitely pleasant enough to do again but for me personally not until after exploring other untapped sections of the Sugar.

***************
Related Information
Sugar River I: Belleville to County Road X
Sugar River II: Paoli to Belleville
Sugar River III: Verona to Paoli
Sugar River IV: County Road X to County Road EE
Sugar River V: Colored Sands Forest Preserve to North Meridian Road
Sugar River VI: Albany to Brodhead
Sugar River VII: Verona to Paoli
Sugar River VIII: Brodhead to Avon
Miles Paddled Video: Sugar River I: Belleville to County Road X
Miles Paddled Video: Sugar River IV: County Road X to County Road EE
Miles Paddled Video: Sugar River VI: Albany to Brodhead
Good People: Upper Sugar River Watershed Association
Good People: Lower Sugar River Watershed Association
Map: Upper Sugar River Trail
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Wikipedia: Sugar River


Map:




Shuttle Information:
Only .6 miles by car or 3.7 miles by bicycle using the extremely convenient and fun Badger State Trail.


Photo Gallery:

01
Put-in at County Road A.

02
A delightful little holler.

03
Charming farm and barn.

04
One of countless cool oak trees in 3D.

06
Helpful heads up sign.

07
Nasty wires but easy to maneuver around or under.

08
Pretty ridge in the distance nearer to Belleville.

09
Attractive stand of pines leading to Belleville.

10
Marshy cattail section upstream of the dam in Belleville.

11
Excellent takeout at public park by the dam.
3/26/2015 0 comments

Crawfish River II

Olson Road to Aztalan State Park
☆ ☆

A totally fine but mostly unremarkable trip on the Crawfish River.

03
One of several drumlins off in the distance.

Date:
March 21, 2015

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater

Gradient:
< 1' per mile.

Gauge:
Milford: ht/ft: 2.70 | cfs: 400

Put-In:
County A Bridge, Milford, Wisconsin
Take-Out:
Riverview Drive, Jefferson, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 10:20a. Out at 1:05p.
Total Time: 2h 25m
Miles Paddled: 10.25

Wildlife: Geese, mergansers, sandhill cranes, one bald eagle, turkeys, one pheasant and whole lot of frisky carp.
Time worth driving to: 20 minutes. Maybe.

I’d scouted a few different sections of the Crawfish (aka the “crawlfish”) last autumn and found myself driving past Milford a number of times. The recommended trip in Mike Svob’s book begins at Milford and concludes at the Rock River confluence, a blasé trip already covered here and remembered fondly by no one I’ve ever known (sorry Crawfish; it’s not your fault what God gave you, or the glaciers.) I myself wanted to do something different but I knew already not to waste my time in the Mud Lake section north of Highway 19. There's a put-in at 19 but parking is a little tricky. Less than a mile downstream is an outstanding boat launch off Olson Road. There’s also a third access half a mile downstream from Olson at a private campground (re: RV park) but there’s a fee to use it. Hence Olson Road as my put-in.

Aztalan State Park itself is a fascinating place and worth an hour of walking around. Downstream of it you have next to no options for taking out until Jefferson. That’s how this trip came to be. I knew it would be slow, wide and muddy, with mostly agricultural backdrops. But I was hoping there’d be something more, something fun, something redeeming. Not so much.

What we liked:
The couple miles or so just upstream and leading to Milford were pleasant with views of drumlins to the east and a couple of undeveloped landscapes to the west. I loved that the 15-mph wind was at my back and the southern sun was kissing my face. I appreciated that the river, while low for where it should be this time of the year, had plenty of volume. And on a stream this huge (over 400 feet wide most of the time) you’ll never have to worry about deadfall. Except for the first mile there’s little housing on this trip; it’s mostly agricultural. The lead-up to the I-94 bridges was something I’ve been curious about for years, since I’ve driven over the river well over 200 times to/fro Milwaukee. And finally the last section of this trip from County Road B to Aztalan State Park is pretty: there’s an undeveloped woodsy ridge on the left (east bank) and glimpses into the park on the right (west bank) of the stockades, mounds, and even a few hollows. Both the put-in and the take-out are excellent accesses, with full facilities and water at the state park.

If you take nothing else away from this write-up, let it be this: If you live nearby or are passing through, stop by Crawfish Junction for a great meal and beer. Located at W6376 County Road A in Milford just up the road from the bridge, the clever combination of Crawfish River with Cajun-themed cooking is a nice touch that’s much appreciated by someone with a soft spot for Cajun culture. Where else can you have deep-fried gator this far north in the Mississippi River watershed?!? Discovering this place probably was my favorite part of the trip (yes, even though it technically had nothing to do with the river itself.) Failing that, since you’re this close to Lake Mills, you should stop at Tyranena for a fine local-made cold one.

What we didn't like:
It’s just disappointing and boring. First, the width alone is preposterous, leaving little to the imagination. Whereas on a meandering creek you look forward to the exceptional straightaway and offer your thanks to rest a moment, here you long for a bend to the left or right and crave a curve however subtle. Otherwise, it’s just a long boulevard of flat brown water. Not very inspiring. There’s nothing to do but slog through the array of RVs lining the left shore in the beginning. I can imagine this campground is a zoo in summer, given that there is a gigantic Dells-esque waterslide play pool. The location is a pity from the paddler’s perspective, because there is an otherwise attractive hill right at the facility hovering above it. The other hills on this trip are off in the distance for the most part, seemingly larger the farther away they are, anticlimactic as you approach closer.

There are two protected prairie state natural areas I was hoping would enhance the scenery – Snapper Prairie State Natural Area and Faville Prairie (the latter advocated by none other than Aldo Leopold himself ) – but had I not known of them beforehand and looking for them, I’d have been none the wiser while on the river. Perhaps this would be different in spring and summer, once the land wakes up from its winter sleep.

Another disappointment was how underwhelming the approach to Milford was. Native fishing weirs are supposed to be in the river near the right bank upstream of the bridge but if they’re there, you can’t see them. The riffles in the rocky shoals just below the bridge are pleasant but little more than that. Come to think of it, you can say that for most of this trip: “pleasant, but little more than that.” There’s potential for this being better, once spring is in full swing, but one probably shouldn’t expect too much.

If we did this trip again:
Unless I lose a bet or am honoring a friend’s questionable bucket list who wants companionship, there’s just no reason to bother repeating this trip.

***************
Related Information
Crawfish River I: Milford to Jefferson
Miles Paddled Video: Crawfish River I: Milford to Jefferson
General: Glacial Heritage Area
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Video: Wisconsin Paddles
Wikipedia: Crawfish River


Map:



Shuttle Information:
10 miles.


Photo Gallery:

01
Put-in at Olson Road.

02
Right, why not a big-ass water slide in the middle of nowhere?

04
Another drumlin in the distance.

05
An unusually pretty pine-lined bank.

06
The I-94 bridges.

07
The Aztalan mound from the river.

08
One of the Aztalan stockades.

09
Looking downstream by the take-out.

09a
The take-out at the state park.

10
The mysterious remains of abandoned Aztalan.

11
Stockade to keep people out (or trap them in)?

12
Just a weird place.

13
hese had to have been sacrifice altars, right?

14
Or not, and people just lived in a peaceful village, who knows?
3/22/2015 0 comments

Waupaca River Video

This short 7-mile section, just upstream from the more popular stretch (County Highway Q to Brainards Bridge Park) has a lot of what you'd expect from the Waupaca. We paddled this in early fall when the colors were just starting to turn, which made for a very pretty day trip. Have a look.

Waupaca River
County Highway DD to County Highway Q
September 22, 2014
3/12/2015 0 comments

Yahara River X

Mud Lake to Lake Kegonsa
☆ ☆ ☆

The river section connecting Mud Lake (via Lake Waubesa) and Lake Kegonsa, this very brief section has a couple of pretty but fleeting moments – fun for a late winter jaunt when open water is a rare commodity, but hardly worth spending your time on otherwise unless you live immediately nearby.

02
Boulders in fun (but short) section of mainstream.

Date:
March 7, 2015

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater

Gradient:
1' per mile.

Gauge:
Cooksville: ht/ft: 3.8 | cfs: 170

Put-In + Take-Out:
East Dyreson Road, McFarland, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 3:30p. Out at 5:30p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 4.25

Wildlife: Tundra swans, geese, ducks, mergansers and muskrats.
Time worth driving to: 30 minutes

So there I was, gifted with a Saturday promising to be in the 40s and sunny after a month of unseasonably freezing weather while facing this dilemma: the air temp says “go paddle!” but the water temp still says “not so fast!” Once a river and especially a lake decides it’s had enough and just freezes til spring, it takes a lot of energy to thaw the surface of ice. By stark contrast, the air temperature can drop or dart 30 degrees in half as many hours like a flick of a switch.

But when it gets this warm this close to the actual equinox and there’s a warm front, you best believe I’ll be finding some puddle to paddle! That’s how this wee segment of the Yahara came to be. That and I wanted to check out the old truss bridge at Dyreson Road before it’s removed (it’s closed now and on the repair list, which may mean removal). Thus, this is not truly a trip report in the vein that we normally do. Rather, it’s meant to serve as a brief vignette to say, nay declare: “Hurray, spring is arriving! Carpe paddle!” We mostly want to show a few photos to help inspire everyone to dust off those boats in the garage. Warm weather, daylight savings, Canoecopia – come on all y’all, it’s spring! Woo ho!

What we liked:
The very short segment of the Yahara below Mud Lake and just downstream of Dyreson Road is pretty and fun. The water is crystal clear, the bottom a mix of gravelly rocks and sweet sand. A few boulders dot the streambed and the environment changes from marsh to sedge meadow and oak savanna. And as I’d hoped, the truss bridge is quite easy on the eye. Given the time of year, too, the wildlife was pretty wonderful: there were at least a hundred tundra swans out there, plus dozens of mergansers and several mischievous muskrats. Lake Kegonsa itself was stunningly pretty as a series of meltwater pools surrounded by slushy ice enclosures. The contrast in textures alone was worth kayaking out to.

What we didn't like:
Saying nothing of paddling back and forth (which presupposes paddling upstream, which I find perverted and plain wrong), or that both Mud Lake and Lake Kegonsa were inaccessibly frozen, at no point can your imagination pretend that you’re away from it all, as there are houses along the shoreline pretty much the whole time. Connecting McFarland and Stoughton, this is not surprising, to be sure. But it’s a factor discrediting paddling this section of the Yahara in its own right, unless you’re already nearby.

If we did this trip again:
This time next year, sure. But otherwise probably not. As long as the water is open, the best of the Yahara begins below the Dunkirk dam down to the Rock River.

***************
Related Information
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
Miles Paddled Overview: A Guide to the Yahara River
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


Map:




Shuttle Information:
None since this was a forth and back junket.


Photo Gallery:

01
Flock shock on Mud Lake.

03
Handsome truss bridge on East Dyreson Road.

04
"Treeflection" with clear water.

05
Log remains from an old dam or weir?

06
Cohabbing on the Yahara.

07
Tundra swans awing!

08
Punk rock mergansers.

09
Ghoulish ice sheets.

11
Fish Camp County Park.

12
Rebel geese on thin ice.

13
Thawing ice patterns on Lake Kegonsa.

14
Close-up.

15
Muskrat soaking up the late afternoon sun.