1/25/2015 0 comments

La Crosse River Video

This was a long 16.5 miles on the La Crosse (and more than we’d recommend biting off in one day) but it's a beauty of a river and perfectly fit for a couple day trips. It's a difficult task to distill that many miles under 8 minutes but here's a bit of what's to be had.

La Crosse River
Sparta to Bangor
August 2, 2014
1/25/2015 0 comments

Badfish Creek IX

Sunrise Road to Old Stone Road
☆ ☆ ☆

A short segment upstream of our preferred trip on the Badfish, the creek here is painfully straight and channelized. While it's certainly not without its charms, (especially the first two miles) ultimately it does not live up to downstream reputation.

Unexpectedly pretty hills below put-in.

January 19, 2015

Class Difficulty:

Approximately 6.5' per mile. 10' per mile between Sunrise Road and Highway 138.

Cooksville: ht/ft: n/a | cfs: n/a - ice
Gauge Note: The official USGS gage is not currently functioning due to icy conditions. I’m not sure why this is so, since the Badfish is not frozen over. Nonetheless, there is a visual gage at Sunrise Road right next to the put-in on the upstream side river-left. It read “72.” Seventy-two what I’m not sure – certainly not inches, as that would have meant 6’. The creek was shallow at this level but still runnable.

Sunrise Road, Dane County, Wisconsin
Old Stone Road

Time: Put in at 1:35p. Out at 3:30p.
Total Time: 1h 55m
Miles Paddled: 5.75

Wildlife: Five muskrats, ducks, geese, hawks, cardinals and bluejays.
Time worth driving to: 30 minutes

A (personally) unexplored section of our beloved Badfish Creek, curiosity had gotten the better of me and I had to check out the woolly unknowns upstream. I took consultation from pioneer Andy Hoernemann’s “first descent” of the creek. I had no desire to portage around a low-head dam onto snowy banks and try to re-enter in wintertime, so I skipped the Rutland-Dunn Townline Road bridge, starting instead at picturesque Sunrise Road.

Years ago I’d paddled the Old Stone to Old Stage stretch, which in theory would be great since the whole area is a protected wildlife area with easy access and public parking. Trouble is, it’s clogged with deadfall, at least the last time I paddled it. And considering that for years now there’s been a portage-necessary tree in the creek only 25 yards upstream of Old Stage, I can only deduce that this section is still a tangled mess. Thus, it was I elected Sunrise to Old Stone, a short 5.7-mile segment, perfect for a January afternoon.

What we liked:
On the upstream side of the Sunrise Road bridge on river-left, rocks have been strategically placed to help safely enter a boat (clearly, others do this section, too). The setting here is intimate and pretty: woodsy with a couple gentle hills. In fact, it called to mind the better stretches of the creek downstream by Highway 58 in Cooksville. The water is clear, the current excellent. Indeed, the gradient of the creek between Sunrise Road and Highway 138 is a considerable 10 feet per mile. As such, this entire section is riffly and quite fun (at higher levels these riffles seem to wash out). Even though the creek is channelized (and until Old Stage Road), the swift current and pretty banks make this section quite enjoyable. There are downed trees to dodge and duck under but in a kayak you should have no difficulty. It'll be trickier in a canoe.

Approaching the Highway 138 bridge, I saw a yellow canoe lodged on the bank. This first section is only 1.4 miles but it’s fast and fun. Unfortunately, things slow down and begin getting dull and redundant after Highway 138. There are moments where your attention is gladly caught on something interesting, be it a random row of pine trees or an old retaining wall built way back when.

What we didn't like:
Below Highway 138 the riffles peter out. The creek is still straight and thus inspires no curiosity about what’s ahead. What’s ahead? You’re looking at it - that’s what’s ahead. And that’s why channelized streams do not paddling streams make.

The number of farm bridges is and is not shocking. The creek here wouldn’t be channelized in the first place were it not for the sake of agriculture (and in this case the Madison Metropolitan Sewer District) but there are at least a dozen of these bridges in this 5.7-mile trip! I don’t think the Kickapoo even has that many per capita. As Andy had noted, many of these bridges are newer. Lord knows I myself don’t know a thing about bridge construction but I was quite surprised by how much these newer bridges resembled actual road bridges. True, some are wooden but many (I think most, actually) are concrete. Isn’t that rather expensive? I mean, even if you have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and your brother owns a concrete factory, it stills costs a lot of money and time to construct a modern bridge.

Whatever, I digress. The point is, the amount of farm bridges that look like road bridges is disorienting because after a while, you start seeing each one as the possible take-out bridge (which itself is nondescript and hardly distinguishable from any of the farm bridges). Needless to say, you do not want to miss your take-out bridge. (Been there, done that – twice - it sucks!)

You could/should mark the take-out bridge with a string or surveyor’s tape or whatever and just settle the matter that way. Or you can differentiate the farm bridges from the road bridges this way: only the road bridges have that telltale sign saying “Badfish Creek.” On this trip there are only three road bridges between put-in and take-out – Highway 138, County Road A and Lake Kegonsa Road – all of which have their own “Badfish Creek” signs, not to mention cars and trucks driving on them. The traffic’s pretty light out there in the tobacco fields.

In between Highway 138 and Lake Kegonsa Road are two non-negotiable obstructions, one a fugly logjam, the other, a more recent fallen tree. The first has been there for a while it seems, based on the worn footpath where paddlers have portaged. The other is trickier and required climbing onto the tree and pulling my boat over it – not at all fun in winter.

Also, in between County Road A and Lake Kegonsa Road the water was extremely shallow, anxiously close to not being able even to butt-scoot. Another thing not fun in winter: walking your boat through shallows!

Oh yeah and the “chemical aroma” of the creek is pretty pungent in these parts. You get used to after a 10 minutes or so but it is on the strong side.

Notable mention... Did you know that Madison has a racetrack for cars? Well, it doesn’t. But Oregon does and calls it the “Madison International Speedway.” I don’t know about the “international” part but it does bill itself as “Wisconsin’s fastest ½ mile.” Which of course begs asking, “Where’s Wisconsin’s fastest full mile” and/or “Why build only a half-mile track?” Or do I have that all wrong and the conventional course is a quarter-mile, so that a half-mile is something to be reckoned with?

I passed the speedway during my bike shuttle and while I couldn’t see the actual track from the road I had to reason that a half-mile track must be twice the size of a track and field track since it takes 4 laps around one of those to make a mile. So I looked it up. Apparently, all but one of Wisconsin’s courses are less than a mile, and most under half a mile. It’s called “short track racing,” which is where stockcar racing got rolling in the first place. The only mile-long course (since you’re dying to know) is at the state fairgrounds in West Allis. Short track stockcars does sound pretty cool, but it makes me think of pancakes. Anyway, it’s a weird juxtaposition of speed lust and contest(osterone) next to the silent sport of paddling flatwater.

If we did this trip again:
It’s unlikely. I’d do the Sunrise Road to Highway 138 segment anytime but I’m not going to drive 30 minutes to paddle 1.4 miles. Besides, taking out at Highway 138 poses a serious problem: parking a vehicle. I don’t know how wise it would be to leave a car at the bridge, since Highway 138 has a lot of traffic. Furthermore, lashing on or taking off a boat would be rather impractical or just unsafe. You could, I suppose, park your car at Flint Road and then walk along the highway with your boat but it’s nearly a half-mile schlep with semis whirring past you at 60mph. It’s a pity, too, because going all the way down to County Road A is nearly 3 miles of platitudinous paddling.

Let us restate emphatically that if you want to paddle Badfish Creek (and why wouldn’t you?), just do the Old Stage Road to Casey Road segment; it’s simply the very best of the Badfish.

Related Information
Badfish Creek I: Route 138 to Murwin County Park
Badfish Creek II: Old Stage Road to Highway 59
Badfish Creek III: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek IV: Old Stone Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek V: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek VI: Old Stage Road to County Road H
Badfish Creek VII: Old Stage Road to County Road H
Badfish Creek VIII: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Miles Paddled Overview: A Guide to Badfish Creek
Miles Paddled Video: Badfish Creek II: Old Stage Road to Highway 59
Miles Paddled Video: Badfish Creek V: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Article: Paddling the Badfish Creek
General: American Whitewater
Good People: Friends of Badfish Creek Watershed
Video: Wisconsin Paddles


Shuttle Information:
6.2 miles. Bicycling it is no big deal, though there are a couple hills. However, this is a wholly unjustified violation of golden rule #2: your shuttle mileage should not be longer than the paddling mileage (unless the stream is so wonderfully undeveloped that there is no more direct route).

What’s golden rule #1, you’re wondering? The time on the water should at least equal if not be longer than the time it takes to drive there forth and back.

Photo Gallery:

Put-in at Sunrise Road.

Visual gage at Sunrise Road bridge.

More unexpectedly pretty hills below the put-in.

Constantly riffly between Sunrise Road and Highway 138.

More riffles in a straightaway.

Old farm bridge.

Highway 138 bridge with full channelizaion effect.

Attractive stand of pine trees.

Frozen side stream sheet.

Another tunnel effect of trees with huge vine hanging down in center.

Fugly logjam.

Sandy bottoms.

Gravel bottoms.

Psst... Whatcha hidin' on the other side?

Take-out at Old Stone Road.
1/11/2015 0 comments

East Fork of the Black River Video

Have a look at our very short journey down the East Fork of the Black River near Black River Falls from back in June.

Black River: East Fork
Overguard Road to East Fork Campground
June 29, 2014
1/01/2015 0 comments

14 Best Paddles of 2014

We covered a lot of creeks and rivers in 2014. With over 50 trips surpassing 450 miles, we had a hard time choosing our favorites for this year's "Best of" report. That said, in no particular order, here are 14 of our favorite canoe and kayak paddles from 2014.

01: Halls Creek

Black River Falls, Wisconsin
Trow Lake Dam to Halls Creek Landing
June 28, 2014

Halls is a creek for creek lovers and it’s exactly the kind of destination that keeps us searching for the next great paddle.

It’s exciting but not overly-complicated. With near constant riffles and Class Is, a few exhilarating (but manageable) drops, natural springs that trickle down the banks into beautifully cut sandbars and pools and endless, sometimes jaw-dropping, rock formations in a canyon-like setting, it has everything you’d ever want but are unlikely to expect from a creek. It’s a thing of beauty.



02: Yellow River (Chippewa Tributary)

Taylor County, Wisconsin
Miller Dam to County Road H
August 31, 2014

An absolutely wonderful trip that begins in a beautiful and secluded section of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, below its namesake flowage, with nothing but miles of undeveloped scenery and forests that lead to a thrilling eight-mile section of unending riffles and Class I-II rapids with boulders and exposed rock outcroppings from the halfway point all the way down to the take-out. This trip should be on anybody’s to-do list!



03: Trempealeau River

Trempealeau County
Highway 35 to Perrot State Park
September 27, 2014

An easy trip surrounded by a national wildlife refuge that finishes with one of the absolute prettiest backdrops of Mississippi River bluffs. Set one after the other in such dramatic fashion, it’s easy to forget that this is still the upper Midwest and not New England or the Adirondacks of New York.



04: Lake Superior Sea Caves

Cornucopia, Wisconsin
Touring the Sea Caves of the National Lakeshore in Bayfield County
August 15, 2014

Very likely the most beautiful sea kayaking experience anywhere in the state of Wisconsin, the National Lakeshore girding the northern tip of the Bayfield Peninsula is blessed with sandstone caves, cliffs, rock shelves and arches, all set against a huge blue sky and an inland sea of jade green water for miles on end and as far as the eye can take.



05: Big Rib River

Goodrich, Wisconsin
Goodrich to County Road A
May 10, 2014

Beginning with a bang and ending on a whimper, this section of the Big Rib River offers an exhilarating trip fit for experienced paddlers featuring a spectacular Dells section with challenging whitewater, root beer-hued water, undeveloped privacy and outstanding wildlife.


06: Yellow Creek (Illinois)

Freeport, Illinois
Bolton Road to Krape Park
April 19, 2014

A very satisfying creek with clear water, good flow, pretty hillsides, ridges, a number of quite attractive rock outcrops and an absolutely fascinating public park at the end complete with Art Deco bridges, matching bandshell, a 40’-high (artificial) waterfall and a colorful carousel.


07: Wausau Whitewater Park

Wausau, Wisconsin
July 13, 2014

The premier whitewater park in Wisconsin, (and one of the finest, if not the best, in the Midwest) this place is an absolute pleasure chock full of paddling camaraderie.



08: White River (Bayfield/Ashland)

Mason, Wisconsin
Maple Ridge Road to Highway 112
August 16, 2014

A swift moving and narrow stream in northern Wisconsin whose energy is as relentless as its surrounding beauty of tall clay banks, light rapids, utter solitude from the human world but chance companionship with the natural one.



09: Apple River (Illinois)

Apple River Canyon State Park
East Canyon Road to South Apple River Road
April 20, 2014

Quite possibly the most beautiful stretch of river in all of Illinois (and definitely one of the best in the entire Midwest) the Apple River is rich with clear water, (or jade green in the deeper pools) constant riffles, light rapids, gorgeous rock walls, a veritable canyon and little to no development.

It does, however, have landowner issues that must be recognized and respected. Added to that is a steep gradient that drains its water volume quickly, so catching the upper Apple River at the right time is tricky. But it's oh so worth it!


10: Yellow River (Iowa)

Monona, Iowa
Highway X16 to Old Sixteen Road
May 5, 2014

A quintessential Driftless river blessed with everything you could hope for: swift, clear, riffly water, gorgeous rock outcrops, rolling hills and superb wildlife.


11: Yellow River (Iowa)

Monona, Iowa
Old Sixteen Road to Highway 76
May 6, 2014

A quintessential Driftless river blessed with swift, riffly water, gorgeous rock outcrops, rolling hills and superb wildlife, that begins in a private campground with RVs and ends at the Mississippi River past Effigy Mounds National Monument.


12: Carroll Creek (Illinois)

Mt. Carrol, Illinois
Point Rock Park to Jacobstown Road
June 21, 2014

In terms of the most mind-blowing bang for your paddling buck, this is probably the best creek I've ever been on, anywhere. Seriously. Constant riffles, a fun Class II ledge in the beginning, jaw-dropping geology, caves, cliffs and bluffs and almost no development. All condensed in six spectacular miles, Carroll Creek may well be the single prettiest and most fun stream in all of Illinois.

However, the creek is fickle and difficult to catch at the right time. Compounding that, there is no gauge, so it’s a gamble whether you will be able to paddle it at all, especially if you are traveling from afar. Then again, if such a beautiful stream were without drama, chances are it wouldn’t be in Illinois in the first place…



13: Jump River

Price County, Wisconsin
Luke’s Heights Lane to Big Falls County Park
August 30, 2014

A robust and haunting river on the cusp of the Chequamegon National Forest that features two sets of rapids in short order and riverbanks mostly undeveloped, this trip on the Jump is an absolute gem.



14: Upper Iowa River (Iowa)

Chimney Rock Park, Iowa
Chimney Rock Road to Bluffton Road
May 24, 2014

Add one part swift water to umpteen parts spectacular limestone cliffs, rock walls, undulating bluffs and a generous heaping of pretty wrought iron bridges, mixed with a couple cups of springs and you have the making of a glorious paddling trip.


Related Reading:
Milespaddled.com's 13 Best Paddles of 2013

1/01/2015 0 comments

Halls Creek Video

Halls Creek was one of our all-time favorite paddles. It's a beautiful and exhilarating creek and one we can't recommend enough. It actually made for a difficult task to cut the footage down to a manageable viewing length (it could have easily been double). There was just so much to love. Have a look.

Halls Creek
Trow Lake Dam to Halls Creek Landing
June 28, 2014