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Platte River I

By on June 19, 2011

Ellenboro to County Road B
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An unexpectedly wonderful experience on a new river trail made this driftless experience another reason to keep seeking and searching for the next great paddle in the area.

June 19, 2011

Class Difficulty:

Rockville: ht/ft: 3.93 | cfs: 145

Recommended Levels:
This is a very recommendable level.

Airport Road Bridge, Ellenboro, Wisconsin
County Road B Bridge

Time: Put in at 12:00p. Out at 2:00p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 8.5

What we liked:
The Platte River took me by surprise yesterday. It’s a beautiful and unique paddle all its own. We overlooked the Platte for the Grant and Fever/Galena a couple years ago. It’s unfortunate because we probably should have gotten to know it sooner. It’s definitely worth doing again.

Due to making a solo trip, sketchy weather and a planned bike shuttle, I shortened the intended 12.5 miles for 8.5 (just incase something rolled in). A local couple flagged me down as I was getting ready to head up to the put-in and asked me what I knew about the river’s condition. They told me of recent storms that tore through the area. They were looking for signs that it was runnable in their canoe without too much hassle or portaging. They really talked up this “secret of a river” and I couldn’t wait to paddle it myself. I’m glad I did. I didn’t come across any obstructions or portages. There were some downed trees but for as small and intimate as the Platte is, it’s wide enough to handle a downed tree or two.

They did suggest a better take-out than the one I was at but at this point I was already planted and ready to roll. After my paddle, I did check out their suggested take-out (just a quarter-mile up Big Platte Road) and I would definitely make that the exit point next time (pictured below). It was well-manicured and much easier to access than my bridge take-out.

The put-in near Ellenboro is quite nice. It’s carpeted and flanked by rocks to guide your way down. The river itself is beautiful. Mike Svob describes the river as being filled with riffles, small, clear, peaceful and pleasant. That’s all very true. The water itself itself isn’t clear but he may be referring to clear from debris. The river bottom switches on and off from a muddy bottom to rocks and sand. And the rocks and sand sections are what give this river it’s unique characteristic, constant riffles. It’s probably the riffly-est (doubt that’s a word) river we’ve paddled. The flatwater sections are brief. As soon as you notice it’s flat and quiet, you’ll start hearing the rumble of riffles up ahead or around the corner. The gradient is over 7 feet and it’s noticeable. Every horizon line is at a lower perspective. I had the constant feeling of literally moving down the river. Maybe even heightened in a kayak than a canoe? The gradient also indicates that it’s a swift moving river which explains how I paddled 8.5 miles in two hours.

I came across all sorts of wildlife activity (except for the old car sitting precariously close to the edge of the bank past the Red Dog road bridge). Waterfowl, fish jumping in the shallows, a couple large owls and I witnessed a very cool site approaching the island right before the bridge on County B. In the distance I could see two large deer and a fawn drinking from the river. As I got closer I lost site of them and figured they ascended the bank. As I made my way around the island I startled them, they startled me (of course I couldn’t move fast enough to get the video camera out) and the two large deer bound from one end to the other on this tiny island. It was a very cool way to end the journey.

As far as comparing this to the Grant or Galena, I wouldn’t compare them by geography. The Platte is a unique little river and much more accessible than those two. And by kayak or canoe, it’s a ton of fun. Yes, you may see a few more limestone bluffs but you aren’t getting the short-end by paddling the Platte. The drive from Madison through the driftless region of Wisconsin is almost reason enough to spend a day on the Platte. It’s a gem of a river and I look forward to doing it again.

What we didn’t like:
Mike Svob points out that you will encounter barbed-wire stretching across the river in places. It’s true. The first line you come across is actual barbed-wire (the other 3 are metal lines that I wasn’t curious enough to touch) and it’s possible to paddle over it in the middle if you don’t mind some scratches on your boat. I tried going under it river-right but the current was a little too strong and I ended up grabbing the barbed wire and lifting if over me. I don’t recommend doing that but it worked if you are positioned right and can grab between the barbs. The others are easy to paddle under if you keep to the banks. It might be trickier in a canoe but it should be doable.

Also, after entering that first “barb-wired area” I came around a bend and heard the sound of what I thought was a 20 foot waterfall. Turns out, it was a bunch of cattle in the river. I spooked them, they spooked me and I waited it out until they made it up the bank. I made sure I didn’t have a bull tailing me.

Going solo required a bike shuttle. In this area of Wisconsin I knew I could be in for it (hilly terrain). The shuttle went from County B, North on Platte Road, left on Highway 81 and a soft left onto Airport Road. There was one section not working in my favor which was a mile climb up a hill with a 7% grade. My bike which has only 7 of the 21 gears working which wasn’t helping matters (note to self: get bike fixed).

If we did this trip again:I would definitely take-out on Big Platte Road (for a total of 9.25 miles) or continue down even further on Big Platte Road for the 12.5 mile take-out if we were driving.

Related Information:
Platte River Overview: Platte River Paddle Guide
Platte River II: Ellenboro to Platte Road
Platte River III: Platte Road to Big Platte Road
Platte River IV: Big Platte Road to Indian Creek Road
Platte River V: County Road A to Platte Road
Good People: Friends of the Platte River
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Wikipedia: Platte River


Miles Paddled Video:

Photo Gallery:

  • Really a cool site. Thanks for the info, i cant wait to give it a run

  • Thanks for the comment! The Platte is awesome. Definitely a recommended paddle!

  • Anonymous

    I've canoed the Grant many times and have planned on checking out the Platte. Even did a recon mission to get a feel for the put in and take outs. Your article and photos have got me jazzed up for a Platte River adventure. Thanks for sharing

  • So glad you enjoy the post! The Platte was one of my favorite paddles last year. Just watch out for that barbed wire and you'll be alright. It really is a great paddle and I look forward to doing it again someday. Hope you have a great paddle!

  • Anonymous

    great video. Almost like being there which increases my interest in getting "out there". Thanks so much for sharing such an excellent view of the Platte.

  • Thanks for the comment! We hope to paddle this river again. It's such a great section but this time we'd like to capture it on our GoPro. Thanks again!

  • Your link to the Gauge at Rockville actually takes you to USGS 04067958 PESHTIGO RIVER NEAR WABENO, WI…

  • @Tandem Paddler > Sorry about that but thanks for pointing out the error. I hope that didn't cause any problems besides some head-scratching. Should be fixed now, thanks again!


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