Oconomowoc River
★ ★ ★

Oconomowoc River

By on July 3, 2011

S. Concord Road to County Road P
☆ ☆ ☆

A glacial stream featuring crystal clear water and a sand-gravel bottom with a couple boulders, small ledges, and precious little development along the way. While not necessarily spectacular, this last section of the Oconomowoc River is sure to please.

Date:
June 25, 2011

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater + Riffles

Gauge:
n/a

Recommended Levels:
There is no gauge for the Oconomowoc River but water levels tend to be pretty reliable. Consult the Bark River gauge in nearby Delafield for recent rainfall or high/low water levels.

Put-In:
South Concord Road, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Take-Out:
County Road P, Ixonia, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 1:10p. Out at 5:10p.
Total Time: 4h
Miles Paddled: 15

What we liked:
A very pleasant river in southeastern Wisconsin. I was hoping for a backdrop of rolling hills – this is Kettle Moraine country in Oconomowoc after all – and looking forward to a river I knew virtually nothing about. I stopped counting after the 15th sighting of a blue heron (and it wasn’t the same one spotted fifteen times either); they were everywhere. Mostly clear water with many engaging bends (but only few of those hairpin types the likes of the Mecan or Kickapoo). Accessible put-ins and take-outs. A quick, direct bike shuttle. The Rock, leading to the County P bridge (and presumably past it), had great steady current with some nice riffles.

What we didn’t like:
The ambient din of I-94 is a near constant along the trip, especially around the Elm Drive and County Rd F bridges (after the latter bridge, the interstate is only 250 or so meters away). Or if not the whirl of wheels, the motor of lawnmowers; suburban houses dot the landscape more often than not. The hills I had been hoping for were lackluster at best. After the County Rd F bridge the river became significantly shallow – in a muddy bottoms, with highway billboards in full view, loud traffic sound; a lot of overall muck to slog through.

I am a sucker for rivers flowing into one another. I decided to tack an additional 2.5 miles onto the trip in order to paddle in the confluence of the Oconomowoc into the Rock because of this usual thrill. But the moment of merging was quite anticlimactic. The Rock comes on the river-right, relative the Oconomowoc, and it came suddenly with no ado. In fact, I thought I was just on the left side of an island until I realized, no, that’s actually the Rock I’m coming into. And the Rock at that point was flat and rather dull until about a mile upstream of the take-out, where it finally gained some good flow.

If we did this trip again:
I would if a friend wanted to, but probably not on my own again. I’m glad I experienced it, but it’s not necessarily worth the drive out there (from Madison at least). Besides, there are many more rivers to explore and miles to paddle before I sleep.

***************
Related Information:
Video: KellyThundercloud

Map:


Shuttle Information:

8 miles. County Road P East. Right on Rockvale Road. Quick left on Ski Slide Road, then right back onto Rockvale Road. Rockvale turns into Marks Road (at which point you’re no longer in Jefferson County, but Waukesha). Turn right on West Wisconsin Avenue/Highway 16. Right on South Elm Street. Cross train tracks. Left on West Highland Avenue. Right on South Park Street. South Park Street yields into Concord Road Bridge over river, immediately after.

Photo Gallery:

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  • Just spent some time on the Oconomowoc River yesterday: Update on some put ins/take outs and general navigability: At River Rd. put in/take out, there are numerous "No Trespassing" and "No Parking" signs at bridge. Not particularly welcoming. Went further north on County Rd. E to Northside Dr. put in/take out, and it HAS BEEN ELECTRIFIED on both sides to battle Rock Carp. We didn't think it was worth it to find out just how electrified it was. We put in at Cty Rd. P and paddled upstream a bit, then let current take us back to our starting point. Numerous herons, redtail hawk, possibly kingfisher? Loads of sizable fish jumping. We were scraping bottom in places, but mostly able to navigate shallow spots. It was a beautifl day, and a nice little paddle for our purposes (we had two 10 year old boys with us who were in and out of the canoe as often as possible). I'd probably opt out on this one again, or put in at the Jefferson County Park Wayside on Hwy 16 and see what's further upstream, although I think that's already the Rock…Thanks so much for your great notes and directions–you'll be my "go to" site for future paddling excursions!

  • Thanks for the great update Lydia! Current reports is why, well, we constantly post re-paddles. Thanks for letting us know current conditions and glad we could help!

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