Turtle Creek
★ ★ ★ ★

Turtle Creek I

By on August 7, 2011

Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

This is our favorite kind of creek, one that paddles like a river. Flowing from Turtle Lake to the Rock River, this riffly run makes for a great day paddle as it twists and turns on its way to the city of Beloit.

August 6, 2011

Class Difficulty:
Class I

Clinton: ht/ft: 4.19 | cfs: 193

Recommended Levels:
This is a very recommendable level. Ideally, paddle this at above 200 cfs.

Sweet-Allyn Park, Shopiere, Wisconsin
Dickop Street, South Beloit, Illinois

Time: Put in at 12:30p. Out at 3:15p.
Total Time: 2h 45m
Miles Paddled: 11.5

What we liked:
This is our favorite kind of creek, one that paddles like a river. Turtle Creek was one of the first trips we ever mapped out. After coming across the Wisconsin Paddles video some years back, we knew we had to check it out for ourselves and yet it took a couple years for us to get around to actually kayaking it. Although it was unfortunate that only one of us paddled it after a last minute cancellation.

Flowing from Turtle Lake to the Rock River, this creek has a lot to love. The put-in at Sweet-Allyn Park (love that name) is fantastic. The water is brown, clear in the shallows and moves from sandy to rocky bottom with the occasional tire tossed in for good measure (this paddle does cut through the heart of Beloit after all). You’ll see an occasional cup and busted inner tube now and then but it’s generally pretty clean. It should also be noted that it really is amazing that this creek winds through the city but you’re rarely reminded of that aspect. You’ll encounter the occasional sound of city noise, heavy machinery, highway noise and if you’re lucky, some smack-talking as you pass by a basketball court but it doesn’t detract from the paddle.

Most of the trip is spent gazing at the backyards of some amazing homes (I always find it strange how few people I see enjoying their beautiful backyards overlooking this beauty of a creek on such a hot day) but I was taken off guard by how much wildlife there was. I startled a couple deer, a couple large cranes startled me and the geese are plentiful. Ironically, I didn’t spot any turtles but I’m pretty sure they were there based on some of the quick sandbar-to-underwater-movement that I caught out of my peripherals. The take-out I chose is really convenient just upstream a bit from the confluence of the Rock River. It’s located behind the Papa John’s on Dickop Street. There are other take-out options but that last section is a ton of fun and is worth the extra time and distance.

The Turtle has a lot in common with Badfish Creek and the Yahara River. It’s very wide at the beginning much like the Yahara but it gets more interesting as the current and riffles increase downstream much like the Badfish. I’d break it down into 3 distinct sections. From Sweet-Allyn Park in Shopiere to Cranston Road, the creek is often wide and slow with a few little riffly sections. From Cranston to Millwaukee Road, the riffles increase with the curves of the creek. It was in that section that I finally came across others out enjoying the Turtle. I passed by a family paddling their canoe, some swimmers jumping from downed trees and some guys floating in tubes. The last section starts immediately after passing under the Milwaukee Road bridge. From there and all the way to the take-out, you’ll find a very pushy current with tons of riffles as you make your way. It’s a very fun section.

Safety is always first and foremost with the trips we plan. We like to keep them around class I or II at the most. One of the things we took note of in the Wisconsin Paddles video was the emphasis on a couple of dangerous bridges. The two that he’s referring to are the Colley Street bridge and the first train trestle immediately after that. When I paddled them, they were completely open but that’s not to say they couldn’t get clogged up and cause for concern but this is not exclusive to Turtle Creek. The water does move faster after Milwaukee Road and there is plenty of deadfall that can and does make its way to the bridges. Every bridge on every paddle should be scouted, especially if you hear moving water and portage when you question your ability to make it through.

What we didn’t like:
Having to go solo again meant another bike shuttle. This time I had a working bike but it’s still quite a journey. It took me somewhere around an hour to get from the take-out to the put-in by winding my way Northwest through Beloit. Maybe it was the heat, but I’ll try to avoid that again if possible. I did notice that Beloit-ians seem to love yard statues.

If we did this trip again:
Truth be told, the only reason I’m not giving this a five-star paddle is because shortening the front section would make this a perfect paddle. I like to keep day paddles around the 8-10 mile mark and this creek is way more fun near the end than the beginning. Who knows, I might change my mind on the next trip down the Turtle.

I would also like to explore more of the creek upstream, including the Tiffany Bridge which is one of the only hand-built 5-arch limestone bridges in the world not far from the put-in at Sweet-Allyn. There are also some class I opportunities further upstream based on the Riverfacts and American Whitewater sites (links below). Regardless, this is a paddle we’ll do again. It’s another one of our favorites of 2011.

Related Information:
Turtle Creek Overview: Turtle Creek Paddle Guide
Turtle Creek II: Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
Turtle Creek III: O’Riley Road to Sweet-Allyn Park
Turtle Creek IV: Springs Park to School Section Road
Turtle Creek V: School Section Road to O’Riley Road
Turtle Creek VI: Fairfield to Sweet-Allyn Park
Good People: Friends of Turtle Creek
Overview: Riverfacts
Video: Wisconsin Paddles


Miles Paddled Video:


Photo Gallery:

  • If you do this again and go further upstream…depth becomes an issue…we have found anywhere north of Sweet Allyn is just brutal because the water gets so shallow. I have seen the bridges clog up at times, but there is usually a path.

  • Thanks for the info Neil. We'd like to do this again this year and we were talking about heading further up but if it's low we'll be sure to skip it. Really appreciate the heads up!

  • 2013-08-01 There is a small amount of off-road parking and access at the northern end of the Rte 14 bridge. There is also a put-in with parking on the north side of the creek, and a small road sign, just east of the O'Riley road bridge. It does appear shallow in spots, down to Rte 140, and I imagine there might be some issues with downed trees, etc. but, with boat shoes, or beach shoes, it should be do-able, and more interesting. I haven't checked out local camping near Sweet Allyn park, but this might make a nice two day trip. There may be some possible camping along the creek itself, perhaps an island? Looks like fun. Thanks for the photos and comments. As Ever, Orin in Boone County, IL


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