Crystal River II
Rural to Shadow Lake Road
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
A delightfully fun and playful narrow river (more creek-like than not) in central Wisconsin, located just outside of Waupaca, the Crystal is a charming little paddle.
July 8, 2012
Riffles + Class I(II)
Waupaca: ht/ft: n/a | cfs: 150
Gauge notes: This is a correlative gauge located on the Waupaca River.
This is a very recommendable level.
Main Street, Rural, Wisconsin
Shadow Lake Road, Little Hope, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 2:30p. Out at 4:30p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 4.75
Wildlife: Great blue herons, turtles, big fish, crawfish and kingfishers.
Time worth driving to: 2 hours. Caveat: there are lots of other rivers in this area of the state; the Tomorrow, Waupaca, Wolf, Little Wolf, Mecan, etc. I would recommend a combination, otherwise 2 hours is too long a drive for only a 4-mile paddle.
Since this same stretch has been written about already, I shall be brief and merely emphasize that it is a great little river, offering accurately named clear water and continual riffles that are tons of fun. There is one Class I rapid and it’s a hoot. Since the water level is never all that high, you’re never really in any danger. The portage at the dam by Little Hope Mill Pond is indeed steep, so caution is advised but it’s nothing too tricky. Also, adding the last 2/3 of a mile to an already short trip, is well worth it.
The reason this trip is so short is the river itself is only some 10 miles long. It begins at Long Lake, one of the Waupaca “Chain O’ Lakes” and then drains into the Waupaca River itself after a dam, just east of downtown Waupaca. After the Shadow Road bridge there are no access points until the Hwy 22 bridge, which is not recommended. To extend this trip, it is advised to do so before the river (i.e., through the chain of lakes, pardon me, chain o’ lakes). Marl Lake, which is close to Hartman Creek State Park, does look lovely and surreally aquamarine.
I had fantasized about putting in somewhere within the park itself, paddle the eponymous Hartman Creek into the “chain” and then wend my way down to the mouth of the Crystal. Alas, the lack of rain and low water levels precluded this whimsy. But I bet it could be done in early spring, though I advise calling the park first: 715-258-2372.
What we liked:
Fun riffles! And for such a narrow stream and a relatively short distance, this stretch of the Crystal offered a surprising diversity: a wider lake-like section, tall banks, adorable houses (the town of Rural, in case such a name itself isn’t adorable enough, is just about cut and pasted from fairyland and is as cute as it is quaint). Also, this is a great area for road bicycling (see info below).
What we didn’t like:
Too short! And you will likely encounter a good amount of tubers (not the vegetable root-type). Waupaca, while not as resorty as places like Minocqua or Lake Geneva, is definitely a destination for tourists. (You know you’re being pandered to as a vacationing Illinoisan when (at a gas station not all that terribly far from Green Bay…) Chicago Bears and Cubs swag is being sold!
That and the potential for overhead arrows flown over my scalp (but I doubt this is too serious a risk). The sign advising you to take caution is pretty funny; it comes suddenly and inspires a spirit of resignation, for what are you going to do…?
If we did this trip again:
I will, and add to it, some of the “chain” lake sections. I will for sure paddle the section of the river upstream from the Main Street put-in.
Crystal River I: Rural to Shadow Lake Road
Crystal River III: Marl Lake to Shadow Lake Road
Crystal River IV: Little Hope to Shadow Lake
Camp: Hartman Creek State Park
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Outfitter: Adventure Outfitters
Outfitter: Ding’s Dock
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Video: Morrall River Films
3.75 miles. A nice pedal (on bike) with no real hills to contend with.
Miles Paddled Video: