Koshkonong Creek
★ ★ ★

Koshkonong Creek I

By on March 26, 2013

Cambridge to Rockdale
☆ ☆ ☆

A creek truly cute-as-a-button outside of Madison that offers several options for trip lengths, much of which runs through and along public land, alternating between tree-canopied intimacy, wide-open rolling hills and some steep banks.

February 24, 2013

Class Difficulty:


Recommended Levels:
There is no gauge for Koshkonong Creek. A decent visual gauge is the bridge in Rockdale. If the riffles there are shallow, so too is the creek. But Koshkonong Creek usually has reliable water levels.

West Water Steet, Cambridge, Wisconsin
County B Bridge (Sheldon/Water Street), Rockdale, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 2:20p. Out at 3:50p.
Total Time: 1h 30m
Miles Paddled: 3

Wildlife: A lone, possibly chilly, quite random blue heron and not one but two bald eagles (open water in winter).
Time worth driving to: 1 hr.

For those with a skiing inclination, particularly of the cross-county kind, you might recognize the date of this paddle and think: the Birkie – for which I was registered and ready to do. To make a long story short, finding out only a few days before driving five and a half hours up to Hayward that your girlfriend all of a sudden doesn’t want to join you (there’s nothing quite so pathetic as skiing a marathon only to be greeted by nobody at the finish line…), is a bummer of a mogul.

So to make lemonade out of love’s lemons, I did something instead that I had always wanted to do (while eating the $85 registration cost and $79.95 motel room deposit), not just kayak and ski on the same day but ski-shuttle after paddling down to the take-out. It’s a rare feat and arguably less attention-grabbing or catchy as the 40th anniversary of North America’s longest and hardest cross-country skiing event (but then again I’ve always sided with the underdogs: the Grace to Gene’s Kelly, the lady cardinal to the flaming-red male, the George Harrison songs on Beatles’ albums).

What we liked:
From Cambridge to Rockdale, the Koshkonong Creek runs through public land, the CamRock County Park. It’s a short 3-mile jaunt but very quaint and pretty. It’s not spectacular or terribly remote but for what it is, it’s delightful. Access and parking to the creek is excellent on both ends and if ever there were a waterway that calls for a bike shuttle instead of using two cars or paying an outfitter for such services, this is it. From end to end you’re looking at two skimpy miles, all of which lies within the pretty confines of the park. This is a great way to experience the bike-shuttle notion without extending yourself (or your kids).

The current was good and the depth quite adequate (considering it was February). Even (or especially) in the “barren oblivion” of winter, the surroundings were charming. I expect it to be truly becoming and bucolic come the lushness of spring and summer.

What we didn’t like:
At the time of this writing, there were a few frustrating deadfalls obstructing the creek. Since I did this in winter, I did not have an option of portaging, as the banks were too icy. I got through alright but it required a combination of delicate branch snapping, limb-twisting, hip brace-thrusting, jutting, nudging and when all that failed, full-on battleship ramming through. It is expected that all of this will be cleared out by volunteers led by the CamRock Café & Sport (more on that below).

The “Kosh” is about 35 miles long before it empties into Lake Koshkonong in between Edgerton and Fort Atkinson. I tried to lengthen this trip by putting in further upstream but such access was next to nonexistent. Off of the Highway 12 bridge, the banks are about 7’-high, while the Highway 14 bridge just north of that is lower, yet there is nowhere safe to park (maybe this will look different after the snow melts…?).

Further upstream still is the London/Britzke road bridge but that seemed a little too dicey for a wintertime paddle on a creek I had never been on and knew very little about. As for taking out further downstream, the first place to do so below Rockdale is on Hoopen Road but at that point the creek was frozen over. That said, come warmer weather, this beguiling section will beg paddling down to.

If we did this trip again:
You can bet your boots I will! Probably several times. It’s only half an hour from Madison via Highway 12/18 (or a little longer but oh so much lovelier a drive via Koshkonong road to County N to I-90. I’m excited to check out the section downstream of Rockdale).

A quick shout-out to the CamRock Café & Sport in Cambridge. It’s a locally owned, do-it-all place for good food and drink, boat and bike rentals and much more. To get a flavor of the place, here is their own description: “Biking, Hiking Trails, Walking Families, Canoeing, Kayaking, Eating Food, Drinking Wine, Sipping Coffee, Laughing Loudly, Music Playing.” They left out yoga classes and craft beer (and maybe the kitchen sink) but I like that kind of ambition!

Related Information:
Koshkonong Creek II: Britzke Road to Hoopen Road
Koshkonong Creek III: Cambridge to Hoopen Road
Miles Paddled Video: Koshkonong Creek III: Cambridge to Hoopen Road
Article: Officials Want Cambridge to be Tourist Destination Again
Outfitter: CamRock Café & Sport


Shuttle Information:

2.1 miles by boot or bike through CamRock Park. Or 2.7 on the road.

  • Biked the trail along Koshkonong and had lunch at CamRock cafe–unfortunately, they are no longer renting boats–just bikes, so it's BYOB. Super lovely in mid-summer, though, and we are eager to paddle the creek and see what's downstream of Rockdale!

  • Really? That's interesting that they aren't renting anymore. Thanks for the info and happy to hear you had a fun paddle!


Miles Paddled documents canoe and kayak trips on rivers and creeks throughout Wisconsin.

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