☆ ☆ ☆
Characteristically similar to the Wisconsin River to which it flows, this popular section of the Plover is a relaxing and easy paddle for canoers and kayakers of all skill levels and is bookended by two great parks in Stevens Point.
May 19, 2013
Water levels are almost always reliable.
Jordan Park, South of Highway 66, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Iverson Park, Main Street, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 11:50a. Out at 1:55p.
Total Time: 2h 5m
Miles Paddled: 7.75
Wildlife: Ducks and (lots and lots of) turtles.
What we liked:
My reason for wanting to paddle the Plover River was one of curiosity and stirring up old memories because the last time I paddled the Plover was the first time I ever paddled. This was the place of my first-ever canoe trip, over twenty years ago, a family trip with my younger sister and three other families and their kids. Although some parts of the trip are more vivid than others, it's left a lasting memory and I really wanted to visit it again all these years later with my new perspective on paddling.
I had thought about this trip often but I didn't even really know exactly where it was we paddled. After some simple investigation, I soon found out that it was the popular Jordan to Iverson section. I vividly remember the park that we took out at - it was busy, people were swimming and I remember it being really pretty. As it turns out, that was Iverson Park and it's just as pretty as I remember.
It was also on this trip that one memory was made that trumped all others. My Dad, who isn't the tradtional outdoorsmen-type, (but has on occasion had a flair for the dramatic) had enough frustration with portages and I guess nature in general, that when the banks of Iverson Park appeared, in a trip-defining (and ridiculous) act, he jumped out of the canoe and swam to shore, never being happier to be on land than at that moment. It was quite the spectacle and is obviously the memory that I (and I'm sure everyone with us) remember to this day.
It's even funnier now knowing that it was only a two-hour paddle. By his reaction, you would've thought he had paddled eight hours or crossed the Atlantic or something.
The put-in at Jordan Park requires a (roughly) 75-foot hike down to the water from the parking lot. There is enough grass to drag your boat if you don't feel like carrying it. It's a pretty put-in flanked by a large metal bridge. Upstream from the put-in is a dam that carries water down a gigantic tube from Jordan Pond. There are a lot of fallen rocks to climb about and explore.
It wasn't until I had hauled my boat down the path and set it in the water that I noticed a couple people putting in upstream by the dam and above some gentle rapids. I had seen the driveway on the north side of the river while shuttling but it looked like it was private. My post-paddle investigation revealed that it looked to be OK to put-in there since I didn't see any Private or No Trespassing signs. In fact, there was even a garbage can there, indicating that it does get used. That is the only riffly area on the Plover and would be quite a nice entrance to the river for future trips.
This is a great canoe river and a beginner river for sure. The current was swift and there is potentionally a lot to get hung up on but it was all very manageable. There are a lot of down-trees but it's one of those cases where even if it looks like there isn't a clear path from a distance - there is. Just follow the current and they'll open up before your eyes. It's obvious that some care has been taken to cut blockages and I assume that the local outfitter, Nature Treks, located in a cabin at Iverson is responsible for keeping it clear which is great because there were no portages despite a lot of deadfall.
This stretch of the Plover is a solid two-hour paddle. There are no bridges or other obvious access points until the homestretch so once you've put-in, you're going the distance.
The river feels surprising remote for being located so close to the city of Stevens Point and it's quite clean, save for the occasional beer can. You'll no doubt find some fellow paddlers along the way too. It's not until way late in the paddle before you even hear traffic from the coming Highway 51.
One of the things I remember differently from paddling back in the day is the size of the river. I remember it being very small, almost creek-like which really isn't the case (being so small myself at the time, you would have thought I would've remembered the opposite, but whatever). It's of the wider variety, like the Yahara River.
Had I not already known that the Plover was a tributary of the Wisconsin, I'm pretty sure I would've guessed it. Its characteristics are very similar to its larger counterpart but on a smaller scale. The color of the water is a slight malty-red in the shallows and Lake Eerie-green in the deeper areas. The sandy bottom, grass banks and even the way the trees lay fallen in the river look familiar and much like the Wisconsin, you'll often encounter huge random banks of sand cutting into the hillside. And though the river is generally shallow as it tapers toward the banks, just like the Wisconsin, it will suddenly get deep without warning.
Despite being near the city, the environs are rather wild, so I still expected to encounter a lot of wildlife but I saw very little variety. A total of one duck was tallied but there were turtles (the size of tires) galore. I literally lost count as they were everywhere.
The take-out at Iverson is great. I chose the beach but you could really take-out anyplace. The parking, however, isn't ideal. You'll have to plan your take-out based on comfort and figure out how far you want to drag your boat. I chose the beach so I could paddle under some bridges (and I'm a beach guy). I ended up dragging my boat a ways but put my flashers on in one of the closer No Parking areas to load up.
As mentioned, Iverson Park, the one I often thought of, is one of oldest and largest parks in Stevens Point and it's remarkable. It's clear a lot of planning and labor went into manicuring the river to the benefit of the city. Upon it's entrance under Main Street, the river splits into different directions with rip-rap lining the walls and it winds through the park in different directions under a variety of beautiful stone and metal bridges. In one direction it creates the swimming area (which is also where the beach is located that I took out) on its way to McDill Pond and eventually, about a mile downstream, the Wisconsin River.
Point has really embraced the river where it meets the city, making it a beautiful destination (it reminded me of how the property owners have manicured their properties surrounding the Crystal River in Rural, WI). This is the park I remember so clearly but have never visited before or since. For a city park, it's a gem.
Also, I noticed (stone or tile) letters embedded in the hillside of the park entrance declaring "City of Wonderful Water". For being born in Point, I never heard the moniker "City of Wonderful Water" so I had to look that one up. I assumed it was phrase that just never caught on.
It turns out it their tap water was declared "Best in the Nation" one year. I would also like to think that it's Point's location, surrounded by beautiful lakes, creeks, the Plover and of course, the Wisconsin River that flows right through it. Iverson park is just one example of their love for the water and I actually thought that was a fitting declaration of the area, it is pretty wonderful.
What we didn't like:
I can't think of a single thing. I really enjoyed this paddle.
If we did this trip again:
This was really a paddle down memory lane for me. Taking what I know of rivers and creeks and comparing it to my memory of this river, Iverson and of course, my Dad making that historic jump in the river made this a really interesting and special paddle for me.
It wasn't quite like tracing the wake of Lewis and Clark but it was cool to relate my knowledge of creeks and rivers to a canoe trip I did as a kid over two decades ago and it sure was fun. And just like my first paddle, I recommend this for first-time paddlers to make some memories of their own.
This section probably deserves more of a three-and-a-half star rating instead of three but since we don't half-star paddles, I'll leave it there. It's really a great entry-level paddle by canoe or kayak.
General: Hunt Fish Camp
General: Wisconsin Travel Best Bets
Good People: Plover River Alliance
Guide: Paddling Central Wisconsin
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Outfitter: Nature Treks
Wikipedia: Plover River
View Plover River in a larger map
The bike shuttle was easy. There is a very short stretch up the hill on Highway 10 but from there is it's a flat ride through some neighborhoods and then a couple elbows through a more rural setting. I considered and really wanted to take the Green Circle Trail route which is another option but you spend more time on Highway 66 which wasn't appealing to me.
Miles Paddled Video:
Jordan Park dam.
Looking downstream from Dam.
Water is carried down from the pond to this second dam.
Alternate put-in next to the dam. Riffles below.
Bridge at the put-in.
Common trees to negotiate.
Highway 51 bridge.
Main Street bridge.
Iverson Park bridge indicating swimming area.