Platte River
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Platte River III

By on November 25, 2013

Platte Road to Big Platte Road
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

This segment, the crème de la crème of the Platte, is second to none with riffles and small rapids the entire stretch, sweeping bluff vistas and great rock outcroppings in the beautiful Driftless area of Wisconsin. You will not be bored nor disappointed.

November 10, 2013

Class Difficulty:

Rockville: ht/ft: 3.4 | cfs: n/a

Recommended Levels:
We recommend this level.

Platte Road, Harrison, Wisconsin
Big Platte Road, Tennyson, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 11:20a. Out at 2:20p.
Total Time: 3h
Miles Paddled: 8.25

Wildlife: Bald eagles, ducks, kingfishers, crows, hawks, sheep, killdeer, horses, bulls, turkey, turtles and a couple coots.
Time worth driving to: 2 hours.

I did this same segment around this time last year with a couple friends but it was during the height (which is to say low point) of the 2012 camera debacles and it dawned on me not long ago that I had next to no pictures from that trip. Plus, I had recently paddled the final segment of the Platte, which was a first, so I wanted to do this trip again in order to better compare the two. While the last stretch of the Platte is truly pleasant, this is far and away the better segment. Indeed, of the 23 miles from Ellenboro (the last dam on the Platte) to its confluence at the Mississippi River, this 8.25-mile segment offers all of the highlights and the fewest detractions (e.g., barbed wire, flat water, livestock in the river, etc).

What we liked:
You begin immediately with a huge bluff looming ahead and terrific riffles, what better way to start a paddling trip!? Riffles are nearly continuous for the entirety, with only a couple of short exceptions. I would classify a couple of these riffles Class I rapids. They’re just enough water to get the bow all splashy wet (and even inside the cockpit if you’re not paying attention) but not so formidable as to threaten your safety. That said, there are some tight turns, obstacles and strainers to maneuver in occasionally pushy water, especially along the last three miles of the trip, (roughly below the County Road B bridge and the takeout at Big Platte Road) so you do need to be paying attention. For beginners, I would recommend the last section of the Platte to get a feel first.

There are bluffs everywhere and almost no development, at least houses. Farmland and pastures prevail but only occasionally do you hear a tractor in the fields. You will almost certainly come upon some cows or bulls in the water, it’s just about inevitable. There are two sections of large rock outcroppings. The first, about half-mile long and coupled with riffles only a couple miles downstream of the put-in. The second, about a mile upstream from the takeout but in flatwater allowing you to get out and explore the hillside woods and climb the rocks. One even looked like a cave from the water but it was basically a slot through one rock to another, still pretty cool though. There’s one large formation that is table-flat and would make for a good picnic spot or just a place to rest high above the river, overlooking the valley area.

Another pleasant feature of this section is the amount of small islands you’ll encounter, each one creating two channels of water to choose, each (usually) with a riffle or more. It breaks up what might otherwise be considered monotonous, plus it provides good practice of reading a river.

What we didn’t like:
Not a darn thing. Well, maybe the barbed wire but there’s just one line of it. It is, it should be pointed out, strung across a bend in the river where there’s a considerable set of riffles, so you do need to approach it cautiously or just portage around it. The takeout is totally doable but by no means great or easy. There’s not much room on the road for parking either, though these roads are sparsely traveled.

If we did this trip again:
I will for sure. In fact, I think this segment has the makings of an annual spring run trip, when the water will be high(er), in order to experience the Platte with maybe more rapids than riffles.

Related Information:
Platte River Overview: Platte River Paddle Guide
Platte River I: Ellenboro to County Road B
Platte River II: Ellenboro to Platte Road
Platte River IV: Big Platte Road to Indian Creek Road
Platte River V: County Road A to Platte Road
Miles Paddled Video: Ellenboro to County Road B
Good People: Friends of the Platte River
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Wikipedia: Platte River


Miles Paddled Video:

Photo Gallery:

  • This is an excellent paddle! I paddled this 5/9/15 and wanted to note that there is no longer one strand of barbed wire but instead there are two strands of normal wire across the river. They are hard to see, tight, and just a little taller than the canoe. It's too bad this is allowed.

    The gauge was at 3.25 and I think that is probably the absolute minimum since we had to get out and walk a few times. That said, it was a great paddle with a ton of riffles and fun maneuvering in a beautiful landscape. I'll definitely do this one again.

  • Paddled this on 6/27/15. The gauge was 3.35. The kayaks had very issues, but the canoes with cooler and extra child really struggled floating thru the riffles. There is only one wire and it wasn't an issue. It appears some local folk cleared a path past many down trees resulting from a recent straight line wind storm. Scenic Trip!

  • Thanks Justin and Thomas for chiming in. We love this trip on the Platte, a must-paddle once a year. It does get shallow though. And we totally agree about the wire. At least they're not cattle gates, which are seriously dangerous and questionably legal!

    Best to you both.



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