Badfish Creek VIII
Old Stage Road to Casey Road
☆ ☆ ☆
Some days it pays to be unemployed. To wit, a freakishly warm Monday when the mercury rose to the lower 50s – the first time we’ve felt that since October. That it follows the hallowed weekend of Canoecopia, when one’s spirit is charged with inspiration to resume paddling again, well then… Today (as of this writing) the temperature is a good 13 degrees colder, with full clouds and winds that make it feel worse. Tomorrow the high will be 20 degrees. Carpe diem ye paddler!
March 10, 2014
Cooksville: ht/ft: 5.03 | cfs: 105
This is the recommended minimum level.
Old Stage Road, Cooksville, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 2:00p. Out at 4:00p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 6.75
Wildlife: Wood ducks, turkey, some Canada goose gaggles, a deer, a couple cardinals and two bald eagles.
Speaking of Canoecopia, I was suppose to paddle the Badfish with Darren Bush, the so-called “chief paddling evangelist” of Rutabaga. Our plans were nixed in the end, although coincidentally I would see a small group of canoeists during my bike shuttle that turned out to be none other than himself with a couple pals. I mention this for two reasons: 1) while I had only a so-so time on the creek, he had a great time (see here for his photos) and 2) while I found the water level shockingly shallow for such a warm day with all the melting snow, his group appears to have managed quite well in canoes.
So take this brief report with a grain of salt.
What we liked:
I don’t think there’s a segment of water we cover as much as the beloved Badfish Creek. In part, because it’s so close to Madison and also because it offers several put-in/take-out options to tailor the length and variety of the trip experience. But it’s mainly because it’s so pretty, reliable and fun. My favorite aspect of paddling this stretch today was seeing the contour of the land, the soft hills in particular, in its leafless nudity still swaddled in snow. It offered a much different visual feel than in spring or summer, or even autumn.
Noting the gazillion tracks of deer and whatnot was also a charming pastime; all these places they’d been to previously. And of course the snowbanks themselves were awfully pretty (noted oxymoron), many of which undulated like waves. The riffles were at their riffliest, so to speak, maybe as much as a Class I in a couple of spots but very easy to read and follow for any level of paddler.
And despite the mean, long winter we’ve had coupled with several notable occasions of crazy-assed wind, I saw no signs of significant wear and tear on the water and certainly no impassable tree downfall requiring portaging.
What we didn’t like:
I was genuinely surprised by how shallow the water level was. I didn’t expect to be scraping when paddling in early March with surrounding snow melting. Indeed, earlier in the morning I awoke to reports on the radio about potential flood warnings on the nearby Rock and Pecatonica rivers. So to find the Badfish in early season snowmelt as low as I have ever paddled it in the thirst of sultry July was surprising and occasionally frustrating.
I had been planning on warning paddlers who are interested in canoeing this stretch of the Badfish (and this is, by all accounts, the best stretch of the Badfish) that I would advise doing so only with more water but as Darren’s example proves, it can be canoed even this low, so deciding when to go is your call.
There were two odd sites on this trip, shortly downstream from the put-in. First, a hawk carcass caught in tree branches overlooking the creek (what chain of events led to this unfortunate happening would be fascinating to know) and Second, a little further beyond that, someone decided that the best place to dispose of an old armchair was is in the middle of the creek (which is to say that someone schlepped this beast of furniture out through the snow and onto the ice and just plopped it then and there).
If we did this trip again:
The question isn’t “if” but “when” the Badfish will be paddled again.
Badfish Creek Overview: Badfish Creek Paddle Guide
Badfish Creek I: Route 138 to Murwin County Park
Badfish Creek II: Old Stage Road to Highway 59
Badfish Creek III: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek IV: Old Stone Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek V: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Badfish Creek VI: Old Stage Road to County Road H
Badfish Creek VII: Old Stage Road to County Road H
Badfish Creek IX: Sunrise Road to Old Stone Road
Badfish Creek X: County Road B to Sunrise Road
Miles Paddled Video: Badfish Creek II: Old Stage Road to Highway 59
Miles Paddled Video: Badfish Creek V: Old Stage Road to Casey Road
Article: Paddling the Badfish Creek
Good People: Friends of Badfish Creek Watershed
5 miles. A nice pedal (on bike) with no real hills to contend with but it can get windy.