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Wisconsin River XI

By on May 4, 2014

Portage to Dekorra
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A mostly overlooked and underappreciated section of the Wisconsin River located after the rapture of the Dells but before the splendor of the lower 92 miles, this quick trip is worth a look.

April 22, 2014

Class Difficulty:

Wisconsin Dells: ht/ft: 8.5 | cfs: 18,000

Recommended Levels:
We recommend this level. Water levels are almost always reliable on the Wisconsin.

Paquette Park, Portage, Wisconsin
Hooker’s Bar boat launch, Dekorra, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 2:40p. Out at 5:00p.
Total Time: 2h 20m
Miles Paddled: 8.25

Wildlife: Sandhill cranes, a couple blue herons, turtles, the biggest bald eagle nest (with occupant) I’ve ever seen and at least a dozen cormorants.
Time worth driving to: 1 hour

Well, of course there had to be an Earth Day paddle! I’d first paddled this segment of the Wisconsin River some four or so years ago but really didn’t remember it specifically. Having done it again, there’s good reason for the foggy memory: it’s not terribly memorable! But it does it have its charms, more at the beginning and end of this trip.

It lacks the fantastic rock outcrops further upstream as well as the endless lush bluffs downstream (which probably makes it neglected) but again, it’s not without its own character. Plus, it does offer something its more becoming areas up- and downstream lack: floodplain bottomlands which allows for through-the-woods routes that can be downright spooky and spectacular in their own rights.

What we liked:
What I liked: Maybe it’s because less than a month ago I was in New Orleans and that New Orleans is probably my favorite city anywhere, so the view of a riverside levy in downtown Portage along the Wisconsin River makes me nostalgic and playfully imaginative that I am somewhere romantic (not that Columbia County is short on romance, need I say anything more than Pardeeville?).

Speaking of romance, for those of us in love with the Wisconsin River, there’s always something special about doing a characteristic stretch of it because it’s so varied. True, you might have to work a bit harder to find what’s so special about the river in this section, as it lacks the drama and beauty found elsewhere on the river throughout the state but this trip is kind of like a middle child: reliable but taken for granted and forgotten about, so just doing its own thing.

Like a lot of segments on the Wisconsin River, there are various access points not only to lengthen or shorten the trip but to tailor what kind of trip, landscape-wise, you’re looking for. Putting-in off of Levee Road (see map below) takes you through a very pretty but mostly flat and sandy stretch between the Dells and the city of Portage where the river runs through the Pine Island Wildlife Area, an area rich in wetlands and oak savanna habitats. But for Levee Road itself, which is scarcely driven on, there are no nearby roads, just sandbars.

Or taking out further downstream, in Whalen Bay off of Lake Wisconsin, allows for the “return” of sandbars, the rise of riverside bluffs and beautiful rock outcrops.

Some indisputable plugs about this trip:

1) Honorable mention goes to the mouth of the Baraboo River on river-right, a little more than midway into the trip. For those of us with a crush on the Boo, thinking of its muddy meanders and rock outcrops starting all the way up in the Elroy environs, seeing its last hurrah merging into the mainstream provides a perspective of putting the puzzle pieces together.

2) Whether at the Baraboo on the right or the floodplains of Duck and Rocky Run creeks on the left, there is usually a whole lot of water to allow paddling through the woods, which is a cool novelty. Again, for someone recently returned from actual bayous and cypress swamps, I was pretty charmed by this effect.

3) Just upstream from the Dekorra landing on river-left, pretty rock outcrops begin, one of which has a cave-like cleft in it big enough to paddle inside. It’s not everyday you get to do that! Special thanks to our pal Aaron over at Wis. River Trips for pointing out this cave on his site.

Additional food for thought: Even if you don’t use the takeout at Hooker’s Bar in Dekorra, I definitely recommend checking it out for a drink or meal after your paddle. No beers on tap but the bottle selection is pretty good and based on a non-scientific observation of 7 out of 13 folks (my friend and I included) at the bar drinking rum and Cokes, I’m guessing they make a good one. Great bar food here too with a surprisingly diverse menu (plus a grill your own steak option).

What we didn’t like:
Right, so as you’ve figured out, this trip isn’t mind-blowing or anything but how many trips are, or have to be, to still be good? The only thing I didn’t much care for was the very high water, which submerged all the little islands and sandbars. But it allowed for flying time on the river, especially with the wind at our back (though I would later curse that same wind on the bike shuttle). Plus, all that water really allowed for some back-slough paddling through the floodplain woods, which was wonderful.

If we did this trip again:
I’d do this trip again anytime, whether putting in upstream or taking out downstream. Just depends on what you’re feeling.

Related Information:
Wisconsin River V: Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin River VI: Dekorra to Whalen Bay
Wisconsin River VII: Downtown Dells to Norway Drive
Wisconsin River IX: Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin River XIII: Pine Island to Portage
Wisconsin River XIV: River Bay Road to Norway Drive
Map: Pine Island Wildlife Area to Dekorra
Wikipedia: Wisconsin River


Shuttle Information:

10.5 miles. It’s better to drive than bike, as a good segment of this is necessarily along Highway 51, which while not bicycle-unfriendly, it’s stressful cycling, as cars and trucks vroom past you at 60+ mph. Approaching Portage there is a pleasant levee trail one can take that parallels 51.

Photo Gallery:


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Ahnapee River

Apple River (IL)

    Apple River
    4.20.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    East Canyon Road to South Apple River Road

Ashippun River

    Ashippun River
    9.27.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Ashippun Lake to Ski Slide Road

Badfish Creek

Baraboo River

Bark River

    Bark River III
    4.7.17 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Highway 83 to Delafield Road

    Bark River II
    4.15.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Merton to Highway 83

    Bark River I
    7.15.10 | ☆ ☆
    Burnt Village County Park to Fort Atkinson

Beaver Dam River

Big Bureau Creek (IL)

    Big Bureau Creek
    6.17.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Red Covered Bridge Park to County Road 1150

Big Rib River

    Big Rib River
    5.10.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Goodrich to County Road A

Billings Creek

    Billings Creek
    8.13.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road F to Landing 10

Black Earth Creek

Black River

Black River: East Fork

Bois Brule River

Boundary Waters (MN)

Cannon River (MN)

    Cannon River
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Carroll Creek (IL)

    Carroll Creek II
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    Point Rock Park to Jacobstown Road

    Carroll Creek I
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    Point Rock Park to Jacobstown Road

Catfish Creek (IA)

    Catfish Creek
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    Mines of Spain to Massey Marina Park

Cedar Creek

    Cedar Creek
    9.28.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road M to Cedarburg

Coon Fork Creek

Covel Creek (IL)

    Covel Creek
    6.18.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    East 18th Road to Highway 71

Crawfish River

Crawfish River: North Branch

Crystal River

Dell Creek

    Dell Creek
    3.15.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    South Avenue to Dellwood

Door Creek

    Door Creek
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    Femrite Drive to Fish Camp County Park

Duck Creek

    Duck Creek
    3.23.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road G to Duck Creek Road

Eau Claire River

Eau Galle River

Embarrass River

Flambeau River: North Fork

Fox River

    Fox River II
    4.30.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road O to Endeavor

    Fox River I
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Fox River (IL)

Galena/Fever River

Grand River

Grant River

    Grant River IV
    4.24.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road U to Chaffie Hollow Road

    Grant River III
    4.23.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Short Cut Road to County Road U

    Grant River II
    11.21.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road U to Chaffie Hollow Road

    Grant River I
    5.23.09 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Short Cut Road to County Road U

Halls Creek

    Halls Creek III
    5.6.17 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Trow Lake Dam to Halls Creek Landing

    Halls Creek II
    8.9.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Garage Road to Halls Creek Landing

    Halls Creek I
    6.28.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Trow Lake Dam to Halls Creek Landing

Honey Creek

Jump River

    Jump River
    8.30.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Luke’s Heights Lane to Big Falls County Park

Kickapoo River

Kickapoo River: West Fork

Kinnickinnic River

Kishwaukee River (IL)

Koshkonong Creek

La Crosse River

Lake Columbia

Lake Mendota

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Little Wolf River

Maunesha River

Mecan River

Mill Creek

Milwaukee River

Milwaukee River: East Branch

Mink River

Mirror Lake

    Mirror Lake II
    10.17.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Mirror Lake State Park to Lake Delton

    Mirror Lake I
    5.24.08 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Mirror Lake State Park to Lake Delton

Montello River

    Montello River
    11.8.16-11.10.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Harrisville to 11th Road

Mormon Creek

    Mormon Creek
    8.3.14 | ☆ ☆
    Mormon Coulee Park to Goose Island County Park

Morrison Creek

Mukwonago River

Mullet River

    Mullet River
    10.20.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Plymouth to County Road M

Namekagon River

    Namekagon River
    7.16-7.19.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road K to Riverside

Neenah Creek

Nippersink Creek (IL)

Oconomowoc River

Old Pearl River (LA)

    Old Pearl River
    4.3.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Crawford Landing Road to Indian Village Road

Onion River

    Onion River II
    10.11.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road A to County Road V

    Onion River I
    9.23.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road V to Sheboygan Falls

Pecatonica River

Pecatonica River: East Branch

Peshekee River (MI)

Peshtigo River

    Peshtigo River
    9.2.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Burnt Bridge to Goodman Park

Pigeon River

    Pigeon River
    12.5.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road J to Lake Michigan

Pine River

Piscasaw Creek (IL)

Platte River

Plover River

    Plover River
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    Jordan Park to Iverson Park

Prairie River

    Prairie River II
    5.27.17 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road C to Stange’s Park

    Prairie River I
    11.17.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Haymeadow Creek to Prairie Road

Puchyan River

    Puchyan River
    04.19.15 | ☆ ☆
    County Road J to Huckleberry Road

Red River

    Red River
    12.9.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Gresham to County Road A

Red Cedar River

Robinson Creek

    Robinson Creek
    7.8.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Old County Road I to Kelly Road

Rock Creek

    Rock Creek
    3.26.16 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Lake Mills to Millford

Rock River

Root River

    Root River
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Root River: South Branch (MN)

Rubicon River

Seeley Creek

    Seeley Creek
    5.4.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Seeley Lake to Hatchery Road

Six Mile Creek

    Six Mile Creek
    6.7.14 | ☆
    Waunakee Village Park to South Woodland Drive

Spring Creek

    Spring Creek
    4.20.13 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Fair Street to County Road V

St. Croix River

Starkweather Creek

Sugar Creek

Sugar River

Token Creek

    Token Creek III
    5.22.11 | ☆
    Token Creek County Park to Cherokee Park

    Token Creek II
    8.22.09 | ☆ ☆
    Token Creek County Park to Cherokee Park

    Token Creek I
    5.2.09 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Token Creek County Park to Cherokee Park

Tomorrow River

    Tomorrow River
    7.4.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Rolling Hills Road to Amherst

Trappe River

    Trappe River
    8.2.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Road WW to Wisconsin River Road

Trempealeau River

Turtle Creek

Upper Iowa River (IA)

    Upper Iowa River
    5.24.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Chimney Rock Road to Bluffton Road

Waupaca River

    Waupaca River V
    10.24.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Amherst to Durrant Road

    Waupaca River IV
    4.12.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Highway Q to Brainards Bridge Park

    Waupaca River III
    9.22.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Highway DD to County Highway Q

    Waupaca River II
    7.7.12 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Highway Q to Brainards Bridge Park

    Waupaca River I
    7.9.11 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    County Highway Q to Brainards Bridge Park

Wausau Whitewater Park

Wedges Creek

    Wedges Creek
    9.20.11 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Middle Road to Black River Lodge Resort

White River

Wisconsin River

Wolf River

Yahara River

Yellow Creek (IL)

    Yellow Creek
    4.19.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Bolton Road to Krape Park

Yellow River

Yellow River (IA)

    Yellow River II
    5.6.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Old Sixteen Road to Highway 76

    Yellow River I
    5.5.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Highway X16 to Old Sixteen Road

Zumbro River (MN)

    Zumbro River
    6.1.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Zumbro Falls to Millville
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