Wisconsin River
★ ★ ★

Wisconsin River XIII

By on June 22, 2014

Pine Island to Portage
☆ ☆ ☆

A mostly uneventful but still pretty section of the Wisconsin River located downriver from the Dells but before the Driftless bluffs of the lower 92 miles. The best this trip offers is plenty of sandbars and fun side channels to paddle down.

Date:
June 13, 2014

Class Difficulty:
Flatwater

Gauge:
Wisconsin Dells: ht/ft: 4′ | cfs: 5,400

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

Put-In:
Levee Road Boat Launch
Take-Out:
Highway 33 bridge, Portage, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 3:10a. Out at 4:30p.
Total Time: 1h 20m
Miles Paddled: 5.75

Wildlife: Phonebook-sized turtles, tiny guys, bald eagles, one great blue heron, ducks and cormorants.
Time worth driving to: 45 minutes

If you’ve never paddled the lower Wisconsin River, don’t let this trip be your first experience. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong about it but there’s nothing really remarkable about it either. It has neither the gorgeous sandstone in the Dells nor the beautiful bluffs downstream of Prairie du Sac.

The river here is wide and sandy. Its best feature may be the entirely protected shoreline on river-right (which the Pine Island State Natural Area comprises) thus, there is no development whatsoever on that side (unlike the left shore, where there are some houses dotted in between the put-in and takeout).

As you might’ve guessed from the name of the road at the put-in, (a quick note, if attempting this trip, you’ll want to look for the power lines in order to find the turnoff for the put-in) there is a levee along the right shore and as such, you have no real view of the Baraboo Range beyond (this might be different in early spring or late fall, without leaves on the trees). However, you’ll hear the background din from interstate highways almost the entire time on the river (depending on the wind direction). Still though, they’re some aspects about this trip worth doing.

What we liked:
For the first time this year they’re exposed sandbars and islands on the Wisco! It was also my first barefoot paddle this year, which was a delightful treat. The river here is very wide but a variety of islands, large blobs and thin spits alike, split the mainstream into pleasant side channels giving you the sense of being on a much more intimate creek at times. The zero-development on river-right shore is most welcome and appreciated too, of course. For the first three miles or so I hugged close-right and enjoyed the nuanced backwaters with just enough water to keep afloat and paddle through.

The other cool thing (spectacular actually) was watching a bald eagle fly no more than 20’ to my side, hover above the water with talons full-out (and game-on) and dive not once but twice for a fish. I was spellbound by the unabashed display. I don’t think it caught anything (lucky for the fish) but it was quite a show nonetheless!

What we didn’t like:
The constant background noise of I-90/94 at the beginning and then I-39 towards the end. It definitely takes away from the experience. Also, this stretch of the river is just a little boring.

If we did this trip again:
No thanks. First, I’d actually hoped to paddle the Castle Rock dam to the Lemonweir River mouth segment of the Wisconsin River but after doing some simple math in my head while driving on the interstate out of Madison I realized I didn’t have enough time for that (given plans I had had already made for later that night and yes, this does happen to me a lot!). Instead, I accepted that a short late-afternoon paddle would be perfect and still allow me time to come home and make a pizza for dinner. In the end, I’m glad it actually worked out this way because a) it was just the right amount of time and b) that other stretch of the river doesn’t sound all too great in the first place (from what I’ve read).

The Upshot: If you’re looking for a “quickie” in this area, put in at Dekorra and take out in Whalen Bay (see here for the goods). It’s far more interesting and pretty and is a kind of microcosm of the best the lower Wisco has to offer: sandbars, islands, bluffs, and cool rock exposures.

Or, if you have more time (as in, way more time) and want a taste of this and that, put in below the dam in downtown Wisconsin Dells and paddle down to the put-in for this trip to use as a takeout for a 15.5-mile trip. I did it once, many moons ago before my own Miles Paddled days. The Lower Dells are gorgeous but short-lived and begin immediately after putting in, so 13 of those miles will be pretty but unspectacular.

That’s the thing about the Wisco, after being mercilessly dam’d so much up in northern and central Wisconsin, (too often to degrees that make paddling almost pointless – almost!) the river comes out of the gate swinging and singing by the Lemonweir down to the dam in downtown. With some notable exceptions, from the Dells to Portage and then from Portage to Dekorra the Wisco is flat and featureless. But below the last dam in Prairie du Sac it just kicks ass all the way down to the Mississippi River. That’s why this trip shouldn’t be your first exposure to the Wisconsin, there’s just so much more to ignite one’s soul!

***************
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 XI: Portage to Dekorra
Wisconsin River XIV: River Bay Road to Norway Drive
General: Grandfather Falls: City of Merrill
General: Grandfather Falls: WisconsinCentral.net
Guide: Paddling Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob
Map: County E to Merrill Dam
Wikipedia: Wisconsin River

Map:


Shuttle Information:

Probably more scenic than the paddle itself, as it runs entirely along Levee Road, a designated rustic road of Wisconsin (incidentally, if you follow the road past the turnoff for the put-in you will come upon the humble Aldo Leopold shack).

Photo Gallery:

TAGS
RELATED POSTS
MILES TO DATE:

2386.00
HELLO
Miles Paddled documents canoe and kayak trips on rivers and creeks throughout Wisconsin.

Say Hello or Contribute
PADDLE REPORTS

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
    5.31.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Faribault to Dundas

Carroll Creek (IL)

    Carroll Creek II
    6.21.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Point Rock Park to Jacobstown Road

    Carroll Creek I
    4.26.13 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Point Rock Park to Jacobstown Road

Catfish Creek (IA)

    Catfish Creek
    5.7.14 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    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
    4.1.17 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    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
    5.14.14 | ☆ ☆
    Swan Lake to Portage Canal

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

Lake Michigan

Lake Superior

Lake Waubesa

Lemonweir River

Little Platte River

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
    5.19.13 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    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
    8.2.13 | ☆ ☆
    5 Mile Road to Horlick Dam

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
Support the Cause
Timothy's guidebook is out! Order on Amazon.com.



Support Miles Paddled and visit our Spreadshirt shop!