Fox River
★ ★ ★ ★

Fox River II

By on June 4, 2015

County Road O to Endeavor
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A trip that has its pretty moments but is also monotonous and slow, with virtually no current since the river starts to sprawl out into a huge lake near the takeout. That said, it makes for a great after-work, early morning, or late afternoon trip. The flocks of cranes alone make this section special, to say nothing of the rest of the diverse wildlife.

April 30, 2015

Class Difficulty:

< 1′ per mile

Princeton: ht/ft: 6.2 | cfs: 1200

Recommended Levels:
Water levels are almost always reliable.

County Road O, Marquette County, Wisconsin
Island Drive, Endeavor, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 11:30a. Out at 1:30p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 5.5

Wildlife: Dozens of sandhill cranes, deer, frisky fish, wood ducks, teal, great blue herons and turtles galore.
Time worth driving to: 1 hour.

I’d always found it odd that this segment of the Fox River gets such short shrift, bordering on hate mail and aspersions cast. Especially considering that over 1,000 acres along the river are federally protected lands, the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, a conservation area whose sole purpose is to promote sandhill crane habitat, and not to mention that the boyhood home of John Muir is just down the road from the put-in (today a dedicated county park and state natural area). Is it just an aversion to the Buffalo Lake impoundment? Or that I-39 is due west? I had to find out for myself.

What we liked:
Both the put-in and takeout are excellent and convenient (though the latter is rather inconspicuous). And while the river is wide on this trip – over 100 feet – it retains a sense of intimacy since the surroundings are little developed. Technically, the southern perimeter of the wildlife refuge begins right at County Road O, but it will take a mile or so paddling downstream to feel the full effect of solitude and sanctuary. But once you’re in the heart of it, it’s palpable.

I paddled this on a rather windy day, (a bad idea; see below) but still the cranes were out and about in spades. It never gets old or under appreciated, the prehistoric trumpeting of cranes, or their aerial ballet. That a nationally protected landscape is devoted essentially just for cranes seems almost too good to be true, especially these days. To be sure, just about any marsh is a good place to find cranes, especially in spring and autumn, but here it’s all but guaranteed.

I was surprised by how becoming the surroundings are. I’d expected the areas east of the river to be marshy based on satellite maps and since that’s where the refuge lies. But just east of that are soft upland hills towards Montello. They’re not amazing or anything and they are far away, but they added a pretty punctuation in the background to the otherwise flat foreground. In addition, there are several genuinely cool woodsy areas on the left bank of the river, some with undercut sandbanks, some topped with coniferous trees. There’s more to this marsh than cattails and sedge meadows, though, there’s a lot of those!

Towards the end of this short trip, just before the river becomes little more than lake impoundment, there’s a series of islands (some large, others just cattail plots) that provide the paddler different channel options to choose. As big and wide as this river is, I found myself run aground in a random super-shallow channel that rather shocked me. But this braided network makes the big river seem smaller and more intimate, which is a nice effect.

What we didn’t like:
Unless you’re simply masochistic, learn from my mistake and don’t paddle this on a windy day! The wind was from the east, so I thought, “Great, I’m going northwest!” which turned out to be naively irrelevant. The gradient on this segment of the Fox is next to nothing – actually, most of the Fox until the locks in Appleton and Kaukana is at best a foot per mile. The closer you paddle into Buffalo Lake, the slower this already slow effect will feel. Unless you’re paddling into the wind, in which case the gradient is essentially “negative feet per mile,” meaning you’re going backwards blown to smithereens by the blustery wind. I paddled non-stop on this 5.5-mile trip, and still it took me 2 hours, which is quite slow. I imagine this is not uncommon, given the general openness of the refuge and surrounding landscape. I definitely recommend this trip, just not if the wind is whining.

Also, if I hadn’t known about the public boat landing on Island Drive, there’s no way in the world I would have come upon it. It’s like trying to find the Batcave or some secret “undisclosed location” of some operative where you’d half-expect to see Dick Cheney sipping a strong Scotch on the rocks. But if know which road to take to find it, you’ll be awfully grateful, as it will spare you the probable tedium of slogging through Buffalo Lake. Which, heck, may not be so bad after all, but it adds another 5 miles – all of which will be slow paddling further compromised by motorboats, and the shoreline will be developed as you enter the outskirts of Packwaukee.

If we did this trip again:
I would definitely do this again, in autumn especially, but only when there is no wind. And I do recommend stopping by John Muir County Park, where there’s a great mile-long hike around a kettle lake surrounded by swales, sedges and upland oaks. It’s a special place in its own right, to say nothing of how it must have infused the wee lad’s spirit with what would become a tireless zeal to preserve the sacred outdoors. Marquette County’s drumlins and kettle lakes created by the last Ice Age surely do not rival the glacial valley of Yosemite, but it can be argued that the latter would not today be a protected national park without the former.

Related Information:
Fox River I: Swan Lake to Portage Canal
General: The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail
General: Portage Canal Society
Wikipedia: Fox River


Shuttle Information:

6.1 miles along a pretty road with great views of the little hills off to the east.

Photo Gallery:


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

Say Hello or Contribute

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

Support Miles Paddled and visit our Spreadshirt shop!