Platte River
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Platte River V

By on April 14, 2016

County Road A to Platte Road
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A glorious trip with nonstop riffles and rapids, spectacular cliffs, bluffs, rock outcrops, lush pastures and no obstructions, this hitherto unknown section of the Platte is worth the minor inconvenience of the put-in and take-out. Just be sure the river is high enough before you trek out this way.

March 27, 2016

Class Difficulty:
Class I

8′ per mile

Rockville: ht/ft: 4.05 | cfs: 178

Recommended Levels:
We recommend this level, although it would have been better even an inch higher. We strongly discourage paddling this trip if the gauge is below 3.75.

County Road A, north of Ellenboro, Grant County, Wisconsin
Platte Road

Time: Put in at 12:35p. Out at 3:35p.
Total Time: 3h
Miles Paddled: 10.25

Wildlife: Cows and bulls (including Scottish Highland), hawks, turkey vultures, wood ducks and songbirds.
Time worth driving to: 2 hours.

The Platte is one of our favorite rivers. Paddlers often cast their eyes (and fishing lines) on the nearby Grant River, literally passing over the Platte to do so. Why that is, we’re not sure, as the Platte is exceptionally beautiful and has swifter water. Regardless, it’s a relatively small river (~40 miles), only half of which is mentioned in paddling books and blogs, from Ellenboro down to the Mississippi River. This has caught our curiosity, to wit what about the other 20 miles of river upstream of Ellenboro? It’s taken a couple years to scratch this curious itch simply because, from Madison, it’s about a 90-min drive to the river itself. Plus the Platte drains quickly, due to its steep gradient, so catching it with enough water can be tricky.

I mapped out 10-12 miles of potentially paddleable water upstream of Ellenboro. That’s a long time on a river for which there is no known information. It could be too narrow or too shallow. It could have tons of obstructions on it, whether downed trees, cattle gates, barbed or electric wires. Plus the water was very cold still, and even the air was only in the lower 50s. So I decided to be sensible (a rarity for someone whose nickname is “the Fanatic”) and explore 6 mystery miles and then tack on the first 4 from Airport Road to Platte Road (which was my first ever trip on the Platte). This way, if the first section ended up being a total bust, I’d still at least have something to look forward to.

I’m happy to say that this trip was one of the best, ever. I felt like I had picked up a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk and had to cash it in. This trip was a total gamble and it turned out to be glorious!

What we liked:
The main aspect that makes this trip uniquely thrilling actually is twofold: it’s the combination of scenery and swift current. At no point does the surrounding environment fail to capture your rapt attention. When there are no exposed rocks, the hills still undulate for miles on end, often at bucolic pastures. But mainly there are rocks. Constantly. Most of them exposed outcrops, mainly directly lining the river itself. Add to that small cliffs, a gazillion fissures, bluffs, boulders and ginormous shelves of rock lying below in the water, looking like tiny shipwrecks. I’m not exaggerating – and yet I can’t emphasize this enough: the geology on this trip is simply breathtaking. Your cheeks might even hurt after smiling so much. Really, it’s that pretty.

And then there’s the current. Consider this: for 10+ miles the river is constantly moving, almost always with riffles, often with light rapids. Indeed, the only breaks from this are 100-150 yards long. For 10 miles! It’s nonstop fun (and also explains how I paddled this trip in 3 hours, despite the delays when waiting for cattle to get out of the river or scraping in shallows). The water is mostly clear, though because you’re in farm country, there will be spots of either ag runoff or bank erosion. But there are also deep pools of jade green water too. I don’t fish but I have to believe that such alluring water is home to elusive trout.

The only obstruction found on this trip is located within the first hundred yards, where there’s a downed tree. But you don’t need to portage around it and it wasn’t dodgy or unsafe. After that, there was nothing. For 10 miles! I was amazed to not have even encountered a single strand of wire. We’re also happy to report that there are no longer barbed wires from Airport Road bridge to Platte Road. When we’ve paddled this section in the past, there had been at least three sets of wires but now there are none. I don’t know if it’s early in the season yet and eventually wires will be strung (?), but this was a very welcome surprise.

What we didn’t like:
The put-in is a far cry from ideal. Due to the hills and the paved shoulder of the road, the only safe place to leave a vehicle is about 100 yards from the water itself. Not a big deal but different than normal. It’s also pretty steep, especially once you’re on the riprap/rock rubble. Hoisting a 60-pound boat with gear on your shoulder while clambering down steep loose-footing won’t be for everyone. And then, once you’re on the banks at the bottom, you have to hop over or thread through a barbed wire fence. I don’t believe this is technically legal of the property owner, as the road, as well as the land adjoining the road and the river are considered public right of way. But to whom are you going to argue that in the middle of the country? Once you’re on the other side of the fence it’s all gravy. I even found a convenient cleft in the bank that made for a safe and mostly mud-free launch.

The take-out is better but still not ideal. It’s a shorter schlep and there are no loose rocks or barbed wire fences, but the banks are a bit high and muddy, making for some inconvenience. In our opinion, if the put-in and take-out accesses are the price of admission for this incredible trip, then this is a hell of a bargain.

That said, only consider a bike-shuttle if A) you’re in really good shape, B) have no other option, or C) don’t mind walking your bike occasionally. These hills are seriously steep and it’s a 10-mile shuttle. On the plus side, the roads are all paved, so a road bike would be fine out here (as long as it has lots of gears). But it’s also easy to take a wrong road like I did (something I discovered miles after the fact and I had no other option than to bike aimlessly instead of turning back around and retracing my steps). And these hills are unforgiving. I ended up pedaling 18 miles in my disorientation, uphill and against the wind. It took me 2 hours just to do this shuttle, which is preposterous.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll encounter cattle at some point when paddling the Platte. It’s wise to let them get exit the water before paddling past them so as not to spook them. Think of this as the country equivalent of a traffic jam.

Lastly, it needs to be reiterated that this is a river you need to catch with enough water to paddle, otherwise you’ll be scraping or having to walk your boat a whole lot. Even though I did this at a high level relative to other trips on the Platte, I still scraped quite a bit (which, given my broken boat, meant a lot of water I needed to keep sponging out).

If we did this trip again:
We’d definitely do this again! It would be even better with another inch of water and/or to see in the fall foliage. But having now done this and discovering how truly doable it is, we’re very curious about what it’s like even upstream of County Road A. Stay tuned…

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 III: Platte Road to Big Platte Road
Platte River IV: Big Platte Road to Indian Creek 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


Shuttle Information:

10 miles. With several steep hills this makes for a difficult bike shuttle. It’s pretty and rural, however.

Photo Gallery:

  • Willi Van Haren


    Yesterday (Aug 24th) we paddled the Platte from Coon Hollow Road to Ellenboro. I’d never ventured north of Ellenboro, but with the high water (5+ on gauge) sometimes the upper sections of rivers are good, unless they are crazy. This was simply a great trip, I see today that you had gone from A to Ellen. It was equally wonderful above A, with a nice put in at Coon Hollow and an 8 mile bike shuttle, yep it’s steep! 2.5 hrs, one portage for a down tree, 4 or 5 farm wires in the lower section, one bull. ( he was cool).

    We’d consider going up another bridge to Sleepy Hollow. This section trumps the Platte south of Ellen easily. I would guess that you want a 4.5 to make this good, a fleeting occurrence on the Platte. We got lucky. Saw a family of river otters just above Ellen. One of the more remote feeling paddles and my best new river section in some time.

    Keep on paddling.

    • Thanks for the note Willi! Great to hear about that, as of yet, unknown section. Sounds like a trip we’d love to explore, wires and all! (and no doubt, we will) Seriously, thanks for the info and here’s to many more great paddles!


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!