Turtle Creek Paddle Guide
Paddle Guide

Turtle Creek Paddle Guide

By on April 2, 2016

Turtle Creek is a real gem in southern Wisconsin. Popular with locals but for some reason mostly unknown to outsiders (which is probably just fine by the locals), there’s a lot to love about this pretty stream. It’s not terribly long (only 44 miles, one-third of which we recommend skipping altogether) and it’s often on the shallow side – the Beloit section in particular – but there’s still a variety of environments it passes through, each with its own trip experience.

First off, even though it’s called a creek, it looks and feels like a river. Even in its upstream sections in Delavan it ranges between 50-100’ wide. Why it’s called a creek and not a river is anybody’s guess. It flows out of Turtle Lake, south of Whitewater and close to the very attractive Ice Age Trail segments in the Kettle Moraine South (close to, but no cigar). From its source, the creek is entirely channelized for 8 miles and change to Comus Lake. Out of Comus Lake it behaves like a creek again but there are some undesirable aspects until School Section Road.

For those reasons we really only recommend the three sections from School Section Road to Dickop Street, about 50 yards upstream of the confluence at Rock River. These three sections couldn’t be more different from one another, which makes the Turtle even more notable. See below for the specifics, but you essentially have your choice of lush public land and flatwater; riffles, a few rocks and the prettiest bridge you may have never yet seen; or urban escapade in moving water with some rapids.

Map:


Turtle Lake to Comus Lake

Miles: 8.5

We haven’t paddled this section and frankly, we’d only attempt it if we lost a bet or if someone paid us. It’s been subjugated by agriculture, its streambed artificially channelized (is “lobotomized” too strong a word?). For 7-ish miles… and then you’re paddling a lake. It seems entirely pointless even if it is doable, about which we’re uncertain in the first place.


Comus Lake to School Section Road
Miles: 6 | 2015 Trip Report

This stretch is tricky. Access from the lake to the creek is ambiguous and there’s a dodgy low-head dam within the first half-mile that awaits. In high water (300 cfs) it’s runnable, but it’s typically a smart rule of thumb to leave these beasts be and portage around them. Trouble here is there’s no practical place to do so. What about putting-in below the dam? Sure, in theory, but in reality there’s no way to do so without schlepping your gear a long distance through brush and marsh. And while ordinarily we’re none to shy away from minimal inconvenience for maximum reward, here there’s very little reward. Do it if you’re curiously curious, otherwise, you won’t be missing much by skipping this.

Turtle Creek Paddling Guide

School Section Road to O’Riley Road
Miles: 8.25 | 2016 Trip Report | 2015 Trip Report

OK, here’s where the getting gets good. For one, virtually all of this 8-mile segment lies along public land, the pretty Turtle Creek Wildlife Area. You’ll see very few buildings in this stretch. In fact, most of the signs of civilization are simply bridges. The rest is just open natural space, not even many farms (a rarity in this part of the state). The current is gentle, even when the water is high. But for one very brief area below Creek Road, there should be no taxing obstructions to encounter. This trip doesn’t have a whole lot of drama but it’s really pretty, sweet and tranquil. Another plus? The bridges between School Section and O’Riley roads come at uncannily even 2-mile marks and each has access to the water, so you can shorten – or add to – this trip as much as you’d like.

Turtle Creek Paddling Guide

O’Riley Road landing to Sweet-Allyn Park
Miles: 9.75 | 2013 Trip Report

Whereas the previous trip has a uniform feel of pretty paddling and surroundings, this trip – also pretty but more developed in the mid-section – feels like a familiar road trip with known landmarks along the way. Here, you’ll first come upon the Little Turtle Creek on your left (paddleable up to a point), attractive but camouflaged rock outcroppings on both banks, a handful of hollows and raised banks, an old truss bridge in a country setting, a gorgeous and historical limestone arch railroad bridge, many pleasant riffles, one easy rapid and a gazillion great blue herons all along the way. Accesses are excellent, and there’s even a bar with a back patio facing the water on the opposite bank of the take-out. Water levels can be tricky, however. Paddle this at 200+ cfs to avoid scraping. At 300 cfs the creek really swings – but remains safe for any level of paddler. This is a great trip!

Turtle Creek Paddling Guide

Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
Miles: 11.5 | 2013 Trip Report | 2011 Trip Report

The final leg of Turtle Creek offers the least secluded section of the stream anywhere, but it’s probably the most fun too. You’ll never be far from houses or development, in fact, you’ll be paddling into the heart of country homes, then suburban back yards and finally the very urban Beloit and South Beloit. But midway through the better homes and gardens tour, the gradient increases precipitously and the riffles-light rapids combination packs a one-two punch that does not take a breather until the take-out. Either you won’t mind the houses and yards since the creek is so fun, or you’ll be too focused on reading the water and avoiding obstructions in the peppy current to notice. Of all the stretches on Turtle Creek, this is the only one that requires caution and beyond-beginner paddling skill. It’s not difficult or dangerous but basic boat control is a must. If you’re confident in that, you’ll love this trip. It’s an absolute blast.

TAGS
RELATED POSTS
MILES TO DATE:

2312.25
HELLO
Miles Paddled documents canoe and kayak trips on rivers and creeks throughout Wisconsin.

Say Hello or Contribute
PADDLE REPORTS

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 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 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

    Morrison Creek
    9.19.15 | ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
    Cemetery Road to Morrison Landing

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

Platte River

Plover River

    Plover River
    5.19.13 | ☆ ☆ ☆
    Jordan Park to Iverson Park

Prairie River

    Prairie River
    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 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!