Yahara River
★ ★

Yahara River XI

By on April 30, 2016

Windsor to Highway 113
☆ ☆

A disappointing section of the Yahara River which is fraught with deadfall and other obstructions. This trip will frustrate all but gluttons for punishment and paddling masochists.

April 9, 2016

Class Difficulty:

4′ per mile (first 3 miles), then 2′ per mile, then <1′ per mile.

Windsor: ht/ft: 1.5 | cfs: 40

Recommended Levels:
We don’t recommend paddling this trip. At all. Ever.

Windsor Road, Windsor, Wisconsin
Highway 113/Northport Drive, Madison, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 1:20p. Out at 5:25p.
Total Time: 4h 5m
Miles Paddled: 9

Wildlife: Huge trout, lots of wood ducks, bald eagles, hawks, turkey vultures and several dozen sandhill cranes.
Time worth driving to: It isn’t.

To be fair, I expected this trip to suck (which it did). Being so close to Madison, there had to be a reason why we’d never had any info on this section of the otherwise popular Yahara River. True, there is a 1.5-mile stretch that winds through a golf course (interestingly though, this was the funnest part of the whole trip.) Then there is a wooly (and slightly wild) unknown from the interstate to Cherokee Marsh. And finally there’s slogging through the marsh itself.

It was reasonable to expect the golf course section to be clear, perhaps with a low-clearance bridge or two to portage around (in fact, there was just one requiring a portage). And I knew that the marsh would be open. It’s that middle section that was a crapshoot. I expected there to be downed trees and logjams – though not as many as there actually are.

Also, to put this in context, a trip like this is almost set up to fail in that it combines pretty much everything we dislike about paddling: a manicured golf course landscape, four thousand downed trees, mud, marsh and lake paddling. So why even bother? Indeed, why waste a perfectly good weekend afternoon on something with so little promise? Well, because we’re a bit OCD about completing rivers and this missing link had always felt like an annoying hangnail, especially since it’s in our backyard. The good news is now this is done and out of the way – to be locked up and closeted, never to be done again. The bad news is it took actually doing it to know this.

What we liked:
The golf course section is surprisingly engaging. There are many riffles as well as deep pools. And in those deep pools were schools of huge trout, perfectly visible in the crystal clear water. It was actually shocking to see so many fish of that size over and over. Being a golf course, I don’t think anyone’s fishing there and perhaps the trout have caught onto that fact. But I encountered at least half a dozen such schools with at least a dozen foot-long (or even 18”-long) brown trout. That was very cool.

There are occasional moments between the interstate and Highway 19 where the landscape has a rugged, out-of-the-way feel to it, with little development and some attractive raised banks. There are even three drops in this section – the first a fun runnable ledge, the second (and third), two farmer fords that could be run in higher water but otherwise have to be portaged.

Cherokee Marsh is a pretty wetland complex on Madison’s northside. It doesn’t make for the most interesting paddling per se – it’s better by boots than boats – but we’re awfully glad it’s here. It does have good wildlife, however. I passed at least 15 sandhill cranes standing in the water at one point, while others swooped overhead.

What we didn’t like:
The portaging on this trip is pretty horrific, frankly. I kept thinking these two things during the ordeal: A) we should have a second website called “milesportaged.com” and this section of the river should be renamed the “Yahorror.” I stopped counting after 14 because it seemed beside the point. But the actual amount of downed trees or logjams would be easily in the 40s. Seriously.

I was pretty stubborn in the beginning by forging my way through or over obstructions without getting out of my boat. But there’s only so much one can do and after a certain point you need to just give up. Also, this is one of those environments where when you do get out and portage, it’s prudent to take a short walk to scout what lies downstream before getting back in your boat. Because there’s going to be another logjam. And then another. And another after that. Over and over, mile after mile. Fortunately, most of the land from Highway 19 to the marsh itself is public, so when you take your boat for long walks, at least you’re not trespassing. But it’s still freaking miserable.

And then there’s the marsh – 3 long miles of foot-deep water. It was initially a relief to enter it, as it meant no more portaging, and it is indeed pretty at the upper-most section, before development on both banks encroaches further south. There are only two public accesses on the marsh, one off Wheeler Road on the east bank (which cuts the lake paddling by a mile), the other at Highway 113 though technically part of a Dane County park called Yahara Heights, off of Catfish Court, where there’s a dog park. I chose the latter for purely nostalgic reasons, as it’s a place to which I’ve taken my own dog many times when I used to live on this side of town. The only bad thing about this access is it’s a 400’ walk from the dock (which was donated by Rutabaga) to the parking lot – one more “portage” after a long day of it.

If we did this trip again:
Absolutely not. Nobody should. It just isn’t worth it. There really isn’t anything redeemable about this trip.

Related Information:
Yahara River Overview: Yahara River Paddle Guide
Yahara River I: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Yahara River II: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
Yahara River III: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Yahara River IV: Murwin County Park to Janesville
Yahara River V: Veteran’s Memorial Park to Windsor Road
Yahara River VI: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
Yahara River VII: Veteran’s Memorial Park to Windsor Road
Yahara River VIII: Lake Kegonsa to Stoughton
Yahara River IX: Stoughton to Stebbinsville Road
Yahara River X: Mud Lake to Lake Kegonsa
Miles Paddled Video: Yahara River III: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Miles Paddled Video: Yahara River VI: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
General: Village of DeForest
Good People: Friends of the Yahara River
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Guide: Yahara Waterways Trail Guide
Map: Yahara Borders Trail
Overview: Wisconsin Guides
Wikipedia: Yahara River


Shuttle Information:

6 miles.

Photo Gallery:

Piscasaw Creek
Piscasaw Creek III

June 8, 2017

Neenah Creek
Neenah Creek

May 6, 2016

Mukwonago River
Mukwonago River

December 17, 2015


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 Amazon.com.

Support Miles Paddled and visit our Spreadshirt shop!