Turtle Creek I
Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
With almost identical water levels as the first time we paddled the Turtle, we had a very familiar run down this creek that flows through the city of Beloit, Wisconsin.
July 13, 2013
Clinton: ht/ft: 4.18 | cfs: 205
This is a very recommendable level. Ideally, paddle this at above 200 cfs.
Sweet-Allyn Park, Shopiere, Wisconsin
Dickop Street, South Beloit, Illinois
Time: Put in at 11:00a. Out at 2:30p.
Total Time: 3h 30m
Miles Paddled: 11.5
Wildlife: Turtles(!), two blue heron, two deer, ducks, geese, one fish and three cows.
What we liked:
It’s been two years since last visiting Turtle Creek and I’ve been itching to get back, especially at different water levels. Ironically, however, nearly every aspect felt similar since the water level and flow were almost exactly identical to the last time I paddled it (even lower by the end of the paddle).
We had actually tried to paddle this same section two weeks earlier but at the last moment, it wasn’t meant to be. In fact, I was at the put-in ready to go before something came up and my friend couldn’t make it. The creek at that time was swollen and double the normal depth and flow than it normally is so it was probably a good thing that we cancelled that trip (and probably a good thing that I didn’t have my bike with me to tempt a bike-shuttle and paddle in those conditions). This picture shows the water at the put-in a couple weeks ago, it’s barely recognizable.
So two weeks later, after some dry weather (finally), we made it back.
The put-in at Sweet-Allyn Park is fantastic with easy water access, facilities and lots of parking. We chatted with some friendly locals there, specifically a man who suggested putting in up at Carver’s Rock to extend the paddle three to four miles (it’s actually closer to 6.75 more miles which would make for quite a long day trip). That section has been on my radar, especially because I want to see the beloved Tiffany Stone Arch bridge (check out this amazing shot of it too) and because of the mild whitewater opportunities but we had already done our shuttle so we kept with the original plan.
The turtle is an easy paddle, navigable by canoe or kayak, with lots of riffles but it does historically clog from tree debris. There are a couple bridges to scout where the debris gathers (the East Colley Road bridge and the train trestle right after it) as indicated by the first and second pinpoint on map and as referenced in the Wisconsin Paddles video, So, of course, we proceeded with caution since I had just witnessed the creek at flood stage. We did have to portage twice, once at that train trestle.
This creek is much wider than most and could easily be categorized as a river (although there really is nothing that distinguishes a river from a creek). The water is generally a muddy brown but it seemed a little muddier and opaque than the last trip, which was surely due to the excess rain that stirred things up a bit. The creek bottom is rocky with a mix of sand and of course, mud.
The paddle itself was almost exactly how I remembered it. From the put-in to Cranston road, it’s generally flat water and slow going without too much excitement. Cranston Road to Milwaukee Road is a little more exciting with a few riffles. Milwaukee Road to State Line road is the most exciting with a stronger, twistier current and many more riffles. From there until the take-out, it gets more evident that you’re in the city.
The one astonishing thing that was different this time around was that we finally saw a turtle! Not just one but a few turtles, as well as a couple blue heron, two deer, ducks, geese, one giant fish (which looked like a carp) and three cows (not in the water but behind a farmers fence, thank-you-very-much).
The environment is a mix of tree-covered canopy and tree-lined banks to stretches where you’ll be flanked by manicured lawns and decorated homes along the way. It’s a surprisingly peaceful paddle despite the fact that you’re paddling through Downtown Beloit. It’s not until near the take-out after the Highway 51 bridge does that really become apparent (a lot more city noise).
The take-out is unique in that it’s flanked by a couple train trestles (just beyond the one to the West is your entrance to the Rock River). It’s a convenient access point, even if it does feel a little sketchy since it’s not in the most developed part of Beloit (South Beloit).
With the water levels we paddled this at, this is definitely a three-hour paddle. We took two fifteen-minute breaks which extended it a bit.
What we didn’t like:
The excess garbage lining the shores was more evident this time around. We’d need a separate canoe or kayak to collect it all.
If we did this trip again:
These are great levels and conditions to paddle Turtle Creek but I hope to catch it with a little more water next time (but not double the depth and flow that was raging two weeks earlier).
All in all, the weather was awesome and it was great to revisit this stretch again. I’ll probably check out the upstream section the next time I visit.
Turtle Creek Overview: Turtle Creek Paddle Guide
Turtle Creek II: O’Riley Road to Sweet-Allyn Park
Turtle Creek III: Springs Park to School Section Road
Turtle Creek IV: School Section Road to O’Riley Road
Turtle Creek V: Fairfield to Sweet-Allyn Park
Good People: Friends of Turtle Creek
Video: Wisconsin Paddles
We did a car shuttle this time around. I bike-shuttled the first trip which is quite a long ride through Downtown Beloit, the burbs, farm country and finally to Shopiere.
Miles Paddled Video:
Previous Trip Report:
August 6, 2011
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
This is our favorite kind of creek, one that paddles like a river. Flowing from Turtle Lake to the Rock River, this riffly run makes for a great day paddle as it twists and turns on its way to the city of Beloit.
Gauge: Clinton: ht/ft: 4.19 | cfs: 193
Time: Put in at 12:30p. Out at 3:15p.
Total Time: 2h 45m
What we liked:
This is our favorite kind of creek, one that paddles like a river. Turtle Creek was one of the first trips we ever mapped out. After coming across the Wisconsin Paddles video some years back, we knew we had to check it out for ourselves and yet it took a couple years for us to get around to actually kayaking it. Although it was unfortunate that only one of us paddled it after a last minute cancellation.
Flowing from Turtle Lake to the Rock River, this creek has a lot to love. The put-in at Sweet-Allyn Park (love that name) is fantastic. The water is brown, clear in the shallows and moves from sandy to rocky bottom with the occasional tire tossed in for good measure (this paddle does cut through the heart of Beloit after all). You’ll see an occasional cup and busted inner tube now and then but it’s generally pretty clean. It should also be noted that it really is amazing that this creek winds through the city but you’re rarely reminded of that aspect. You’ll encounter the occasional sound of city noise, heavy machinery, highway noise and if you’re lucky, some smack-talking as you pass by a basketball court but it doesn’t detract from the paddle.
Most of the trip is spent gazing at the backyards of some amazing homes (I always find it strange how few people I see enjoying their beautiful backyards overlooking this beauty of a creek on such a hot day) but I was taken off guard by how much wildlife there was. I startled a couple deer, a couple large cranes startled me and the geese are plentiful. Ironically, I didn’t spot any turtles but I’m pretty sure they were there based on some of the quick sandbar-to-underwater-movement that I caught out of my peripherals. The take-out I chose is really convenient just upstream a bit from the confluence of the Rock River. It’s located behind the Papa John’s on Dickop Street. There are other take-out options but that last section is a ton of fun and is worth the extra time and distance.
The Turtle has a lot in common with Badfish Creek and the Yahara River. It’s very wide at the beginning much like the Yahara but it gets more interesting as the current and riffles increase downstream much like the Badfish. I’d break it down into 3 distinct sections. From Sweet-Allyn Park in Shopiere to Cranston Road, the creek is often wide and slow with a few little riffly sections. From Cranston to Millwaukee Road, the riffles increase with the curves of the creek. It was in that section that I finally came across others out enjoying the Turtle. I passed by a family paddling their canoe, some swimmers jumping from downed trees and some guys floating in tubes. The last section starts immediately after passing under the Milwaukee Road bridge. From there and all the way to the take-out, you’ll find a very pushy current with tons of riffles as you make your way. It’s a very fun section.
Safety is always first and foremost with the trips we plan. We like to keep them around class I or II at the most. One of the things we took note of in the Wisconsin Paddles video was the emphasis on a couple of dangerous bridges. The two that he’s referring to are the Colley Street bridge and the first train trestle immediately after that. When I paddled them, they were completely open but that’s not to say they couldn’t get clogged up and cause for concern but this is not exclusive to Turtle Creek. The water does move faster after Milwaukee Road and there is plenty of deadfall that can and does make its way to the bridges. Every bridge on every paddle should be scouted, especially if you hear moving water and portage when you question your ability to make it through.
What we didn’t like:
Having to go solo again meant another bike shuttle. This time I had a working bike but it’s still quite a journey. It took me somewhere around an hour to get from the take-out to the put-in by winding my way Northwest through Beloit. Maybe it was the heat, but I’ll try to avoid that again if possible. I did notice that Beloit-ians seem to love yard statues.
If we did this trip again:
Truth be told, the only reason I’m not giving this a five-star paddle is because shortening the front section would make this a perfect paddle. I like to keep day paddles around the 8-10 mile mark and this creek is way more fun near the end than the beginning. Who knows, I might change my mind on the next trip down the Turtle.
I would also like to explore more of the creek upstream, including the Tiffany Bridge which is one of the only hand-built 5-arch limestone bridges in the world not far from the put-in at Sweet-Allyn. There are also some class I opportunities further upstream based on the Riverfacts and American Whitewater sites (links below). Regardless, this is a paddle we’ll do again. It’s another one of our favorites of 2011.
Miles Paddled Video: