Turtle Creek II
O’Riley Road to Sweet-Allyn Park
☆ ☆ ☆
A pretty, surprisingly remote and undeveloped creek with great landings, a spectacular and historic railroad bridge and lots of wildlife, including turtles, of course.
July 14, 2013
Riffles + Class I
Clinton: ht/ft: 4.13 | cfs: 195
This is a very recommendable level. Ideally, paddle this at above 200 cfs.
O’Riley Road, Clinton, Wisconsin
Sweet-Allyn Park, Shopiere, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 1:00p. Out at 3:30p.
Total Time: 2h 30m
Miles Paddled: 9.5
Wildlife: A gazillion great blue herons, a great big snapping turtle, lots of kingfishers and dragonflies and a ton of clams.
What we liked:
This was my first time on Turtle Creek, about which I’ve heard a bit about the last few years and I’m quite glad I checked it out. I was concerned about whether there would be enough water on this segment upstream of Sweet-Allyn Park but it was mostly adequate (averaging a foot-deep or so, according to my trusty paddle-dipping measurements).
Why this is called a “creek” and not a river, like so many waterways in Wisconsin, just alludes me. It’s long, wide in parts and quite deep in some sections. The put-in at O’Riley Road was shockingly excellent, with a mowed path leading right to the river, evidence of a popular spot for paddlers. Indeed, a group of kayakers was already at the put-in when I rolled in, which I could hardly believe because a) I didn’t think this segment was much paddled and b) I selected this bridge as a possible put-in, knowing nothing about it or its accessibility to the water, from a map atlas.
The better spot to put-in is on the upstream side of the bridge, river-left. There’s way more room. You can put-in on the downstream side, which is what I did since there was a group of folks before me and it’s doable, just less ideal.
The first third of this trip comprised more great blue heron sightings than I think I’ve ever seen in such a short distance. Just after the first bridge on river-right, one is treated to a long exposed rock wall, about fifty-feet-high that runs parallel to (but set back from) the creek for about half-mile. It’s part of the same geological formations found in the delightful Carver-Roehl County Park, where the tiny Spring Brook runs through before emptying out into Turtle Creek. One of the highlights of this trip is the beautiful Tiffany bridge, a five-arched limestone railroad bridge, under which a small Class I rapid/riffle is found.
Two immortal summertime portraits also stand out. One, a group of high school teens jumping off the Highway 140 bridge into the creek some forty-feet below and two, a few, much younger kids, at Sweet-Allyn park collecting clams from the water. The present-day me in my mid-30s worries about the teens and wonders whether I’ll hear about one of them on the news that night, while later lamenting the certain yet unnecessary deaths that all those clams would surely face once the kids got bored with them or got distracted by food or tossing a football. But I did the same stupid and benign negligent stuff when I was their ages. Besides, pastimes like these are the stuff that summers are made of and I felt wholly sated that they’re still being done. Maybe just collect a bit fewer of the clams next time and maybe wait ’til we got a bit more rain before plunging into the creek from a bridge!
What we didn’t like:
Not the creek’s fault indeed (file this one under a victim of its own success) but there were many groups of people on the water, some kayakers, some canoeists and lots of floaters in tubes and rafts (the latter, in particular, were of course, of the most annoying, heavy metal-blaring, loud-mouthing, cuss words hollerin’, separate beer cooler floatin’, variety).
Also, the water was scraping-low at some points and there were several strings of barbed wire that are indeed a drag (not literally, I hope) but they are easy to spot and maneuver under. Otherwise, there really wasn’t anything to dislike on this trip.
If we did this trip again:
I would but not until paddling some other segments of Turtle Creek. It really is a wonderful gem of a Southern Wisconsin waterway. Just a smidge more water would be nice too.
Turtle Creek Overview: Turtle Creek Paddle Guide
Turtle Creek I: Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
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
Miles Paddled Video: Sweet-Allyn Park to Dickop Street
Good People: Friends of Turtle Creek
Video: Wisconsin Paddles