Scenic sunlit hillside

Lunch during the arduous journey

By the Wilton put-in (rest of pictures by webmaster)

Small outcrops and ice flows

First of many Hwy 131 bridge crossings

Normally the rapids are stronger

Clear water when low

One of many outcrops

One of the nicer outcrops visible from the road

Take-out option by Hwy 131/Nicollet Ave

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Kickapoo River – Wilton



Guest Author: Posie
Date Paddled: June 5th, 2016
Put-in: Wilton - Public Campground
Take-out: Nicolette Ave/Hwy 131
Distance: 7.6 Miles
Time: 6 hours
Gradient: 15' per mile (fast)
Water Level: Kickapoo River @ Ontario 73 CFS or 8.5'

These are both two of the worst and two of the best trips ever.

Worst because they are exhausting and horrible, with numerous portages…and best because they are epic adventures!!! I swore I would never do either of them again (who in their right mind would?!?!) and made my husband promise to say no if I asked…but, of course, I want to do them both again.

Trip #1 – Wilton to Nicolette Ave/Hwy 131

As part of wanting to kayak the Kickapoo from as far north as possible to the end, we did the upper-most bit on June 5, 2016.

Wilton (from the campground/park) to Nicolette Avenue just north of NOW School took us 6 hours to go 7 miles, and it was exhausting/hilarious!

I don’t think it would be possible to go any further north, really.

According to the United States Geological Survey Map, the water level at Ontario was 8.5 feet. It would be impossible to do this route any shallower, and would have been better to have done it deeper. That being said, I don’t know how it would have affected passage through log jams.

None of it was very deep, but it was rather dangerous in parts. It took a LOT of hard work to get through here. I am so very glad we did it!!! But, still, this is just a lot of hard physical labor.

Lots of riffles. Kept getting caught on rocks and had to rock/drag with hands/poke with paddles to get yourself free. Or just get out and drag your boat. Some spots were dangerous with the fast currents and dead wood.

Too many log jams to remember. We lost count. My husband twice had to climb out onto them and push his boat through and then drag mine through. I got out twice and hauled mine up a steep bank, through nettles and poison parsnip because I couldn’t bear to do what he was doing.

There were beautiful rocky outcroppings…and they felt quite “special” because we knew that it is a rare person that has seen these from the river, as we were.

That being said, there were strands of hot wire and barbed wire across the river that we would come up on unexpectedly. Some of the barbed wire was attached to the solar charger to give it a zap. Pretty dangerous….

Trip #2 – Nicolette Ave/Hwy 131 to Ontario/Public Park Boat Launch

AUGUST 14, 2016 — It took us 4 hours to do the 5 mile trip. This reviewer gives a very thorough description, and should be read…nice pictures too! :

http://www.wisconsinrivertrips.com/segments/kickapoo-far-upper

There were no fence wires strung across this section. Unlike the other reviewer, we found so many log jams we lost count. They were bad ones too. 8, 9, 10? Who knows. I sincerely hung back at one point so my husband couldn’t hear me and said out loud, “I. Am. Done. Finished. I cannot do any more.” I squeezed out a couple of tears, and went on. I had to. There was nothing else I could do. At one point I spooked myself thinking that if one of us fell on one of these log jams and got hurt, who would be able to find us? And when you got out, if your foot went to the river bottom, the sludge was so thick (and stinky) that it truly felt like you might get stuck pretty badly.

Oh, but it was so very, very beautiful with more “rarely seen” outcroppings. Who knows what it is like now? There has been a flood since then again, so the log jams could all be rearranged, making it easier or harder.

These 12 miles were truly challenging and exhausting, but so very worth the adventure. It is all so very isolated. We felt like Lewis and Clark on both adventures! We knew we were seeing things not many people have seen, and it was beautiful…we loved the adventure of it all! However, these are NOT parts you want to do really unless you are just really wanting to do ALL of the Kickapoo.

Notes from the Webmaster:

Thanks Posie so much for the review, which is very much appreciated!  The first trip sounds great, and I might try paddling this yet this spring while the weeds are still down per your suggestion.  The 2nd trip you referenced overlapped with a trip I did four years ago.  It is unfortunate you had a trying time, while I had publicly recommended this trip to readers.  The problem could have been flow rates.  I went at 150 CFS and you at 105 CFS which would have allowed me to get over jams you couldn’t.

Note, some of the supplemental photographs were taken from a winter scouting trip I did at low water levels.  Below is a Kickapoo River overview added by the webmaster. With many segments of the upper river explored, hopefully future lower sections can be documented.

Kickapoo River Overview:

  • Wilton to Hwy 131 (near Nicollet Ave): 7.0 miles. Just a small creek and not too many bluffs, but are some.  Fences and log jams may be an issue as well as shallow water.  Guest reviewed Apr 2016.
  • Hwy 131 (near Nicollet Ave) to Ontario (Titanic Livery): 5 miles.  A rarely traveled section with nice rock outcrops. Reviewed Jun 2013.
  • Ontario (Titanic) to Hwy 131 (after Hay Valley Road or #7): 8.5 miles.  The most popular and perhaps best section of the Kickapoo.  Reviewed Aug 2010.
  • Hwy 131 (bridge #7) to Rockton:  5.0 miles.  A good stretch.  Reviewed Aug 2010.
  • Rockton to La Farge: 11 miles.  2nd most popular stretch on the river.  Less frequent but larger bluffs than upstream.  Easy to subdivide.  Reviewed Sep 2012.
  • La Farge to Hwy 131 (by Ski Hill Road): 6.76 miles.  Nice section but with a few jams.  Reviewed Apr 2016.
  • Hwy 131/Ski Hill Road to Viola (Banker Park): 7.0 miles.  Maybe 2 bluffs, but mostly open I think.  Have been told there are 26 portages between La Farge and Viola, so beware.
  • Viola to Readstown: 12.5 miles.  Should be able to subdivide.  Not sure if any rock outcrops and might be some jams.
  • Readstown to Soldiers Grove: 6.65 miles. Should be clear of jams and perhaps the most popular section on the lower Kickapoo.  But does not seem too special and doubt there are rock outcrops.
  • Soldiers Grove to Hwy B: 8.98 miles. I doubt there are log jams, but think this stretch would not be very interesting.
  • Hwy B to Gays Mills: 4 miles.  Probably not interesting.  A dam and flowage to contend with near Gays Mills.
  • Gays Mills to Hwy S: 4.58 miles. 
  • Hwy S to Haney Valley Road: 5.77 miles.
  • Haney Valley Road to Taylor Ridge Road: 3.57 miles.
  • Taylor Ridge Road to Steuben: 5.02 miles.
  • Steuben to Plum Creek: 13 miles.  Maybe not interesting?  Think you can subdivide this if need be.
  • Plum Creek Landing to Wauzeka Boat Landing: 9.75 miles.  Non-exotic but flows through a wildlife area.  A landing at Hwy 60 allows you to subdivide the trip.
  • Wauzeka to the Wisconsin River: 0.86 miles.  The last stretch before the Wisconsin.  Numerous take-out options on the Wisconsin River itself.

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