2022 Year End Review

Originally this was going to be a review of the Little Baraboo River but that was iced up and I had to abbreviate that trip.  All that ice was a good sign the season was over and I thought it would be nice to provide a capstone summary of the 2022 paddling year instead.

First I would like to thank all the user comments submitted to the website.  A lot of good water trail updates and tips were provided.  Also thanks for the comments and support from my Youtube channel which is the only social media site I currently maintain.

A special thanks to Eric Guderyon, Karen “Stories N Flight”, Denny Caneff, Brianne, Peter Johnson, and Mark Rhodes for their guest reviews.  These are very valuable as they provide a perspective on water trails I mostly don’t cover.  Anybody can submit a trip review using this form.

Looking Back:

Early Spring:  The 2022 season unfortunately got off to a late start because March and early April were so cold.  I had many elaborate plans including an upper Kickapoo ice flow paddle, but most of this fell through.  It was great though to do “undiscovered water trails” on Kittleson Valley Creek and the Yellowstone River.  Black Earth Creek by Cross Plains was long overdue and it was great to find out that fences and logjams were no longer an issue on this stretch.  The first disappointment of the season came with Knapp Creek which I had high hopes for, but there were just too many logjams.  I’m still interested in exploring more of this creek though.

Late Spring:  Willow Creek was almost a great paddling discovery, but was just 1-2 logjams away from a positive recommendation.  Redgranite Quarry was a completely unplanned trip I did on the same day as Willow Creek which turned out really nice.  The Lower La Crosse River is one of the more underrated water trails in west central Wisconsin and I was surprised at how nice the sandbanks were.  Another good discovery was the Ames Branch of the Pecatonica.  I’m not sure how many will paddle it (it’s small) but I thought it was really cool.  Late May rains provided a window to do the Upper Big Eau Pleine which had much stronger rapids than I expected, but was still a great paddle.  May unfortunately ended on a down note with the upper Ashippun River which just had too many logjams.

Early Summer:  After missing the first weekend of June because of bad weather, I did get a chance to paddle the Upper Yellow which was one of the best trips of the year.  Honey Creek was a solid trip and the Portage leg of the Wisconsin had some of the nicer sandbars I’ve ever kayaked around.  The Sugar River was a smidge disappointing…it was still nice minus some flowage paddling at the end.  Petenwell Lake was a completely different experience with a lot of open water paddling.  But it was surprisingly nice with fantastic sandbanks.  Six Mile Creek was unfortunately one of the 3-4 disappointing paddles of the year.  Don’t get me wrong…the creek is great, but we went when it was too low and not all the logjams were yet cleared out.

Late Summer:  Too many of my trips are in Southern Wisconsin and I’m trying to do more in Central and Northern WI.  This included an obscure leg of the Little Wolf which is kind of underrated with some fantastic boulder gardens.  The North Freedom leg of the Baraboo River was a relaxing trip with some unique highlights.  Coon Creek below Coon Valley was one of 2022’s great discoveries.  It was as always a treat to return to the Upper Black River (probably my favorite river in the state).  The leg above Greenwood might be one of its weaker stretches, but it was still an easy five stars.  The Galena stretch of the Fever was a completely unexpected trip that turned out to be a unique experience and quite nice.

Fall:  This is my favorite time of the year to do paddles.  I actually even save choice trips for late September/October because the lighting can be so good for photography.  September got off to a nice start with Long Lake/Mississippi and its fantastic wild rice.  I had actually planned to do more Mississippi trips than I did in 2022.  Narrows Creek was surprisingly scenic…but I messed up with my timing as it was too shallow.  The Bad Axe was a solid trip, and I look forward to doing more trips on it in the future.  Coon Creek by Chaseburg was a bit disappointing in that it wasn’t nearly as nice as the upstream legs and was kind of a waste of a prime color weekend…but it was still solid.  The best fall color trip of the year award actually went to the Milwaukee River by Waubeka which was a fantastic (although a bit cold).  The Allentown leg of the Rock EB was a bit disappointing as it didn’t measure up to the other East Branch trips and it was another (relative) waste of a good fall color weekend.   The Ixonia stretch of the Rock was  one of the best unexpected surprises of the year.  Finally the season ended on a great note with Catfish Creek and its terrific cliffs.

Website Administration:  I switched to a wider template for trip reviews to make the photos bigger.  Hopefully readers appreciated this.  Some of the older and poorer quality photos were either removed or reprocessed.  I also created “review hubs” for key rivers which provide a nice intro and overview (eg the Black River).  While I like them, I don’t think Google does and I think it docked me in the SEO rankings because of them.  I also created “announcements” which readers will now see appear occasionally on the main timeline.  These compete somewhat with the main reviews, but I think they are worth it.  Lastly I had a big web outage in November.  Not only was the main database corrupted, but the most recent backups failed and the older backups were partly corrupted.  Everything all worked out in the end, but the moral of the story is to be very careful about backing up your data.

Gear Updates:  For 2022 I treated myself to a new Werner Carbon blade paddle.  Not only is it ridiculously light, it has a narrow handle (unlike Aqua Bound fat handle paddles) which provides a tight grip.  It’s also a shorter paddle which allows for a high angle stroke (more my style).  Carbon is a bit fragile, so I’ll still use my old Aqua Bound paddle on rocky rivers.  At the tail end of 2021, I got a new Tsunami Wilderness 125 to replace my older Tsunami.  I was disappointed with the purchase as the new variant is surprisingly heavier, bigger, and bulkier.  It’s still an ok boat to use on open water, but for most other trips my old red Tsunami is still my go-to boat (despite needing periodic plastic welds and having to continually fix my jerry-rigged seat straps.  I do appreciate that my other gear (like my life jacket) is in good shape as it has been depressing seeing what inflation has done to a lot of kayak accessories.

Looking Forward:

Paddling Goals:  My 2023 goals include doing some bigger rivers like the Mississippi as well as more up-north trips.  It would be great to also do more “down-south” trips (aka Illinois) and part of this will depend on a surprise new bill (HB5844) .  If approved kayaking will finally be allowed on many of Illinois’ smaller rivers and creeks.  The bread and butter of my 2023 trips will still be central and southern Wisconsin though.  This should include some new surprises as well as some repeats to update some outdated reviews.

Website Goals: There are a lot of broken links on the site that have to get fixed.  The USGS will be disabling many of their older gauge links which will be a headache to update. Another goal is to show programmatically the Youtube comments which often contain good information but few readers see these.  Something I’m thinking about is adding some polling options which might be fun.  If you have ideas on how to make the website a better experience, definitely let me know below in the comments.  

Community Goals:  My hope is that the paddling community continues to provide great guest reviews and comments for 2023 which are very valuable.  As much as I hate Facebook, I will likely bring this back.  Facebook literally locked my old page and deleted it because it used an “outdated” community page format.  What a horrible company, but sadly not one I can ignore because it has so many users.

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