News and Events
News stories of interest will be archived here and kept separate from the main trip reports on the homepage. If you would like me to post a relevant paddling story, submit it here.
The DNR has recently posted the public ballot that will be used at the April 9th WCC hearings. I strongly encourage paddlers to attend and to vote. It is just like voting for politicians...except you vote on conservation issues. You simply show up at your designated meeting area, fill in the questions you care about, and turn in your ballot. If you wish, you can stick around to listen to the speakers or even submit your own proposals. There are two particular ballot issues that I feel are noteworthy for paddlers.
Question #42 advocates a penalty for plowing within 5 feet of a channel. I suggest voting for this. River and creek buffer zones play an incredibly important role in reducing topsoil erosion. They also are instrumental in preventing watershed contamination from manure, fertilizers and pesticides. Creek corridors and their adjacent banksides are extremely rich sources of biodiversity and we should work to protect them.
Questions #49-52 advocate that all non-motorized watercraft be registered. I suggest voting against this. Adding fees and bureaucracy to paddling will decrease the number of people who enjoy our lakes and rivers, while discouraging new paddlers from taking up the sport. Participants in low-impact outdoor activities are more likely to care for and want to protect our environment and resources. Plus some of us own multiple kayaks :(
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote a sob story about the "mean old" DNR actually allowing paddlers and boaters to use a flowage on "Scuppernong Creek" (actually the Scuppernong River). Basically, some wealthy Illinois commodity traders got together to form the corporation "Row Boat" to rebuild a washed out dam just east of Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. The idea being that the adjacent land would be developed as a getaway for the wealthy. "Row Boat" got very upset when boaters and paddlers would enter the flowage from upstream and erected on the river a sign stating: "WARNING THIS IS NOT DNR PROPERTY. YOU ARE ENTERING PRIVATE LANDS. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE." While this type of ownership is common in Illinois, Wisconsin laws strongly contradict this and access to water is even enshrined in our constitution. This is tragic on many fronts...the upper Scuppernong Creek is a gorgeous spring fed river known for its beautiful clear water and it should never have been dammed to start with (especially by selfish developers). The other problem is this type of case can create the wrong type of precedent if a judge falls for their "victim of the DNR" sob story which could create nasty access problems for paddlers throughout the state. We don't want Wisconsin to end up like Illinois.
A video was taken from a motor boat traveling upstream under the old railroad bridge by Sauk City. In the video you can see the power of the river and the dangerous eddies/whirlpools that can (and have in the past) trap and kill paddlers. The moral of the story is stay well away from the pylons and don't paddle on the Wisconsin River when it is high. Honestly, I consider 10k+ (per the Muscoda gauge) to be too high because it covers up the sandbars. The video was taken at 35,356 CFS. As an interesting side note, the strong currents have dug into the substrate over the years and compromised the structural integrity of the pylons and even the entire bridge (one of the reasons it was decommissioned).
I highly encourage all Wisconsin paddlers to attend their respective county WCC hearings on April 10th. At these meetings the public can vote on natural resource issues and even submit proposals for consideration. Some big issues that affect paddling do come up in these meetings (such as kayak registration and sale of natural areas to private interests). You can find out more about the WCC meetings here. If you submit a proposal (and I encourage you to do so), this is easy to do. Just follow these guidelines. If you have questions about the WCC you can contact Kari Lee Zimmermann at kari.LeeZimmermann@wisconsin.gov or 608-266-058
New for 2017, "Sugar River Outfitters" will provide rental and shuttle service on the Upper Sugar River (from Verona to Belleville). You can call them at (608) 692-7910 to inquire about availability.
More unfortunate news in the publishing world. Morrall River Films has stopped publishing their DVD's and will let their website domain expire. Mark made this comment recently about the situation. "It was a fun ride but our DVDs are no longer available. We're sloooowly moving all their content over to our Youtube channel." This is a big loss as their video guides to Southern and Northern Wisconsin were excellent. You can look for used copies of "River Trails of Southern Wisconsin" here. Their youtube channel (which contains only some trails so far from the video) can be found here.
In 2016, the upper Bark was impractical to paddle because the channel at Sawyer Road was blocked off due to construction. The good news is that the dam is finally done and there is a nice portage area for paddlers. If you haven't already, check out my Upper Bark review: https://www.wisconsinrivertrips.com/seg…/bark-river-delafield
Sad news for paddlers, but the publishing company for "Paddling Southern Wisconsin" and "Paddling Northern Wisconsin" has gone bankrupt and the current books are out of print. Why is this significant? These guidebooks were probably THE most popular water trail reference guides in teh state and included an immense amount of helpful detail. Yes, you can get the book used, but copies are becoming scarce and its price has already shot up to $60 and will continue to climb. Rutabaga owner Darren Bush actually tried to procure publishing rights for these books but unfortunately the current copyright owners have not been cooperative.
The city of Milwaukee has recently finished a multi-million dollar renovation of the Menomonee River...roughly from the Miller Brewing headquarters to Miller Park. The original idea from the 60's was that lining the river with concrete would allow it to drain faster, which is now considered outdated science. The story behind the renovation is fascinating and I highly suggest these articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Link1 & Link2. Traditionally this has not been a paddle friendly river (due to the rapids, downed trees, effluent in the water, flash floods, and local ordinances). But with the renovation it might see more paddle traffic as the current has been significantly throttled back. AmericanWhitewater.org has a nice guide on the upper section (which sounds scenic) and the middle section.
Major legal obstacles for Waukesha's plan to tap Lake Michigan for drinking water have been hurdled and it now appears likely this will happen around 2023. The plan is to return wastewater to Lake Michigan via the Root River. Presently the Root River is a popular paddling river, but this could change as the river responds to the additional volume. Inversely, the Illinois Fox would no longer be Waukesha's effluent outlet. Typically the Fox is a weak paddling prospect, but could be much more interesting after this change takes place.
Ready for operation in 2017, two new landings on Black Earth Creek will give paddlers more great launch options. The first landing will be located on the west end of Lion's Park in Mazomanie. You used to be able to launch by the old creek bridge but it wasn't easy. Plus the bridge has recently been completely removed by the Dane County Park Service as part of an upgrade process. When you arrive at the park, just follow the signs and you can't miss the launch. Special thanks to John Wick for his effort in setting up this landing (to which bears his name).
The 2nd launch is located in the village of Black Earth Creek on the south-east corner of Hwy 14. This property is technically private and owned by The Shoe Box, but the owner has not only permitted paddlers to park and launch here, but he has also created a nice signpost marking the exact launch area.
Milwaukee County has obtained legal approval to obtain the Estabroook dam for the MMSD with the idea that it would most likely be demolished. This is fantastic news for paddlers. Estabrook is currently the last dam on the river which creates a dangerous navigational hazard and uninteresting flowage lake.
The Wisconsin DNR is considering charging paddlers a fee to use Wisconsin rivers and streams. Presumably this means you would have to purchase an annual registration sticker for your kayak (or canoe). This is unfortunate for many reasons. While the fee probably won't be too high, the hassle involved in doing the registrations and renewals will deter the public from paddling and exploring our great state. Paddlers have a very small footprint...we just need a shoulder to park on and two-foot right-of-away to slide our boat into the water. The very expensive boat ramps that are popping up (sometimes to the tune of over a million dollars) are overkill for paddlers and should not be an excuse for paddling fees. You can read more about this new registration proposal here. For comparison, Iowa requires registration for kayaks over 13' and Minnesota requires registration for all kayaks (plus a complicated registration process).
Cedar Creek is a really neat tributary to the Milwaukee River that I have previously reviewed. However for much of 2017, the section through the city of Cedarburg will be closed to paddlers while environmental cleanups take place to remove PCB contaminants. More information on the cleanup details and locations at Jsonline.com.
Little Roche-a-Cri Creek is a large tributary to the Wisconsin River near Wisconsin Rapids. It's quite nice and I have scouted it several times for paddling, but have never pulled the trigger because of fear of logjams. There actually is a dam on the creek at the village of Friendship where the owner sells the electricity generated to the power company. What is fascinating is that the locals accuse the owner of "blackmailing" them to buy the dam by intentionally lowering the water levels. You can read the full story here. There is a remote chance the dam might be removed which could make upper sections of the creek navigable, but I suspect this is unlikely.
The Baraboo River Corridor Plan has been formed to promote and improve the Baraboo River for paddlers. The corridor stretches from North Freedom to the city of Baraboo and some of the goals including improving access, a whitewater course, reducing erosion, and environmental cleanups. A new Friends of the Baraboo River group has been formed to help promote the project which you can join.
There have been a cluster of cases in which tubers on the lower Little Wolf have contracted the blastomycosis fungus. So far I believe only tubers have been infected...they may be more vulnerable than paddlers because they are immersed in the water. You can read more about this here. I paddled this stretch in 2016 and didn't get infected (that I know of!).
Riverdarter.com is a relatively new website that I highly suggest my readers checkout. Really neat photography, video and guide information on some relatively unknown rivers. My favorite review is of the Montreal River in which Jake and his group paddled through the canyons, in what has to be one of the most scenic parts of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin paddlers should definitely check out this resource. Split into 7 regions of the state, this free guide includes details on over 300 trip ideas including many obscure prospects. You can read more about it here.
Noted Wisconsin outdoor author Kevin Revolinski has released the book "Paddling Wisconsin", which is an attractive guidebook for many of the state's major water trails. Some of the highlights include the Door County trips and really good detail on the Milwaukee River. Kevin is also the author of "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Madison: Including Dane and Surrounding Counties", which I also recommend. Kevin frequently appears on WPR and you can download his podcasts here.
For decades the Marquette Segment of the Ice Age Trail allowed hikers to trek from the Portage Canal, 4 miles north to the Governor's Bend Park. It was a neat trail because it afforded scenic vistas of the Fox River to its east. Sadly, one of the new property owners along the trail decided they didn't like the idea which resulted in the entire trail being shut down. Hopefully this can be re-opened at a future date.