Books, Websites & Other Resources
This is likely the most popular Wisconsin Kayaking book in existence. Excellent information is provided on trip lengths, camping options, scenery, logjams and more. On the downside some information is outdated. There is also no rating system, no color images, and many lesser known rivers/creeks aren't reviewed. If you buy this book, make sure to get the revised edition
"Paddling Northern Wisconsin" by Mike Svob is similar to "Paddling Southern Wisconsin" except it covers rivers in the northern half of the state.
This is a terrific DVD I highly recommend. It's divided into 30 trips on 26 rivers/creeks in Southern Wisconsin. While you watch the paddlers float that segment, Mark narrates background information and helpful tips about the river/creek. Sadly this is "out of print", but several Wisconsin libraries do have a copy you can check out.
This is similar to "River Trails of Southern Wisconsin". It's not as detailed as the first DVD, but it still is a good resource. Again this is "out of print" and getting a copy can be difficult (but worth it).
Seven free PDF guides for over 300 rivers and creeks throughout Wisconsin make this a valuable resource for paddlers. There are no pictures or maps, and some of the reviews are brief, but many obscure prospects are covered which is much appreciated and the strength of this publication. This is also one of the few paddling guides that has cited this website which is a nice gesture. A map with links to most of Kark's reviews and partial excerpts from his writeups can be seen here.
There are no pictures and it's not really a flashy publication, but it's still an excellent reference to many obscure rivers and creeks in Wisconsin. The author makes it a point to emphasize routes other major guides have missed which makes this book very valuable. It is self-published so is hard to find (it is at the Baraboo library). The author Frank Piraino recently gave permission to this website to share his revised edition online for the public to read for free.
I'm not sure there is another whitewater website in the world that is more popular or more comprehensive. This site includes many Wisconsin rivers and creeks and contains good information on their hazards. But be warned...this site is created by hardcore whitewater paddlers for hardcore whitewater paddlers. They often under-state the danger of rapids, and over-state the importance of high water. In general rec paddlers should avoid high water as it is much more dangerous and dirty.
This is a MASSIVE Wisconsin kayaking community with 29.5k members (and growing). It's a great spot to ask questions about water trails, access options, or equipment. You will need a Facebook account to join.
Wisconsintrailguide.com is a well organized website with exceptional photos and maps. The focus of the ~20 rivers covered is mostly up-north though. Sadly this website doesn't seem to be actively maintained and it's been a while since the last water trail review was posted.
"Indian Head Rivers of West Central Wisconsin" is an excellent water trail guide for northwest Wisconsin and includes many obscure water trails not covered by other sources. Examples include the Hay River, Chetek River, Buffalo River, and East Fork of the Black River.
A nice selection of mostly northern rivers with some southern ones plus a few UP/MN trips for a total of 55 reviewed river segments. It's in a similar format to the Svobb books and isn't super fancy. There is a strong emphasis on whitewater hazards that are well detailed on their maps.
This includes reviews for seven rivers in northwestern Wisconsin: Brule, Eau Claire, Namekagon, St. Croix, Totogatic, Yellow and Clam. The publication is very old, but the information still seems mostly relevant.
Paddling.com is a famous kayaking site known for their excellent user reviews of kayaks and canoes. They also have a section for public reviews where any user can submit a water trail review and share it online. This is a decent resource but the website is poorly organized and finding reviews for specific creeks/rivers/regions can be cumbersome.
Before Svob’s books became the paddling bible for Wisconsin, this was probably the biggest guide book on Southern Wisconsin Rivers. It's format is remarkably similar to Svob's and it's a solid resource but it is perhaps a bit outdated. Ultimitely Svob includes everything this book has and more, so I would suggest his guide books over this one. But this is still a well done guide book that was ground breaking for its time.
This is a super cool national stream map that took the USGS department 20 years to construct. Why is this better then other stream maps? At maximum zoom level, the streams they show largely correlate with navigable creeks (whereas other maps include drainage ditch creeks which clutter up most maps). The labeling is very good and much better then google maps which is filled with labeling inaccuracies. The other nice thing about the USGS map is that you can click any point on a creek and it will highlight the entire watershed (above or below your point). This is a great source for finding local paddling options near where you live.
This is a cool resource for those interested in paddling Lake Michigan along the Wisconsin coast. Part of this project includes an interactive map with launch options on Lake Michigan.
Good information on many of the “name-brand” rivers in Wisconsin with pictures.
This is kind of like a user driven “WisconsinRiverTrips.com”. It’s brims with potential, but its organization is poor and the quality of the reviews varies a lot. There are some gems though and this type of site has a bright future.
This is a not-for-profit group who focuses on removing logjams from otherwise navigable rivers/creeks for paddlers. Most of their work is on Madison area creeks/rivers but they occasionally do work on other water trail in Southern Wisconsin. They are always looking for volunteers to help out!
This book covers 19 major rivers in Wisconsin. It's not as detailed as other paddling books, but it does provide nice historical and cultural context to many popular rivers.
This is a more modern guide that was featured on WPR. It focuses on not only the river trips, but the nearby bars and towns as well. Mostly “name-brand” rivers are covered (and just one leg at that). There are probably 20 segments total reviewed. Honestly, other guides will give you better information. Pictures aren’t great and too much focus is on the drinking/towns as opposed to actual paddling.
This is a nice website which reviews a number of southern Wisconsin water trails in a blog style format. Their focus is on bigger/safer rivers that lack rapids/logjams.
Sadly Wisconsin's DNR doesn't do much to promote water trails for paddling (at least relative to the Minnesota and Iowa DNRs who do a fantastic job). But they do offer a few water trail overviews for select rivers and lakes which can be helpful.
This book is mostly an outdoors guidebook for Door County of which paddling is just a subsection. But the paddle information they provide is very good. Included is a trip on Cave Point, Door County’s top paddling location.
This is a paddling club based in Northeast Illinois who frequently do trips in Wisconsin. Paddling clubs can be a great option for paddlers who struggle with logistics/shuttling on their own. Also included on this site are trip reports which can provide helpful information on many area water trails.
This is likely the most popular paddling club in Wisconsin. They do trips throughout the state and as a member you can tag along. Many paddlers (especially older ones) appreciate paddling clubs as they can assist with logistics and shuttling.
Many rivers/creeks in Wisconsin have depth gauges. USGS collects their measurements in real time and posts levels on their website. This is a very important website to bookmark for all paddlers, as you don't want to kayak a river that is too shallow or too high.
This is similar to the USGS water level website. NOAA has more gauges, but USGS has better historical information. I frequently use both sites.
This is a well written blog that follows the adventures of Jake Stachovak as he paddles 5000 miles from Portage....to Portage! This is a massive loop via the Mississippi, Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. Sadly the blog is currently experiencing technical difficulties, but you can still view part of it from Archive.org.
In 2021 Lloyd paddled the entire stretch of the Wisconsin River from Lac Vieux Desert to Wyalusing. Along the way he wrote a blog and took pictures which he posted to Facebook.
With over 128 trips, this is probably the biggest and most popular water trail guide for Iowa. Included are many nice trips in the Driftless Area of Iowa close to the Wisconsin border.
I'm not as familiar with this book, but I believe it is a popular water trail guide for Minnesota.
The focus of this book is on Minnesota's Driftless Area which is close to the Wisconsin border. The author includes some obscure water trails not reviewed by other sources.
Illinois doesn't have too many navigable water trails, because of antiquated water access laws, but paddling author Mike Svob was able to find 64 trips to do. This is likely the most popular Illinois kayaking book in publication.
Author Bob Tyler does a good job of finding obscure creeks and rivers to paddle in Northern Illinois. Some of his trips are more suited for adventures paddlers who don't mind a bit of adversity. The trade-off is that in many cases these marginal creeks/rivers have exceptional scenery.
While not a paddling guide, kayakers will still very much appreciate this book. It covers the ancient geology behind many of the state major rivers.