Badfish Creek

This is a Madison area favorite with swift fun current.  Despite being a major outlet for wastewater, the water clarity is really good.

Trip Reports

Hwy A to Old Stage Road


Date Paddled: July 27th, 2019
Distance: 4.2 miles
Time: 3 hours 1 minute (2 hours would be more typical)

While the lower Badfish gets a lot of kayak traffic, few care to paddle the upper Badfish.  Are they avoiding it for a reason?  Time to find out...

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Old Stage Road to N. Casey Road


Date Paddled: June 23rd, 2012
Distance: 7 Miles
Time: 3 hours 45 Minutes

This ‘creek’ is probably one of the best kayaking prospects in southern Wisconsin.  Quite large, the Badfish Creek should perhaps instead be referred to more accurately as Yahara West.  This was kayaked during the height of the 2012 drought, and we had little problems with navigation.  The key thing to know, of course, about this […]

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Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages

Videos

Comments

Jul 4th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Glad you had a good time.
Jul 4th, 2021 - Kelly from Madison
Thank you SO much for the great rundown of this trip. The trip map was super helpful. What a fun run! We have pretty long kayaks, so it took some maneuvering but it was a great time. Will do again.
Jun 13th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I'm shocked that you were able to run this in a 17' canoe...great to hear you had a nice trip though!
Jun 13th, 2021 - Collin Roland from Starkweather Creek
We ran this Saturday 5/29 at around 120 CFS. The bike shuttle was an easy 5 miles on lightly traveled roads. The paddle took us about 2 hours and was great boat control practice for our 17' canoe. Lots of beautiful views and a few nice sandbars to hang out on. Saw some sort of weasel and of course ducks and geese. Love the large bur oaks along this reach!
Jul 30th, 2020 - Clark conway from Badfish/yahara
Drif away paddle company offers rentals and shuttle for the bad fish and yahara.
Jul 13th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update and the kind words!
Jul 13th, 2020 - Joey from DuPage River
We did the Badfish on Sunday, 7/12, from Hwy A to N. Casey Rd, an 11-mile stretch. The river was at ~220 cfs and it took us 4 hrs, no doubt helped by a nice current. It was a good stretch with nice stretches of shade in the earlier sections but also open meandering and winding river stretches towards the end. The occasional riffles were enjoyable, too. We'd recommend putting in on the NE corner of the Hwy A bridge, as there's no thick overgrowth at all there, just a bit of a steep bank, but nothing too bad. Exit at N. Casey Rd. was a breeze as well as there's a decent landing area there. While there were some tree and branch obstacles, we never had to get out of our boat to navigate through. Because we don't live in the area and only had one vehicle, we contacted Clark at Drift Away Paddle (608-295-4348) for a lift (with our kayaks) back to our car once we got out at N. Casey Rd. Their rates are VERY, VERY reasonable and certainly helped us in our situation. Thanks Badfish, this website, and to all those who've posted before to help make our planning considerably easier!
Jul 13th, 2020 - Joey from DuPage River
We did the Badfish on Sunday, 7/12, from Hwy A to N. Casey Rd, an 11-mile stretch. The river was at ~220 cfs and it took us 4 hrs, no doubt helped by a nice current. It was a good stretch with nice stretches of shade in the earlier sections but also open meandering and winding river stretches towards the end. The occasional riffles were enjoyable, too. We'd recommend putting in on the NE corner of the Hwy A bridge, as there's no thick overgrowth at all there, just a bit of a steep bank, but nothing too bad. Exit at N. Casey Rd. was a breeze as well as there's a decent landing area there. While there were some tree and branch obstacles, we never had to get out of our boat to navigate through. Because we don't live in the area and only had one vehicle, we contacted Clark at Drift Away Paddle (608-295-4348) for a lift (with our kayaks) back to our car once we got out at N. Casey Rd. Their rates are VERY, VERY reasonable and certainly helped us in our situation. Thanks Badfish, this website, and to all those who've posted before to help make our planning considerably easier!
Jul 9th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Hi Joey, I'm not familiar with any shuttle options. You'll likely have to self-shuttle or take an Uber. As for conditions, the creek is fine now but may spike after today's big rain. I advise keeping an eye on: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv/?site_no=05430150&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060
Jul 9th, 2020 - Joey from DuPage River
I will be kayaking from Hwy A to N. Casey Rd. this weekend for the first time. Any insight into current creek conditions would be helpful. Also, are there any livery shuttle services to bring us back to Hwy A. from N. Casey Rd. once our trip is done? Or will we simply have to Uber it back? That's our biggest unknown at the moment. Thanks
Apr 11th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update on that logjam. Any updates on this situation feel free to post a comment here which will help out other paddlers.
Apr 11th, 2020 - Eric William Graff from Rock
Just did this section of the Badfish. Cool day (about 60 degrees) started sunny turned cloudy. Fast paced row with one portage. One limb has fallen over the channel about 2 miles after the put in. My son and I gave it the old heave howe but it would not budge. I will be back with a saw by the middle of May unless others can remove it. The portage was super easy. Saw a big turtle, pan fish, possible bass, ducks, geese, blue heron, hawks plenty of spring birds. Saw nobody today on the creek. Always take a saw if you can. Today I learned my lesson.
Jul 10th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update! I definitely need to get back to the Badfish.
Jul 9th, 2019 - Rick from Cherokee Marsh
Paddled from Old Stage to N.Casey, with Jon. Lovely outing. New signage on 138, that says “Canoe Landing”, which directs you to Old Stage. Be wary of the wild parsnip! Its sap is phototoxic, which burns the skin, especially with sun exposure.
Sep 9th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update!
Sep 8th, 2018 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra
I did this section Fri 9/7/18, the creek was higher than usual after several weeks of heavy rains (230 CFS, 5.9 ft), but was very runnable. No obstructions and almost constant riffles and light rapids, plus the trip was fast,took us less than 2 hours. If anyone wants a fast fun trip I'd strongly recommend doing this trip soon before the levels return to normal. All this week should be good
Jul 9th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Great info! I've updated the main write-up and am now very interested in doing the upper Badfish. Hopefully later this summer...
Jul 9th, 2018 - Jon from Starkweather
There's a newly developed put-in via the parking lot northwest of Old Stage Rd. Link to map: https://goo.gl/maps/qKevmKJuPnN2 Here's a link to a news story: http://www.unifiednewsgroup.com/oregon_observer/news/badfish-friends-celebrate-boat-landing-opening/article_f4195af1-3b9d-5a11-991c-8f8bf8af29c9.html The stretch from Old Stone Rd. to Old Stage Rd. has been cleared for paddling. Some tight turns, but no portaging when we paddled it on July 8, 2018.
Jun 13th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks Scott for the comments. Great to hear a 17' canoe can make it through he creek!
Jun 13th, 2018 - Scott J. from Badfish Creek Area
We paddled our 17' canoe from Hwy 138 to Casey Road last night. It was great: lots of wildlife (saw over a dozen deer, all down in the creek, plus herons, cranes, snakes, turtles, etc.), challenging but not too challenging riffles, some overhangs but no jams, and swift current. It took us 2 hours with a dinner break pulled up on a sandbar. Put in at 138 was rocky but take-out at Casey was fine, even with a two-person canoe. Don't take your $1000 kevlar canoe down here, though, as you will bump some rocks and sand bars, even with a shallow draft.
Oct 25th, 2017 - admin
Appreciate the depth references Dave!
Oct 25th, 2017 - Dave Birren from Yahara River
Caution: Always check the USGS gauge to see how fast Badfish is flowing. https://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv/?site_no=05430150&agency_cd=USGS Normal summer flow is 100-150 cfs. At 200 cfs it starts getting to be fun. I paddled it once at 525 cfs and I needed every tool in my toolbox, in particular the backferry, to keep from getting slammed into the banks. At that level I'd say it was a solid Class II. Lots of fun, but if you don't have basic whitewater skills paddle the Yahara instead.
Sep 4th, 2017 - Marsha Cohen
Oops, sorry for the duplicate posting. I didn't think the first one went through as I messed up on the "I am not a robot" verification
Sep 4th, 2017 - Marsha Cohen from Yahara
I did this today & enjoyed the challenge of swift current with light rapids. It took me just over 2 hours. The 5 mile bike shuttle on country roads was fine. And at the take out, there is a wooden ladder--how cool is that?!
Sep 4th, 2017 - admin
Appreciate the comment Marsha!
Sep 4th, 2017 - Marsha Cohen
I did this today, and really enjoyed it. It was challenging (as noted in the report: swift current, some shallow areas, light rapids and sharp turns) but a good skill builder. And there's a wooden ladder at the take out--how cool is that!!
Sep 3rd, 2017 - Eric G. from Wingra creek
Aaron, The Badfish is great with a canoe, there is always enough water, but you will have to be good at controlling the boat to avoid obstacles and shallow spots.
Jul 18th, 2017 - Rick
I've used my Mad River solo on this stretch, plus other sections many times over the years. Love it. Just enough of a challenge.
Jul 15th, 2017 - admin
Hi Dan, I haven't heard anybody doing this but think it would be possible...especially a shorter canoe in lower water.
Jul 15th, 2017 - Dan of Madison from Yahara
Curious if anyone has taken a canoe down this stretch. Doable?
Sep 1st, 2016 - admin
Thanks for the comment!
Sep 1st, 2016 - Jessica Riphenburg from Madison
This is a great guide- thank you! I love the photos & video.
May 9th, 2015 - admin
Depends on the location. In many cases you can rent (like with Badfish Creek you could certainly rent from Rutabega, although they don't have a shuttle service). For a list of liveries/rentals throughout the state checkout my liveries page: https://www.wisconsinrivertrips.com/livery-map.html
May 9th, 2015 - Donna from Badfish Creek
Can people rent canoe/kayak for these creek trips or do we need to have our own equipment? THANKS!
Apr 10th, 2015 - KC from Madison
Has anyone gone through Badfish creek this early in the season (Spring 2015)? Trying to figure out if the creek is clear or if portaging is necessary.
Mar 19th, 2015 - admin
Wish I knew, but am unfortunately not good with fish species. You might check with the Dane County Conservation Department: https://www.countyofdane.com/lwrd/contact.aspx
Mar 19th, 2015 - James from Badfish
Any idea what fish species are in here? Different fish in different sections? I live very close and enjoy the scenery on this creek. I'd love to wade and fish it. Thanks!
Oct 27th, 2014 - admin
Thanks again Dave for the comment. I've included your update of the creek conditions in the writeup above.
Oct 27th, 2014 - Dave
I've paddled Badfish Creek dozens of times and assure you it is not just cosmetically clean. Since improvements were made in sewage treatment and disposal, the fish populations in Badfish have rebounded, which is why kingfishers and great blue herons are commonly seen. Please update your review to reflect this more accurate state of affairs.

How did your trip turn out? Questions or comments? Feel free to leave your feedback.

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