Baraboo River – Dutch Hollow
Date Paddled: July 25th, 2015
Put-in: N. Dutch Hollow Road
Take-out: N. River Road in La Valle (below the rapids)
Distance: 3.84 Miles
Time: 4 hours 15 minutes (2 hours would be more typical)
Gradient: 3' per mile (guestimate)
Water Level: Baraboo River @ Baraboo (the city) 250 CFS or 7.17'
The first half mile is very wooded with a lot of trees down in the water. Again, these are mostly negotiable (if you have a smaller boat). This is a good thing, as the banks were quite muddy and portaging would not have been fun. The current has some zip to it at times, but is mostly pretty tame (relatively speaking).
The main reason you want to do this trip is for the 7 scenic rock outcrops (3 of which are super). The best will be maybe a half mile into the trip and will really remind paddlers of the Kickapoo River (which I assume you’ve all done because it is so cool). The only frustrating thing was trying to photograph them (hint…use your flash, use exposure compensation and never shoot into the sun to avoid overpowering shadows). Some of the rock outcrops were hidden by leaves, so waiting until October to run this might be a fun idea.
About halfway into the trip, the river banks really open up and you’ll see evidence of grazing and corn planted VERY close to the river (I could see a plow, tractor or cow falling in). This was unfortunate, but the river still stayed nice, with attractive wildflowers and unique tall dried mud banks. The water quality was always turbid, but this is typical for the Baraboo. It would be great to see an effort to reduce run-off and erosion in the Baraboo watershed.
Maybe three-fourths into the trip you’ll paddle along the Old 400 Trail embankment separating the Baraboo River from Hemlock Slough. I had hoped to paddle up and into the slough (a small lake with fantastic hemlocks) in order to take pictures of the rock outcroppings on the southeast shore, but the only outlet was too small and muddy for access. Hemlock Slough is a county park with a boat landing, so you can still check it out by car after the trip.
Again, when you arrive at La Valle you can take out prior to or after the rapids. I suggest the latter, as, while they are class 2, it is plenty safe as long as you scout them ahead of time and avoid the rocks. Also avoid the left channel, which is too shallow to run. At these low water depths, you’re ok even if you tip over (for reference, I waded upstream over the rapids to rerun them). This spot actually marks where the old mill dam used to be, but even before the dam there was always apparently a rapids here.
The take-out will be on your right shortly after the Hwy 58 rapids. Minus the mud, this was a good access area that coincidentally had a lot of paddlers using it. It turns out I did my trip on the same day the local Lazy Beaver Race was held…which goes from La Valle to Reedsburg. I thought it was amusing that the race was intentionally launched downstream of the rapids instead of upstream (granted, the rapids might be more difficult for canoers).
In summary, a 4-star trip because of the fantastic rock outcrops, lack of portages, nice woods, fun final rapids and in general a pleasant, peaceful float. Note, this is a short paddle, and if you like longer trips I recommend taking out at Lake Redstone instead of La Valle which would double the trip length (to maybe 8 miles total). I review this next Baraboo section here.
The Dutch Hollow Road bridge is a doable but not ideal launch. You will have to park east/upstream of the bridge (by the scenic rock face), and drag your boat across the road and down the bank (downstream side) which has thick grass and mud at the bottom. Directly under the bridge is best for getting into the water.
There is a superior option for launching in the nearby creek (just upstream of the bridge), but this is probably private. Would be great to see the local government try to buy the land (or at least an easement) here to develop a public launch.
You can either take out upstream of the rapids in La Valle or downstream. The upstream option has a good boat launch off of W. Main Street, with great parking a block to the north and restrooms (intended for bikers on the 400 State Trail, but open to the public).
But really, you should run the rapids and if you do there is a great (but hidey) second landing just downstream of the rapids on the south shore off North River Road. There is a grassy parking area tucked back here with a mowed trail leading to a muddy but otherwise good landing.
The local 400 State Bike Trail is a great shuttle option that is flat, only 1.7 miles and scenic, going through Hemlock Slough, past pine-topped bluffs and over the Baraboo River.
There is a livery in nearby Wonewoc called Beyond Boundaries which might service this route (608-464-7433). I believe they are setting up an expansion in Reedsburg which would be cool if true.
There is a new small livery in Reedsburg called Beaver Bike & Kayak, which might service this area as well (608-495-0329).
Hazards and Log Jams:
There is a section of class 2 rapids at the end of the trip (more on this later).
There are numerous down trees you’ll have to dodge, but there is always a way through. The worst jam is maybe a mile prior to the take-out. Paddle blogger Timothy Bauer cut an escape route through this earlier this year, which I’ve enlarged somewhat, but larger boats may still have to portage and it would be great to see somebody properly clear this out (marked on map).
River Depth, Navigability and Current:
This was paddled at 250 CFS which is considered below average, but honestly, this is when you want to paddle the Boo, as it becomes quite obnoxious (and dangerous) to paddle during high water because of the down trees. The Baraboo spikes quickly after a rain and can get as high as 2000 CFS. My suggestion is to wait until it drops to at most 300 (maybe 400) CFS before running it. Even at 250 CFS, the river was actually relatively deep and I doubt it ever gets too shallow to run.
Nothing too out of the ordinary: several deer, dragonflies (with one exuvia emerging on top of another), clams, what I thought was a swimming otter (there were mud runs leading from the banks to the water), an immature bald eagle, an owl, two water snakes, wood ducks and evidence of beavers.
Lots of silver maple in the woods, but there were also some white pine and hemlock, which were a nice change of pace for a river this far south.
For a fascinating history of the Baraboo River from Glacial Lake Wisconsin to the recent dam removals, I high recommend reading the Baraboo Restoration Story.
Alternate Baraboo River Trips:
There are a lot of paddling options on the Baraboo. For a visual overview see my overview map.
- Upstream of Union Center: The Boo splits into the west branch and main branch. They seem interesting up to Elroy (or Hillsboro) and have enough water to run, but I suspect jams are an issue.
- Union Center to Wonewoc: 6.2 miles. A great section with the largest rock outcrop on the river (reviewed here).
- Wonewoc to Strawbridge Road: ~3 miles. I don’t know much about.
- Strawbridge Road to N. Dutch Hollow Road: ~9 miles. Probably pleasant but there will be a few jams.
- N. Dutch Hollow Road to La Valle: 3.8 miles. Second best section on the entire river with great rock outcrops (reviewed here).
- From La Valle to Lake Redstone: 4 miles. One of the more underrated sections of the Boo, which I really liked (reviewed here).
- Lake Redstone: Definitely a fun paddle as well with fantastic red rock formations, a swimming beach and a spillway waterfall (reviewed here).
- Lake Redstone to Reedsburg: ~10 miles. Supposedly kind of boring, but the log jams should be cleared out.
- Reedsburg to Rock Springs: 14.8 miles. Good potential but serious log jams are likely. There is a cool canyon to paddle though by Rock Springs.
- Rock Springs to North Freedom: ~7 miles, but there are some jams here (not sure how many). Seems like a nice paddle, with rock outcrops halfway into the trip.
- North Freedom to Hatchery Road: ~7 miles that should be pretty log jam free and is on my to-do list.
- Hatchery Road to Hwy 113: 8 miles. There are many fun rapids though the city of Baraboo making this a great trip (reviewed here).
- From Hwy 113 to Hwy W Landing: 4.9 miles. An unreviewed wooded trip I liked many years ago, but since then log jams have probably become an issue.
- From Hwy W Landing to Hwy 33: 3.56 miles. On my to-do list.
- From the first Hwy 33 bridge to the second Hwy 33 bridge (by Cascade Mountain): 8 miles. A stretch I’m curious about.
- From the Cascade Mountain wayside to Hwy U: Simple but pleasant short section flanked by busy interstates (reviewed here).
- From Hwy U to the mouth: 5 miles. The final leg running through floodplain forest (reviewed here).