Duck Creek Middle Branch
Date Paddled: April 18th, 2015
Put-in: Schliesmann Road Bridge
Take-out: Wyona County park
Distance: 4.16 Miles
Time: 3 hours 3 minutes (2 hours would be more typical)
Gradient: 3.75' per Mile
Water Level: Spring Creek @ Lodi 3.8'
Favorite trip to date for 2015 with sublime water quality and surprisingly enough no portage necessitating log jams. On the downside, there was an issue with a local property owner.
Schliesmann Road Bridge is an attractive put-in. Parking is not five star but doable. Easy launching into the creek as the banks aren’t too steep.
Wyona County Park is a great take-out. Plenty of parking, great boat ramp and an outhouse in the nearby picnic area.
Easy bike shuttle at just 3.6 miles with just minor hills.
Hazards and Log Jams:
I thought this trip would have a lot of log jams, but was wrong as I never once had to portage a log jam…although there were some tight squeakers that those in bigger boats might not fit through. I did have to portage a small pedestrian bridge though and also the first dam (both easy).
River Depth, Navigability and Current:
Creek was plenty deep for my boat. Current was tame but good enough. You want to run this trip on the shallow side to experience the nice clear water (which high water would smother). This trip could have been run at lower levels if need be. Only significant shallow spots were from the silted in flowages, but these were manageable. There is no local gauge so I used the one in Lodi which is not great, but correlates close enough. Generally speaking, I’m thinking if you wait maybe 2-3 days after a light rain or 5-6 days after a heavy rain, Duck Creek shouldn’t be too deep.
Substrate and Water Quality:
FANTASTIC water clarity (one of the clearest I have ever paddled). Especially outside of the two flowages. Substrate was very sandy (which kept things clean). There was some mud in the silted in flowages and gravel below Twitchell Road (unusual for southern Wisconsin streams). Definitely recommend floating this creek in shallower water so you get the same clarity I experienced.
Ducks, geese, cranes, green heron and a lot of small birds that I didn’t recognize. Saw several large turtles, clams, snails, some fish in the clear water below the first flowage (cool) and some carp in the first flowage (not cool). I took a picture of a mud dauber nest which is always a treat. Basically they are wasps that build unique “pipe organ” shaped mud nests. At the base of the “pipes” they store dead spiders which are food for little wasplings.
The first mile of the trip runs through an attractive wooded section. From my initial scouting, I was terrified that there would be a ton of log jams, but it turned out this was not the case. Many had been cleared out and the remainder I was able to navigate through with some ducking and hopping. The creek is very attractive here with great water clarity, sandy substrate, clean shallow banks and nice tree canopies. Had I known it would be this nice, I would have banked it for summer.
Mile 2 of 4 runs through an open wetgrass area that isn’t as interesting but is still cool. There are two small pedestrian bridges that are an nuisance. I was able to duck under the first, but the second I had to portage. Very easy though. After Hwy G, the creek opens up and slows down from the flowage. The mill pond is not very interesting but not a huge distance. The dam is very easy to portage.
Miles 3 of 4 is where things got interesting… As I was portaging the dam, the dam owner came over and yelled at me for trespassing on her stream, her pond, her dam, her land, etc… I politely explained that Duck Creek was a public waterway and that bypassing obstructions and dams is a right for paddlers even if going over private property. This has been established by federal case law, the Wisconsin State Constitution, Wisconsin case law and spelled out in simple terms on the DNR’s website. This wasn’t even debatable, but I was being polite with the lady. She was relentless though.
When I resumed my portage, she told me I couldn’t put in below the dam because the rocks prevented access (they weren’t an issue). Was then told the creek was too small to paddle and I would never get through the log jams. THEN she was worried that my plastic kayak would mess up her rocks….I was worried about the opposite. As I floated down the creek taking pictures as usual (I take a ton for each trip), she continued to harp on me for taking pictures of “her creek” and her buildings. Apparently she has never heard of google street view nor satellite images. Just a frustrating experience as she would follow my kayak along the shore yelling irrational things at me…I’m sure most of you have all have dealt with people like this before. Don’t be discouraged by this as the law is on your site. You can portage the dam, but do so quickly and be on your way before you get ambushed by “pond lady”.
Now for good part. The mile following the dam was FANTASTIC. Super clear water, with attractive banks of weeping willows and pines. Very much reminded me of the Upper Mecan River. This was by far the best part of the trip.
The last mile sees a return of open wetgrass…still solid and clear but not as exotic. Here the flowage checks in and the trees check out.
The take-out at Wyona Park was very good and a nice way to wrap up the trip.
Some houses on the creek but nothing major nor too obtrusive. A number of hunting blinds on the creek (some of them being quite fancy). The two low pedestrian footbridges were annoying but managable. The biggest human impact on the trip would be the two dams/two flowages. It’s an irony that the lady I encountered, who was so proud of her dam, has a very silted in flowage. Close to the dam, there was only maybe a half foot of depth (which is significant). This is predictable and happens to all dams. The flowages turn into sediment landfills, fill up over time and then doom the dam that created them (fluvial morphology’s Dr. Frankenstein). Basically each successive spring flood will “mysteriously” (to the locals) become more and more severe until the dam or dike goes, thus restoring things to their natural balance. Unless the flowage is dredged which is very expensive. The second flowage is also silted in, but not as bad.
Alternative Duck Creek Paddle Trips:
- Upstream of Hwy SS: The creek splits into the Middle Branch and Jennings Creek upstream of SS. Unless there is very high water, I suspect these are too narrow to run.
- Hwy SS to Schliesman Road: 2.5 miles. Mostly open, clear, sandy water…but might be log jam issues at the end.
- Schliesman Road to Wyona County Park: 4.2 miles. A beautiful creek (reviewed here).
- Wyona County Park to Wyocena Boat Ramp: 0.7 miles. A brief flowage paddle on Wyona Lake.
- Wyocena Boat Ramp to Hwy G: 2.9 miles. Mostly a slow broad channel with a dam to portage.
- Hwy G to Duck Creek Road: 6.7 miles. An open wetgrass paddle. Duck Creek Road is a one way snowmobile road you can drive onto. Alternatively you can take out at Hwy 16.
- Duck Creek Road to Mouth/Dekorra Landing: 5.6 miles. Floodplain forest in which getting lost and logjams might be an issue. Possible neat paddling experience when flooded.
As a side note, Roelke Creek is a crystal clear creek you might be able to explore in high water off Schliesman Road.
Duck Creek – North Branch Options:
At Wyona Park, the North Branch of Duck Creek joins the Middle Branch and significantly changes the character of the stream. The North Branch is bigger and dirtier, but still not bad.
- W. Florence St./Cambria to Welsh Prairie Road: 1.9 miles. Looks like a nice creek paddle. Maybe 1-2 downed trees.
- Welsh Prairie Road to Sawyer Road: 4.5 miles. Heavily straightened and channelized running through an expansive wet prairie. Might be a few downed trees. Suggest going at high water as the channel does get extremely narrow.
- Sawyer Road to Hwy SS: 4.2 miles. Very open and channelized. Log jams shouldn’t be an issue.
- Hwy SS to E. Bush Road(1st): 2.6 miles. Inviting section. Maybe 2-3 log jams. There are no-trespassing signs near Hwy SS so be mindful of where you are at.
- E. Bush Road(1st) to E. Bush Road(2nd): 4.76 miles. Very open part of the creek. Maybe 1 jam.
- E. Bush Road(2nd) to Wyona County Park: 1.9 miles. Mostly open. Maybe 1-2 jams.