Bald eagles

Abandoned bridge pier. The tunnel is to the right.

First Tunnel

Deer looks on

Cows are frequently in this part of the river but move out of the way for paddlers

Farm along the river

2nd tunnel

The state line. Entering Illinois.

Abandoned bridge footings


Fever River- Hwy W to Council Hill Rd

Peter Johnson
May 7th, 2023
Hwy W
Council Hill Rd Bridge
11.8 miles
4.5 hours

The Fever River is a fantastic river to paddle in the spring. The water is higher than in the summertime making for a more pleasant trip. In the summer, there are shallow stretches in which the boat can bottom out. The tunnels and rock outcrops are easy to see in the spring as well. When the trees and brush are in full bloom, the best features of the trip are hidden.

This trip starts in one state and ends in another. The Fever River is a classic Driftless paddling experience – a river that flows well through a valley, rock outcrops, moderate cliffs, and rolling hills throughout the trip. The two abandoned tunnels along the banks are very unique and fun to explore. There are also multiport abandoned bridge footings along the trip as the old C&NW rail line from Galena to Benton crossed the Fever River in many locations. Take out at Council Bluff Road is the easiest take-out location between Hwy W and Galena. The Fever River is a great trip, but it’s best to enjoy it early in the season!

Addendum from the Webmaster:

Thanks Peter for the review! is always very appreciative of guest reviews, and if you the reader is ever interested in submitting one, you can use this online form.

Detailed Overview

  • Knee Deep Road to Twin Bridge Road:  1.3 miles.
  • Twin Bridge Road to Bean Street:  5.1 miles.  Shallow trip but with neat geology.  Some cow fences to deal with.
  • Bean Street to Hwy W:  8.0 miles.  Great section with limestone outcrops and many light rapids.
    • Bean Street to Horse Shoe Bend:  2.2 miles.  A five star section with open oak savannas, fun rapids including a one foot ledge, and a wonderful limestone wall north of Hwy 11.  One fence to duck under which is low but manageable.
    • Horse Shoe Bend to Bennett Road:  4.1 miles.  You should be able to launch at Horse Shoe Bend no problem (public fishing area).  This segment is not as interesting and a bit weedy and overgrown, but still fast and with a few really nice outcrops.  One tricky fence to get under.
    • Bennett Road to Hwy W:  1.8 miles.  Bennett Road should be doable as a put-in (another fishing access).  River really opens up after this bridge and is quite nice with more rapids and a few limestone outcrops.
  • Hwy W to Buncombe Road Fishing Pull-off:  5.8 miles.  A great section on the Fever with some cool tunnels.
  • Buncombe Road to W. Council Hill Road:  5.5 miles.
    • Buncombe Road to N. Birkbeck Road:  3.0 miles. 
    • N. Birkbeck Road to W. Council Hill Road:  2.5 miles.  Put-in and take-out are likely very brushy and somewhat difficult (but think they are doable).  Parking at W. Council Hill Road is a challenge.
  • W. Council Hill Road to W. Buckhill Road:  4.4 miles.  Both put-in and take-out are brushy with W. Buckhill being more feasible.
  • W. Buckhill Road to Galena/Depot Park:  5.0 miles.  This stretch starts interesting with good driftless scenery and riffles.  Then it becomes slower and less interesting.  The last part through historic Galena is very pleasant.
  • Galena/Depot Park to Mouth/Gear's Ferry Landing:  5.6 miles.  On the Mississippi veer right and paddle upstream to reach the boat ramp.  Motorboat traffic might be an issue.

Trip Map

Overview Map


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

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