Kickapoo River

This is one of the most popular paddling rivers in Wisconsin.  This narrow and twisty river is a lot of fun and super scenic because of all its dramatics sandstone outcrops.

Trip Reports

Keystone to Michigan Road

Date Paddled: March 20th, 2023
Distance: 6.3 miles
Time: Expect 3 hours

What's the furthest upstream point on the Kickapoo you can kayak?  Time to find out in this winter/ice version of the Kickapoo River by Wilton.


Wilton to Nicolette Ave

Date Paddled: June 5th, 2016
Distance: 7.6 Miles
Time: 6 hours

A guest review for the far upper stretch of the Kickapoo River.  A beautiful segment but with some logjam issues.


Hwy 131 to Hwy 131

Date Paddled: March 7th, 2021
Distance: 3.9 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

This is a fantastic but obscure stretch on the upper Kickapoo that few know about.  Trip highlights were the many pine-topped sandstone bluffs decorated with ice flows from frozen springs.  The river was also free of logjams--a past bane for paddlers.


Bridge Upstream of School to Ontario

Date Paddled: June 16th, 2013
Distance: 5 Miles

While the Kickapoo is one of the most popular paddle rivers in the Midwest, virtually nobody does the sections upstream of Ontario.  Before doing this trip I had heard mixed stories about the navigability of the far upper sections.  I emailed a local tour operator (Fred Flasher) who said he had actually done the Kickapoo […]


Ontario to Bridge #7

Date Paddled: August 28th, 2010
Distance: 8.5 Miles

In terms of popularity the Kickapoo is one of the most popular canoe and kayak rivers in Wisconsin. Probably doesn’t have quite the rental volume of the lower Wisconsin River, but certainly has the highest paddler to river mile ratio in the state. What makes the Kickapoo attractive is the relatively clean water (at least […]


Bridge 4 to Bridge 7

Date Paddled: July 22nd, 2021
Distance: 6.0 miles
Time: Expect 2-3 hours

This is one of the greatest legs on one of the greatest paddling rivers in Southern Wisconsin.


Rockton Landing to La Farge Landing

Date Paddled: September 17th, 2012
Distance: 11 Miles

Of all paddling rivers in Wisconsin this might be the most popular.  And of all sections on the Kickapoo, this is probably the second  best stretch to run after Ontario to Rockton.  There are a large number of landings on the river, at least shuttle/rental services, so you do have a lot of options as […]


La Farge Public Landing to Hwy 131

Date Paddled: April 16th, 2016
Distance: 6.72 miles
Time: 3 hours 24 minute

One of the busiest water trails in the state comes to an abrupt halt at La Farge.  Few want to go further because of log jams, but are these fears validated?  Time to find out.


Tourist Park Readstown to Soldiers Grove Canoe Access

Date Paddled: October 2nd, 2023
Distance: 7.1 miles
Time: Expect 3-4 hours

This is an ok stretch of the Lower Kickapoo with decent current and some nice Driftless Area hills.  But there are no riverside cliffs.


Plum Creek Landing to Hwy 60 Landing

Date Paddled: September 1st, 2023
Distance: 6.6 miles
Time: Expect 3 hours

While lacking outcrops, this lower Kickapoo trip is still a pleasant paddle and features some really nice bluffs.


Overview Map

Quick Overview

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages


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Apr 29th, 2024 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Hi Jim, I'm not as familiar with those campsites. I recommend calling the Kickapoo Valley Reserve 608-625-2960 for more info.
Apr 29th, 2024 - Eric A from North Branch of the Chicago River
I'm looking to paddle the Kickapoo from Ontario to LaFarge this summer with kids. I'm thinking we would camp at one of the river side KVR sites. I'm thinking sites W, S, X or maybe M. Can anyone provide a review or recommendation of those sites? Thanks
Sep 24th, 2022 - Aaron from Dell Creek
There are a number of rentals in the area: - Kickapoo Wild Adventures: 608.337.4522 – 30352 State Hwy 131, Norwalk, WI 54648 - Drifty’s Canoe Rental: 608.337.4288 – Highway 33 & 131, North Ontario, WI 54651 - Fred Flasher’s Canoe Camping Trips: (608) 435-6802 – PO Box 114, Wilton, WI 54670 - Mr. Ducks Canoe Rental: (608) 337-4711 – 100 Main Street, Ontario, Wisconsin 54651 - Titanic Canoe Rental: 1-877-438-7865 – 300 State Highway 131, Ontario, WI 54651
Sep 23rd, 2022 - Michelle from Fox river (waukesha/milwaukee)
Where can my husband & I rent 2 kayaks for a paddle Oct 21-23. Driving up from Milwaukee area but do not wanna trailer our kayaks that far on the freeway. Want to experience the Kickapoo river on kayaks
Aug 15th, 2022 - Aaron from Dell Creek
How many logjams did you face?
Aug 15th, 2022 - Hannah Williams from Northfield, MN
My husband and I did the Wilton to Ontario route yesterday. Very beautiful but very exhausting. I’d definitely recommend doing it at least once.
Mar 31st, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I agree...I think the pre-Ontario section is as good as the post-Ontario section despite it not being as popular. Great to hear about the cleanup efforts...thanks as always for the updates.
Mar 31st, 2021 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
I did the section from Nordale to Bridge #5 on 3/30/21, the trip was about 14 miles and took was about 5 hours including a 30 min lunch break The gauge was at 8.94 ft, which was OK, there were a few shallow spots,but we never had to get out of the boat. There were a few obstacles to avoid but no complete blockages, and we cleared out a few partial blockages and did some lopping of low hanging branches so this section is in pretty good shape right now. We enjoyed the upper section as much if not more than the section from bridge #1- #5, and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little smaller, intimate and less crowded than the typical sections serviced by all the commercial canoe/kayak operations on the Kickapoo. We did a car shuttle, it would be a pretty bike shuttle but there are a couple of decent hills to contend with. Parking is $5 but it goes to a good cause....according to the parking form "All fees go directly to maintaining, improving, and protecting the Reserve"
Aug 4th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Off hand I don't know...I advise calling the liveries to get a quote.
Aug 4th, 2020 - Karen McKeown from Madison
How much does it cost to float to bridge 14 6 hrs and 30 min
Jul 18th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Hey David...I'm not personally involved with that but I know the liveries in Ontario work pretty hard to keep the upper stretches clean.
Jul 18th, 2019 - David J Murphy from Baraboo
How do you keep the river clear of log jams?
Sep 6th, 2017 - Gail from Wisconsin River
I think if the river had been much lower than the 266 CFS, 3.63 ft, it may have been a challenge to past a lot of trees that were laying across the river, although it would have been easier to get under that one squeaker.
Sep 5th, 2017 - admin
Thanks Gail. This is good to hear that the logjam situation isn't worse given the horrendous floods the Kickapoo faced earlier this year.
Sep 5th, 2017 - Gail
Five of us did the run from Rockton to LaFarge September 5, 2017. CFS at La Farge USGS 05408000 was 266, river depth 3.63 ft. We did the 10 miles in 3 hrs. 10 mins. with no stops. Portable toilets were at both the put in and take out. We moved along nicely with no log jams, although 2 miles from the take out, one tree crossed the river, and we just squeaked under it. All in all, the unparalleled beauty of Wisconsin is showcased on this section of the Kickapoo River. We'll be back.
Jun 8th, 2016 - Posie from Kickapoo River
There were some gorgeous rock outcroppings here I forgot to talk about. Not so many as down from Ontario to La Farge...but pretty stunning.
Jun 7th, 2016 - admin
Thanks for all the great information!
Jun 7th, 2016 - Posie from Kickapoo River
WILTON to NICOLETTE AVE. -- As part of wanting to kayak the Kickapoo from as far north as possible to the end, we did the upper-most bit on June 5. Wilton (from the campground/park) to Nicolette Avenue just north of NOW School took us 6 hours to go 7 miles, and it was exhausting/hilarious! I don't think it would be possible to go any further north, really. According to the United States Geological Survey Map, the water level at Ontario was 8.5 feet. It would be impossible to do this route any shallower, and would have been better to have done it deeper. That being said, I don't know how it would have affected passage through log jams. None of it was very deep, but it was rather dangerous in parts. It took a LOT of hard work to get through here. I am so very glad we did it!!! But, still, this is just a lot of hard physical labour. Lots of riffles. Kept getting caught on rocks and had to rock/drag with hands/poke with paddles to get yourself free. Or just get out and drag your boat. Some spots were dangerous with the currents and dead wood. Too many log jams to remember. We lot count. My husband twice had to climb out onto them and push his boat through and then drag mine through. I got out twice and hauled mine up a steep bank, through nettles and poison parsnip because I couldn't bear to do what he was doing. We did feel like Lewis and Clark! We knew we were seeing things not many people have seen, and it was beautiful...we loved the adventure of it all! However, this is NOT a part you want to do really unless you are just really wanting to do ALL of the Kickapoo.
Jun 4th, 2016 - admin
Really appreciate all the good information!
Jun 4th, 2016 - Posie from Kickapoo River
We live within miles of the Kickapoo, and have spent a lot of time on the part by us...Readstown through S. Up north we haven't spent as much time on, but we plan on doing the entire Kickapoo this summer. We don't go up there a lot because of the numbers of people. We have done Ontario through bridge 7, and lower Rockton (12?!?!) to La Farge. We will catch bridges 7 to 12 later. As we do pieces, I will add more. About Ontario to 7...soon after starting, there is a drop off in the river that wasn't mentioned before, like a mini-waterfall...maybe because we went there before the season began...we don't know. It is like going through a mini-chute. Rockton to La Farge is lovely!!! Contrary to thinking it not very interesting, we find the lower part just as beautiful as the upper portion, but in a different way. Readstown: There is NO good place to put in at Readstown. They kept telling us to go to the park...well, we did and have walked all over it. We have gone to the road on the other side of it. Where 14/61 crosses over it (bridge), the bank is suuuuuper steep. I suppose if the river was high you could get in at the park. We ended up putting in on a side creek a little bit further south of Readstown, off 61. We spent a lot of time figuring out where to put in. The last little piece before Soldiers Grove had riffles, which were fun. Soldiers Grove to B before the dam...about 9 miles, it takes about 4 hours. We have not been able to put in there at times because the mud is so deep that our feet sank too much. There are some log jams that have a few feet to pass through, submerged trees everywhere. Not very hard, but keeps you on your toes. We went with friends recently who were surprised at how much more of a challenge this was than the upper part of the Kickapoo. No cliffs, but lots of beautiful plants, animals, etc. Eagles, beavers, cranes, geese, muskrats, otter, deer, turtles, etc. I regularly see more wildlife on the lower part than I have on the upper. Takes about 4 hours and not a lot of idling. Usually you have to be paying attention. B to Gays/dam is shorter. We have portaged to the other side of the dam and then kayaked to Stump Dodger, which is sweet but short. I am glad I did it, but not so worth the effort. All of these places offer lots of shade along the way. Stump Dodger to S is where the river starts to open up wider. Much more leisurely and floaty. This is where is gets a bit more "boring" to me in terms of scenery. In all the times we have been between Readstown and S, we have NEVER ONCE ran into people on the river....except for 3 adults and 2 kids fishing. We have had people behind us get out after we did...but that is it. We like feeling like we own the river. :) I will post more as we hit other spots...especially those north of Ontarios!!!
Sep 5th, 2013 - admin
Glad you liked the trip! Being the only paddlers on the Kickapoo is a real treat as this can be a very congested (and noisy) river during the summer.
Sep 5th, 2013 - Jim
My wife and I are new to kayaking and saw the Kickapoo on this website. We live in the Appleton area and decided to make the trip to Ontario while on vacation. We stayed over night in Tomah and then headed to Ontario. We were the only 2 on the river since school was back in session and the weather was very nice. The only regret I have is that my cell phone did not have service so we were unable to call for our ride, but we were able to get a ride back with one of the rental outfits in Ontario. I recommend this trip to all kayaking enthusiasts.

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

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