Kickapoo River – Rockton to La Farge
Date Paddled: September 17th, 2012
Put-in: Rockton Landing
Take-out: La Farge Landing
Distance: 11 Miles
Water Level: Kickapoo River @ La Farge 112 CFS (good depth)
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 to how and where you want to tackle the river. You can even camp on the river as well (you do have to register in advance for these though).
For my part trip, I put in at a landing just south of Rockton and a massive bridge going over the river. This is a nice landing that has a bathroom and was very nice (like most landings on the upper Kickapoo). I do not know if the landings charge a fee (I used a shuttle service). This stretch of the river isn’t as popular as Ontario to Rockton for good reason… The water quality isn’t the same…the sandbars are much more scarce, there aren’t that many inviting swimming holes and there are more mud banks. On the plus side, this stretch of the river has lots of bluffs that are gorgeous. In fact, I actually believe these bluffs are larger than the ones on the upstream section. The other plus for this section is that there are hardly any people on the river. When I paddled Ontario to Rockton, the river was packed with a lot of paddlers; many of whom were drunk and disruptive. On the La Farge section, I only encountered one convoy of 5 paddlers and that was it.
You can kind of divide this trip into thirds. The first third goes through a nice sheltered section with occasional bluffs. In the second section, the bluffs get much bigger and nicer. The third section honestly isn’t as interesting as (with exceptions) the bluffs largely disappear and the banks start to open up. While you paddle downstream you will be able to see the uncompleted dam intake tower on your right. There is a dike in the same area that you can walk out on, but because of the tree cover you can’t see this from the river nor the river from the dike. Around this area, there are a number of very minor riffles. This area finally opens up into a little bit of farmland and cow country unfortunately. One of the last bridges (they’re all numbered) is a very cool red covered one that is pretty photogenic. Generally speaking the Kickapoo from Ontario and to La Farge is cleaned out by the livery companies but there are occasional squeakers. Water levels were considered down when I went but I never had to get out and this wasn’t a problem.
Takeout at La Farge is another nice landing with a bathroom. You can in theory paddle downstream of La Farge and there are infrequent bluffs hiding here and there…but according to my shuttle driver, there are some nightmarish log jams plus steep banks down there (bad combo). Some people he ferried said they absolutely would never do that stretch again. On the flip side, there have been some major clearing operations down there (costs 100k+) so this may have improved. Others have paddled downstream of La Farge and not complained, so I don’t really know. Titanic canoe rentals won’t service this area though.
Google says this was only 11 miles, but this felt more than that. You can split this up…but don’t omit the last section as it had the best and largest bluffs.
Once you get out of the water, there you might consider doing a little exploring. This is ‘Organic Valley’ (one of Wisconsin’s highest concentration of organic farms in the state) and there is an organic outlet store in La Farge south of the landing (with awful hours though). There is also a visitor center where you can learn about the abandoned Kickapoo dam and a trail that leads over the dike. While technically possible, I don’t think you can drive out on the dike (there was a warden watching the area with binoculars so I think this is enforced).
Third Party Resources:
- Kickapoo Valley Reserve Map – Very well done with detailed bridge numbers. The Rockton landing had free printouts of this map that you can take on your trip. Don’t trust their distances though.
- Kickapoo Valley Reserve – Visitor Center
- Drifty’s Canoe Rental : 608.337.4288 – Hwy 33 & 131 North, Ontario, WI 54651
- Kickapoo Wild Adventures : 608.337.4522 – 30352 State Hwy 131, Norwalk, WI 54648
- Mr. Duck Canoe Rental : 608.337.4711 -100 Main Street, Ontario, WI 54651
- Ok Corral Canoe Rental : 608.337.4517 – 30531 St Hwy 31, Norwalk, WI 54648
- Titanic Canoe Rental : 608.337.4551 – 300 State Highway 131 Ontario, WI 54651
- Kickapoo Yacht Club : 608.625.4395 – S2463 Rockton Loop Road La Farge, WI 54639
- Crooked River Resort : 608.629.5624 – S. 8019 Hwy 61, Readstown, WI
- Flasher’s Canoe Camping Trips : 608.435.6802 -PO Box 114, Wilton, WI 54670
Kickapoo River Overview:
- Wilton to Hwy 131 (near Nicollet Ave): 7.0 miles. Just a small creek and not too many bluffs, but are some. Fences and log jams may be an issue as well as shallow water. Guest reviewed Apr 2016.
- Hwy 131 (near Nicollet Ave) to Ontario (Titanic Livery): 5 miles. A rarely traveled section with nice rock outcrops. Reviewed Jun 2013.
- Ontario (Titanic) to Hwy 131 (after Hay Valley Road or #7): 8.5 miles. The most popular and perhaps best section of the Kickapoo. Reviewed Aug 2010.
- Hwy 131 (bridge #7) to Rockton: 5.0 miles. A good stretch. Reviewed Aug 2010.
- Rockton to La Farge: 11 miles. 2nd most popular stretch on the river. Less frequent but larger bluffs than upstream. Easy to subdivide. Reviewed Sep 2012.
- La Farge to Hwy 131 (by Ski Hill Road): 6.76 miles. Nice section but with a few jams. Reviewed Apr 2016.
- Hwy 131/Ski Hill Road to Viola (Banker Park): 7.0 miles. Maybe 2 bluffs, but mostly open I think. Have been told there are 26 portages between La Farge and Viola, so beware.
- Viola to Readstown: 12.5 miles. Should be able to subdivide. Not sure if any rock outcrops and might be some jams.
- Readstown to Soldiers Grove: 6.65 miles. Should be clear of jams and perhaps the most popular section on the lower Kickapoo. But does not seem too special and doubt there are rock outcrops.
- Soldiers Grove to Hwy B: 8.98 miles. I doubt there are log jams, but think this stretch would not be very interesting.
- Hwy B to Gays Mills: 4 miles. Probably not interesting. A dam and flowage to contend with near Gays Mills.
- Gays Mills to Hwy S: 4.58 miles.
- Hwy S to Haney Valley Road: 5.77 miles.
- Haney Valley Road to Taylor Ridge Road: 3.57 miles.
- Taylor Ridge Road to Steuben: 5.02 miles.
- Steuben to Plum Creek: 13 miles. Maybe not interesting? Think you can subdivide this if need be.
- Plum Creek Landing to Wauzeka Boat Landing: 9.75 miles. Non-exotic but flows through a wildlife area. A landing at Hwy 60 allows you to subdivide the trip.
- Wauzeka to the Wisconsin River: 0.86 miles. The last stretch before the Wisconsin. Numerous take-out options on the Wisconsin River itself.
View Kickapoo River - Rockton to La Farge in a larger map