Lemonweir River – Mouth
Again, if you’ve read my previous review of the Lemonweir you know there are three segments below Mauston and to the Wisconsin River based on the landing options: a five mile section, a ~14 mile section, and then a remaining 5 mile section to the Wisconsin. This review will be of that last section. You can, of course, lengthen this trip by taking out at one of the landings on the Wisconsin River or by putting in close to Mauston (that’s a long trip though).
This is a very pleasant section that I liked. The ‘drop car location’ is the Two Rivers boat ramp near the conflux of the rivers. Very nice landing with bathrooms. Make sure you walk down to the landing and eyeball the surroundings as there is a minor chance you can miss the landing (more on this later). This final section of the Lemonweir is unique because it is the final section/delta and it has a lot of sloughs, side channels and islands. So, during high water, you do have some strategic choices to make as far as navigation goes. Generally speaking, you’ll probably want to follow the channel with the most volume and is going the fastest.
Put in by a snowmobile bridge that you can’t drive over (you’ll have to cross on a separate bridge and double back from the north side…see map). Decent put-in (no bathrooms). This is a pleasant section of the river and there was plenty of evidence of wildlife, especially birds and clams. The consistency of this segment is mostly sand, which is very nice (relative to muddy bottoms and banks of other rivers). We went at the height of the 2012 drought and there were some shallow areas that required ‘hopping’ and even getting out. Nothing too bad though…it’s not a big deal to get out when the water is not too dirty and you have sand to step on. Ironically, the upper sections of the river seem deeper…this is probably because this section loses a lot of volume due to the side-channels. Indeed, from Google maps, the channel breaks out in a tree-like format and it is somewhat possible to get lost. Just follow the biggest/fastest channel and you’ll be fine. While there are side-choices that may be fun to explore, if you deviate from the main channel you may miss one of the three river-side rock formations on this segment of the river.
You’ll probably see other boaters on the river as this is a moderately popular paddling section. Unfortunately paddlers aren’t the only people on the river. About half way into out trip, we heard a large number of gunshots about a mile away. These kept continuing, and as we got close, we saw a large group of native rednecks shooting styrofoam cups in the river with their pistols. Not sure if this was legal…if for no other reason than they were polluting the river. That was unfortunate, but the rest of the trip was quite nice. As you progress through the river the main channel starts to open up and you’ll get more islands/paths that can make for fun exploring. As you wind through the main section, you’ll probably end up wondering where the boat landing is. It is somewhat hidden and tucked back to your right. What you need to do is follow the third and largest rock formation (see pictures). This formation is unofficially the start of the Dells and in fact was going to be the northern border of Wisconsin Dells National Park, which was a plan that got scrapped in the 30’s. As you get closer to the rock formation, you’ll see the landing on your right and slightly back. We intentionally over-shot the landing so we could go out on the Wisconsin River (nice sandbar right there). By the last rock formation on the Lemonweir and at the mouth, the current is VERY strong. While it is tempting to get close to check out the cliffs and all the cliff swallow nests…you’ll probably only want to do so with your life jacket on and to be careful that your boat doesn’t get pinned by the rocks.
Lemonweir River - Main Branch:
- East/South Fork Confluence to Hwy PP: 1.0 miles. Maybe 3 logjams.
- Hwy PP to Funnel Road: 2.0 miles. Very straight. Maybe 6 logjams.
- Funnel Road to 2nd Ave: 1.2 miles. Very channelized and straight. Maybe 3 logjams.
- 2nd Ave to Hwy H: 1.8 miles. Maybe 4 logjams. The channel at times is not well defined.
- Hwy H to River Road: 2.3 miles. Maybe 4-6 logjams. There are confusing side channels and getting lost may be an issue.
- River Road to 6th Ave: 5.4 miles. Probably doable but there are a lot of logjams.
- 6th Ave to 37th Street Landing: 4.4 miles. This is occasionally paddled but does have some logjams. Definitely a future trip.
- 37th Street Landing to New Lisbon: 6.6 miles. A big, long lake pretending to be a river. Honestly, somewhat boring, but a nice rock outcropping, fall leaves and attractive white pines gave it redeeming value when I paddled it.
- New Lisbon Dam to Hwy 12/16 Shoulder: 7.9 miles. Nice prospect with the “Little Dells” rock outcrop…but some jams (maybe 6). The Hwy 12/16 shoulder where a small creek enters the river is a speculative access option and may not be practical.
- Hwy 12/16 Shoulder to Riverside Park in Mauston: 4.6 miles. Mostly slow open flowage paddling.
- Mauston Dam to 19th Ave: 4.5 miles. One of the nicer stretches on the river.
- 19th Ave to Hwy HH: 13.1 miles. Not as interesting with slow current.
- Hwy HH to the Mouth: 3.3 miles. Good section with attractive rock outcrops. A prelude to the Dells.
Lemonweir River - East Fork:
- Hwy EW to Buckley Ave: 3.1 miles. Starts with some flowage paddling and then transitions into a marsh paddle. Some of the dikes may be confusing to navigate. Perhaps 12 logjams...but most are clustered near the end.
- Buckley Ave to Hwy 173: 4.7 miles. One of the most scenic stretches on the Lemonweir. This is a diverse paddle with a marsh, a lake, cranberry bogs, sandbars, and scenic pines. There are a handful of logjams but they are mostly located at the end of the trip and are easy portages.
- Hwy 173 to Backwater Bar and Grill: 3.5 miles. An interesting prospect through frac sand country and on my todo list.
- Hwy 173 to Dove Ave: 0.9 miles. Very open and sandy with countless small sandbars. Good prospect.
- Dove Ave to Cooper Road: 2.4 miles. Sandy stretch that runs by some frac sand mines and cranberry farms. Maybe two logjams, but mostly open.
- Cooper Road to Backwater Bar and Grill: 0.2 miles. A scenic stretch on a small flowage. Note, I called the local bar and the access by the dam is open to the public.
- Backwater Bar and Grill to Hwy 21: 0.5 miles. Many likely logjams...perhaps almost nonstop.
- Hwy 21 to East/South Fork Confluence: 0.3 miles. Maybe 2-3 logjams.
Lemonweir River - South Fork:
- Butts Park/Lake Tomah to Forbes Road: 4.5 miles.
- Butts Park to Lake Tomah Dam: 0.2 miles. A short paddle on Lake Tomah to reach the dam. Lake Tomah is a nice lake but nothing special.
- Lake Tomah Dam to Memorial Park: 1.2 miles. A small sandy stretch with many downed trees to deal with.
- Memorial Park to Tomah Dog Park: 0.6 miles. A mostly open and pleasant stretch...but there is one large logjam that was a very difficult portage.
- Tomah Dog Park to Forbes Road: 2.5 miles. The first half contains many logjams, some of which are difficult portages. The second half is mostly open but does require two logjam portages.
- Forbes Road to County Hwy N: 6.1 miles. A future trip.
- Forbes Road to Hwy ET: 1.6 miles. Pretty open...maybe 2 logjams.
- Hwy ET to County Hwy N: 4.5 miles. Surprisingly open and a good prospect. Maybe 3 logjams.
- County Hwy N to Excelsior Ave: 3.0 miles. The golf course is pretty open but the woods likely have a number of logjams....maybe 6-8.
- Excelsior Ave to East/South Fork Confluence: 0.5 miles. Likely countless logjams.
This site is great! I have done many of the same trips as I live near Portage. A useful piece of information for each trip is actual paddling time. We did the Lemonweir Mouth trip expecting 5 hours per your review. We put in at the snowmobile bridge at 11:30a. We were quite casual, stopping several times and just floating quite a bit. We hit the Two Rivers landing at 1:30pm. We actually had our pick up vehicle at the camp grounds on the WI River a mile down or so. In all we had about 2.5 hrs paddling casually. A nice trip, but we would have gone further if we knew the actual paddling time beforehand.
Food for thought. Thanks for a great resource!
Thanks for the comment! I do agree that some of the paddling times are deceptive. In this case, the time is technically correct (for our trip), but we took breaks on the sandbar at the mouth, got a little lost, had some shallow water portages and got to out to explore some class piles. Not to mention my photo taking seriously slows down trips. When I get caught up with my reviews, I’ll probably issue qualifiers for my times.
The most accurate measure of time is distance. Fast paddlers in long boats do 3 miles an hour. Typical paddlers do 2 miles an hour and my paddles can take 1-2 miles an hour because of the sheer number of pictures I take.
Great to hear from a Portage resident! Might still do the Fox by Portage yet….but it looked pretty weedy last week when I drove over it.