Nice pulloff area in Mauston

The Mauston dam

Great launch area just below

Getting close to the dam

Some of the only rapids on the Lemonweir

Pretty fun

Large rock retaining wall in Mauston…likely for flood protection

Lot of dragonflies on the river

This section of the Lemonweir was very wooded

Finding a friend

Lot of sandbars

Some downed trees, but they were never an issue

Paddling under the interstate

A huge flock of cliff swallows

Looks like a muskie

Some pines on this stretch

During shallow water levels, camping is an option

Very sandy river

Time to switch boats

Beat up shoreline from many floods

Friendly dragonfly

19th Ave

Coming up on a hidden bay

You do need to paddle into the bay to reach the take-out

Good take-out ramp


Lemonweir River – Mauston

May 25th, 2012
Mauston Dam
19th Ave Landing
5 Miles
3 Hours
0.9' per Mile
Water Level:
Lemonweir River @ New Lisbon 240 CFS (good depth)

This is probably not one of the more well known rivers, but it is very nice never-the-less.  It empties into the Wisconsin River just north of the Dells rock formations.  The upper sections are absolutely not as popular as the lower sections.  Mike Svob does review one such section north of New Lisbon, but it is brief and he advises that surrounding sections have a lot of log jams.  Below the New Lisbon Dam, there is a section that runs through to Mauston, but it is a long stretch with no bridges.  While I haven’t paddled this section yet, there is supposedly a nice rock formation on the river on the stretch between New Lisbon and Mauston.  The locals are trying to promote the upper Lemonweir (even distributing brochures to Rutabaga) which may be a good sign that it is not as log jammed as Svob suggested.

Below the Mauston Dam and to the Wisconsin River there are no real log jams (although there are squeakers) and this section is quite popular with kayakers.  There are roughly three sections you can do downstream from the dam:  roughly a 5 mile section, a 10 mile section, and then another 5 mile section to the Wisconsin River.  You can, of course, combine sections or even camp on the sandbars (quite popular, as while the sandbars are not elaborate…they are adequate for camping).  I’ve done the first and third sections.  I’ll review the first section below and review the third section at a later time.

The first section has a decent put-in downstream from the dam in Mauston and on the north side of the river.  No bathrooms but good parking.  You’ll hit riffles right away (nothing serious) which is about all you’ll see for the entire river.  I did see evidence of a shuttle/rental service, so while I don’t know of any names off the top of my head, I’m sure if you require these services, they are available.  While again…the river is not spectacular, it is still very nice.  While there are rock formation up and downstream of this segment, there are none on this leg.  Current isn’t that strong and the banks are mostly woods.    On the downside, when I went, there were a LOT of mosquitoes.  I highly recommend either protective clothing or DEET free repellent such as the lemon eucalyptus brand that is supposedly quite effective now.  There were a lot of dragonflies on the river munching on the mosquitoes and, in fact, liked to hang around us because they knew we attracted the mosquitoes.  About halfway into the trip, there will be a fork around a massive island.  I believe you can go both ways…we went the north route with the main channel.  This island on both the upstream and downstream side is a good spot for camping because of the sandbars.

The take-out is a landing on the 19th Ave. bridge, which appears to be a former dam.  It is very nice, scenic, but does not have any bathrooms (although it does have one of the highest concentrations of mosquitoes I’ve ever experienced).  If it wasn’t for these pests, this would be a much higher rated segment.  No doubt this might have been a timing problem on my end, and others wouldn’t face the same plagues we did, so don’t let this scare you away.

Detailed Overview

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.

Trip Map

View Lemonweir River in a larger map

Overview Map



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

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