Good put-in off Quarry Road

A tight duck under a possibly electric fence

First rapids

First rock outcrop

Exquisite texture

You will see cows on this trip

First mile or so is very open

Second fence (easy duck under)

Lancaster Road is a difficult launch (fence #3 is easy to avoid)

Amazing brickwork

Fast rapids next to rock walls

Little Platte is sleeping

Now it is awake again

One of the more serious drops

Layers of sediment from ancient seas

Many rich, lush rock outcrops

My favorite section

Looking back

Rapids prevent you from getting too close to the walls

This was a bumpy section…

TOUGH SECTION…current tries to pin you in a reverse eddy

I think the current is going UNDER the rock wall (be careful)

Second favorite section

Just like the top of a huge bowl

Pictures do not capture its enormity

One of many drops

One of many random boulders in the water

And another

Was fighting the sun and shadows the entire day

Cow fence #4 (not electric!)

A strainer off Hwy B that I kind of cleared out (be careful)

A break from limestone

Some mud outcrops

Very cool but shallow Roundtree Branch joins the Little Platte

Dames rocket…common along rivers and attractive

Third favorite section

Geology changes…much smoother rocks

Another huge bowl rim

Some of the better rapids

Finally, some direct lighting!

Crash landed borg cube

Need to paddle faster…starting to lose light

Easy strainer to dodge on left

Some of the more brisk rapids

Fourth favorite section

A ridiculously large leaf

Taking out on Stumpton Road

It is quite the drag from river to bridge (but doable)

Looking downstream at a future trip

Scouting the Little Platte at Crosscut Road (looks thirsty)

 
 

Little Platte River – Platteville



Date Paddled: May 31st, 2015
Put-in: Quarry Road
Take-out: Stumpton Road Bridge
Distance: 6.35 Miles
Time: 5 hours 1 minute (atypical...expect 3 hours)
Gradient: 15' per mile (fast!)
Water Level: Platte River by Rockville 3.45' or 82 CFS

The Little Platte wasn’t in my immediate plans, but when heavy downpours submerged much of the state (only bypassing far southwestern Wisconsin), I kind of let the weather pick this trip for the week. SW Wisconsin has some some amazing paddling prospects, including the Grant River, Platte River and Fever River, but the Little Platte is easily better than all of them and is IMO one of the elite paddling prospects in the entire state.  Think Kickapoo River but with with fun light rapids and instead of sandstone rock outcroppings, you have gorgeous limestone rock outcrops with exotic layers and textures. 

The start of the trip is mostly an open pasture paddle.  Very pleasant with attractive views of the green hillsides and fun riffles over many of the turns.  This section has the most cows (and fences) though, so do be mindful.

The strength of the trip would be the many rock walls along the side of the river (I lost count, which is a good sign).  The photos and video convey some of this, but unfortunately many did not turn out and I weren’t usable (taking pictures of rock bluffs is exceptionally difficult and you need very good back lighting to pull it off…not to mention the current was not camera friendly). 

Many of the rock walls are not immensely large, but what makes them cool is their unique texture, at times good length, being often flanked by light rapids and frequently being hidden by the many curves which adds a fun discovery element to the paddle.   Adding to this is usually a thick forest canopy on top of the rock bluffs which often gives this small river the effect of paddling through a canyon (or at least one side of one).

The other strength of the river is the fun current.  At my depth, it was bumpier than ideal but still enjoyable.  Most of the major rapids were video’ed below if you’re curious as to their size and strength.

Put-in:

Pretty good access off of Quarry Road.  Am not 100% sure it is public, but suspect it is and others do use this launch. 

Take-out:

Doable but inconvenient take-out at Stumpton Road.  This is a popular fishing spot with good shoulder parking, but it is a steep walk through thick grass to get to your car.  Plenty doable though.

Shuttle Information:

This is a hilly bike shuttle that rises 351′ and drops 253′ over 4.5 miles.  Managable, but be sure you are in shape (I had to walk some hills).  On the plus side, the bike shuttle goes smack through the heart of UW-Platteville which is a pleasant campus.

Hazards and Log Jams:

There is a low fence shortly after Quarry Road that I was able to duck under.  Am not sure if it was electric.  Might be an issue for taller boats.

There is a second low fence (likely electric) maybe halfway between Quarry Road and Lancaster Road that I thought was easy to duck under by paddling close to the shore.

I believe there is at least one more fence to duck under but it wasn’t too bad and was not electric.

Little Platte is remarkably free of log jams.  However, there is a strainer in fast current within eyesight of Hwy B.  I broke enough branches, that you should be able to punch through ok now, but be mindful of this.

Lastly, the Little Platte turns into a dangerous whitewater river you don’t want to mess with when high.  So be VERY mindful of the depth gauges before planning a trip.

River Depth, Navigability and Current:

Most important section of the review…  The nearest gauge is on the Platte River and is probably accurate enough.  I did this at 3.45′ which is considered very low.  For reference, the guys at American Whitewater consider 4.5′ to 5.5′ barely runnable!  But these are whitewater kids who typically exaggerate how much water you need and typically underestimate how dangerous high water is.  At 3.45′, much of the river is plenty runnable.  The issue is that some of the rapids will be bumpy and I did have to get out to walk my boat a few times, but I considered this minor relative to my Fever River experience (that WAS too low)!  That being said, 3.45′ was lower than ideal, and I only suggest running the river at this level if you have a high bump tolerance and have a small boat that can maneuver. 

On the flip side, this river can be deadly at high water.  I considered most of these rapids to be class 1, but would easily be class 2 or higher with more water.  There was one section in which the current went strongly into a rock wall forming a strong reverse eddy.  Tougher than it looks…I was not able to turn my boat in time and hit the rock wall gently (it’s in the video).  In higher water, this would be much pushier and an issue.

In summary, I recommend 4.0′ to 5.0′ for this section.  Anything above 5.0′ is very high water and is probably too pushy for casual paddlers (for reference it has only gotten above 5.0′ once this year and just briefly).

Substrate and Water Quality:

Not good water quality.  Brownish opaque with fine debris suspended in the water.  This is a byproduct of the steep grade and poor agricultural practices (both past and present) that have contributed a lot of silt to this otherwise nice river.

Substrate is very rocky (mostly softball sized).

Wildlife:

A great blue heron, a flying turkey (always elegant & graceful), ducks, geese, an eagle and a muskrat (or beaver).

You will probably encounter bovines in the water.  Thankfully I saw no bulls, but there was a steer that gave me the stare down from the middle of the river.  He eventually relented and ran off.  Cows are so much easier to scare off…you clap your hands and wave your paddle…and they are “running for their lives”.

Special Thanks

Thanks to Americanwhitewater.org for their review, which provided a lot of helpful information.

Detailed Overview

  • Arthur Village (Hwy A or 80) to Waterfall Road:  3.6 miles.  Typically tiny, with perhaps some electric fences and definitely some downed trees.  Rock outcrops by Arthur are impressive.
  • Waterfall Road to Crosscut Road:  2.1 miles.  An interesting creek prospect.
  • Crosscut Road to Quarry Road:  5.9 miles.  A curious prospect, but likely has a handful of downed trees.
  • Quarry Road to Stumpton Road:  6.6 miles.  A great five star section.
  • Stumpton Road to Hwy O6.3 miles.  A good four star section.
  • Hwy O to Church Road:  4.7 miles.  A great five star section.
  • Church Road to Oak Road:  4.6 miles.  Medium prospect.  Maybe 1 outcrop and 8-12 logjams.
  • Oak Road to the Mouth:  4.6 miles.  Medium prospect.   Maybe 11 logjams.
  • Mouth to Indian Creek Road:  1.5 miles.  A short section on a now very wide Platte River.

Trip Map

Overview Map

Video

Photos
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18 Comments to “Little Platte River – Platteville”

  1. Did Quarry Lane to Stumptown Rd. on 5/6/2018

    4.1 gauge height on Platte R. at Rockville, ~200 CFS. Wouldn’t recommend levels any lower than this. Never had to exit our boats, but did have to push up a few times when got hung up. Lots of scraping and bumping over rocks. One downed log that took some time to scoot over. We’ll try to catch the Little Platte at a higher level sometime.

    Scouted put-in at Old Lancaster Rd, but didn’t want to trespass, so didn’t check to see if gate would open. Put in at Quarry Ln.instead. Barely ducked under the two electric fences between Quarry and Old Lancaster, but if river was up another few inches that would have been difficult. I may rig up an electric fence lifting tool out of small diameter PVC?

    Most interesting wildlife: Turkeys flying across the river – one landed on the bank just in front of us.

    Detailed note: The rock shown in your photo “crash landed borg cube” had a new obstruction on river right that pushed us much harder toward that rock than we expected. I’m pretty sure it was a tree branch, (I hit some branches with my paddle and snapped them off – briefly worried that the cracking sound was my paddle breaking.) Whether it was bad river reading, not making the right move, or the geometry of the rapid, all three of us took some water over the side of the cockpit. Two of us bumped off the rock.

      1. Not that I know… You might check with the Platteville Chamber of Commerce to see if they know of any new liveries. An idea might be to simply use a taxi service out of Platteville (which is practically next door) to do a car drop for you.

        1. Drop us a line a week before your intended trip down the river from quarry rd to stumptown and if we are around we can follow one of you from quarry rd to stumptown and take you back to to quarry to ride the river

  2. I took advantage of an early spring 70 degree day and did the section from Quarry to Maple Ridge Rd (the next bridge after
    the Sumpton Rd bridge) on Mon 4/8/19. The gauges were about 180 CFS and 4.05 totally doable but I did scrape and bump a bit in many of the rapids. On the plus side there were no major jams and no fences across the river, on the negative side there was place where a tree had recently fallen completely blocking the river just after the Sumpton Bridge, but it was an easy portage on the right side. Also there were two spots where the bank had eroded and the fence posts with wire still attached were in the river. Luckily they both were parallel to the river and right along the bank so not hard to avoid, but could be dangerous in different conditions or if you did not see them ahead of time. Trip took about 4 hours with a 30 min stop for lunch. Nice bike shuttle through UW Plattvile Campus, it starts off with a BIG LONG hill but is OK after that. Saw 2 eagles, ducks, many nesting geese, big flock of turkeys, a few deer, some fish.

  3. Paddled from Old Lancaster to Stumptown Rds. on 16 June 2019, at 5.2 ft. and 500 CFS. Ate lunch in our boats in an eddy, on-river time was about 2.5 hrs.

    We put in river right, downstream from the bridge. Lots of wild parsnip to walk through while carrying boats, but long pants and long sleeves protected us. FFI on parnsip burns: https://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/html/stories/1999/jun99/parsnip.htm

    If you use this put-in, don’t forget to chain the gate closed behind you.

    I didn’t use a skirt in my crossover kayak, and some of the standing waves were big enough to splash water into the cockpit.

    At about the 1/3 point, there was a downed tree on river left at a sharp bend, followed shortly by hard-to-see barbed wire very low to the water. If concentrating on avoiding the strainer, one might not see the wire in time. We’d brought wire lifters and eased under slowly, but at this water level or higher, caution is advised. As always, know your boat handling skills and be safe.

    Clouds of gnats hovered around our heads for much of the trip. Bob Marley’s song “(G)Natty Dread” took on a whole new meaning for me. I didn’t notice any bites until the next day when a few appeared behind my ears. It was worth it to paddle this beautiful river at a frisky level.

    1. Aside from the fence, it sounds like these were fun water levels. Funny you should mention gnats and wild parsnip…they were a bane during my Sunday paddle too.

  4. Paddled from Quarry to Maple Ridge Rd today with a bike shuttle. Near perfect conditions, sunny, 60+, just enough green to make things look fresh and alive, but not enough to obscure any of the great rock faces, Levels were perhaps just a tad on the low side, 250 CFS/ 4.75 ft, so we scraped and bumped in some low spots and rapids, but never had to get out of the boats. The current was decent but never too pushy, but good boat control is required due to many sharp turns and currents want to direct you into rock faces Saw an eagle sitting on her/his nest, just a few cows, none in the water. many deer, some in the water, and a couple of geese with goslings. Bike shuttle is about 7 miles and took about 40 mins. The first hill is a bit steep, but after that is pretty easy, bike trails, small county roads and city streets

    1. Sounds like a great trip! Now, before scenery becomes obscured by leaves and gras,s is actually an underrated time to paddle.

  5. Paddled from Quarry Rd. to Stumptown Rd. on 11June2020, Platte gauge at about 5.0 ft. and 310 CFS.

    A tree was down between Old Lancaster and Hwy B, requiring an easy portage river left. There was a strainer in a bend of swift water upstream from the Stumptown bridge that required careful maneuvering.

    A couple of times the standing waves were tall enough to splash water into the cockpit of my kayak, as I expected at this water level.

    Notable wildlife:

    A pair of Canada geese. One floated down the riffles in front of us, another bolted upstream. Maybe molting, as neither flew away. Raccoon, turkey, bald eagle, grebe, great blue heron, tadpoles at lunch stop.

    1. So aside from the standing waves it sounds like 310 CFS was a manageable run which is good to know. Thanks for the updates.

  6. Ran the river from Quarry Rd to Stumptown Rd on September 17,2020, gage at 4.6′ and 230cfs. Canoeing the trip took just under 2.5 hours, plenty of scraping, would look for something closer to 5.0 if running it again in a canoe.

    The two barbed wire fences were non-events just pass under from the far left side. We portaged to the right to get around the downed tree as noted by others, also an easy portage.

    Fun river, plenty of rapids. A pair of eagles were active at about the mid-point. Spots along to take out and relax.

  7. We did the section from Old Lancaster to Cty O om 4/3/21 178 CFS and 4.5 ft. OK levels but would probably be better at 4.5-5 ft. We never had to walk the boats but there was a lot of scaping, bumping and “wheel chairing” through many of the shallow spots. On the upside the clarity was excellent and although good boat controlled was required in many places, all of places where the current pushes you into to the rock outcroppings were easily manageable. There were no complete blockages and no portages, but there was one place that was a bit tight. A tree is in the river from bank to bank,luckily the very top of the tree just barely reaches the right bank, so it is possible to squeeze through as the branches are thin and wispy. With just a bit of sawing and lopping work it would be fine.
    Put-in at 12:30 took out at 4:40 with 30 min break. The bike shuttle (8.5 mile) took 45 mins. We saw eagles, geeses, ducks, kingfishers, muskrats,a mink,trout, a turtle, and just a few little bits of ice/snow hanging on in the shadiest portions of some of the rock faces

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