Mecan River

This is one of the twistier and smaller rivers in Central Wisconsin, but is a super paddle.  Thanks to the clear calm water it can seem like you’re paddling on air.

Trip Reports

Mecan Springs Boat Ramp to 9th Ave

Date Paddled: October 6th, 2019
Distance: 3.9 miles (2.1 miles if paddled directly)
Time: 5 hours 19 minutes (atypical...expect 2 hours)

This was a great trip that explored the spring-water origins of the Mecan River.


Cumberland Road to 11th Road

Date Paddled: October 8th, 2017
Distance: 3.9 miles
Time: 3 hours 35 minutes (2.5 hours would be more typical)

Rarely paddled, the far upper Mecan has a few obstacles but also some of its best scenery, with almost perfect water clarity and beautiful white pines.


11th Road Bridge to JJ Road Bridge

Date Paddled: September 21st, 2014
Distance: 3.7 Miles
Time: 2 hours 26 minutes (2 hours would be more typical)

Despite the Mecan being a popular paddle, this section is often overlooked and undeservedly so.  This is a fine wilderness paddle and one of the clearest rivers in southern Wisconsin–a must paddle for south central Wisconsinites (you “northerners” already have lots of these type of rivers). Put-in: Very good bridge put-in at 11th Road.  Small […]


Hwy Y to Dixie Ave

Date Paddled: August 19th, 2023
Distance: 5.4 miles
Time: Expect 3 hours

Fast, crystal-clear water flows through a pristine "up-north" landscape in one of the best paddling prospects in Central Wisconsin.


Germania Marsh Dam to Hwy N

Date Paddled: July 12th, 2015
Distance: 6.26 miles
Time: 3 hours 32 minutes

A classic south-central Wisconsin paddle with nothing too exotic, but still very pleasant with nice water quality and attractive wooded tree canopies.


Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages



May 20th, 2024 - Aaron from Dell Creek
A warning to of 2024, the culvert/bridge by Hwy JJ/Y is being replaced. Hwy JJ/Y will likely not be a viable access until this is done. Here are technical details on the project: Apparently this costs 1,000,000 to replace a perfectly functional (and scenic) culvert with a flat slab bridge. 150' of Cth JJ will be "reconstructed", a lot of grading will take place and base aggregate will be added. Complete is estimated for Aug. 23, 2024. Really sounds like a stupid and wasteful project. Hope they don't destroy the terrific stand of white pines in the area....can never trust construction companies.
Aug 31st, 2023 - Rick Hannah from 6 mile creek
Thanks, Aaron! Keep up the excellent paddle reports. The videos are outstanding!
Aug 27th, 2023 - Aaron from Dell Creek
The Mecan is a very popular river...they should have known better! As for the Amish, for them it was mostly loud vulgar language. If I didn't know better, I would have thought they were drunk.
Aug 27th, 2023 - Aaron from Dell Creek
The trick with Dixie is you have to get out closer to the tunnel where it is a bit shallower. Further downstream it's surprisingly deep by the rocks and that would be difficult to get out on.
Aug 27th, 2023 - Linda Harder from Fox Pishtaka
I had to post after reading your comments about lewd Amish, which seems awfully strange. On July 3rd we also put in at Dakota and took out at HWY 22. When we dropped our canoe at the launch we ran into 3 older people getting ready to launch, one man and two women probably in their 60s. We had to drive to the take out and bike back so we were probably an hour behind them. Later as we're coming up to a bend we can hear people laughing ahead of us on the river. We come around the bend to find all three of them nude on a sand bar on the side of the river, diving for their clothes or to hold up towels as we went buy. Then one of them says to me, "Is that a camera?" as I have a GoPro mounted on the front of our canoe. I told them yes but I had turned it off when I knew we were approaching some people. So that was our first experience with skinny dippers but not sure if you could call it that as none of them were in the water. We also passed a group of tubers a little farther on. We love the Mecan too. BTW, thank you for all your great posts as I have used them with great success to plan many canoe trips.
Aug 27th, 2023 - Rick Hannah from 6 mile creek
Lovely paddle, from Dakota to Dover Ave. Not sure how anyone exits at Dixie. My paddle partner and I tried taking out there for a break and found it extremely difficult to get out safely. Dover takeout was much easier.
Jun 2nd, 2022 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
We did the section from 11th to 14th Ave on 5/30/22, the Silver Creek gage was at about 45 CFS, Chaffy Creek was at 12.3 CFS, Levels were good, no portages, no bugs, jsta a few slideovers/duck unders. The paddle was about 7.2 miles and took us 3 hrs including a short stop for lunch. A great trip and a good place to do a bike shuttle. The "Zelensky"* and the take out are both easy with plenty of parking. The water clarity is fantastic as is the scenery. An absolutely beautiful trip that I would recommend to anyone. You could easily extend this trip by starting further upstream at Cumberland Rd or ending further downstream at Dixiec, Dover, Hwy E or Hwy 22, but I agree that the river becomes less interesting and scenic after 14th Ave. Here is a link to a video/map/pics of our trip using the Relive App which I highly recommend.
Jun 2nd, 2022 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
We did this section on May 27, gage was at 12.5 CFS which seemed to be a great level. fantastic trip, no bugs, no portages, and only a few things to slide over/duck under. A short trip for sure, only 4.1 miles, it took us just over 2 hrs but we stopped once to empty a boat that got a lap full of water and once to stretch our old man legs. You could easily extend this trip by going down to the next bridge at Hwy Y and JJ in the Town of Dakota, where you can get a drink and a meal at Blader's Dakota Inn. Either of these trips are great places to do a bike shuttle, as the route is on small paved country roads in the heart of Amish country. Depending on your route, you may go past several Amish farms,a sawmill, and a school. Depending on the time of the year, some of the farms may also have small produce stands. Here is a link to a map and pics using the Relive app, which I highly recommend.
May 19th, 2022 - Mike Manthey from Fond du Lac
I enjoy this section of the mecan river. Mecan river outfitters is a nice option for beginners. They offer rentals as well as shuttle services. Nice to avoid having to take 2 vehicles or bikes. The river is well maintained and easy for all skill levels.
Jul 22nd, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update Eric. I didn't know about the logjam cleanup efforts on the far upper leg of the Mecan. I do want to brave the Hwy 21 route eventually.
Jul 21st, 2021 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra
We did the section from Hwy 21 down to JJ (Dakota) on 7/19, with a bike shuttle. The Chaffe creek gauge was at about 16 CFS and 3.7 ft.The trip was about 10 miles and took us 4 1/2 hours. We never had to walk the boats but there were a few shallow spots. I have done the of the lower sections of the Mecan many times, but I had recently heard that people had been working on this upper section so I decided to give it a try. All in all it was a great trip and certainly one that I will do again, but the section between 21 and Hwy B still has several obstructions to go over, through, under and around. Nothing to difficult or dangerous, but certainly not an easy lazy river float. From B to Cumberland Rd the river is still small, fast and twisty but there are not as many obstructions. After Cumberland, while the river is still small twisty and fast, there are even fewer if any obstructions, just things to avoid. The put in is at the HWy 21 bridge east of Coloma, just north of the small town of Richford. There is a nice parking lot with room for several cars, as it is also a access point for the Ice age trail. The access to the river is easy, grassy and convenient. The take out it is easy, and again very close to a parking lot with room for several cars, and right down the road form a nice Wisconsin tavern. If I did this trip again I would either just do the Section from 21 to Cumberland as a work trip and bring my chainsaw and loppers, or just do the section from B to Dakota (Hwy JJ). The upper part is fun in a challenging sort of way, and the section from Cumberland to Dakota is beautiful and just plain fun.
Jun 17th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
The Mecan can be a bit tight for canoes. That being said I wouldn't do a trip too far upstream. Mecan Springs can be nice, but could be a short trip. Your son might try Hwy Y/JJ to Dixie but should be advised it could be tricky in a canoe.
Jun 16th, 2021 - Patrick Gelhar from Oshkosh
My 17 year old son and friends are gonna take their canoes down the river. What’s there best starting point? For them. Thanks
Jul 26th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the heads up Michael.
Jul 26th, 2020 - Michael Kohn from Neshkoro
And, look out for the poison ivy at the put-in. Please don't leave the river until AFTER you reach 14th Ave Bridge, nearly all of that section is privately owned by a private club. There is a small take-out on the right side, just under the 14th Ave bridge.
Jun 15th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek is shallow and has some deadfall...but I thought it was really scenic. Certainly the downstream legs are more open and navigable. Thanks for the feedback.
Jun 15th, 2020 - Jonelle from Mecan or Waupaca
My husband and I enjoy your sight. It has helped us get started in kayaking. Yesterday, 6/14/2020 we did the upper Mecan (listed as Mecan 1). This is the first one we did that I would not recommend. Mecan Springs is fine to kayak through, but one you hit the river it was very shallow. I had to get out and pull my kayak along the river at one point. Also a lot a debris that is difficult to navigate, moreso than other rivers. Our favorite part so far is from 11th to JJ.
Oct 21st, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's too bad, as it is fun and scenic to paddle under Hwy Y. At least the portage isn't too difficult. Hopefully the locals clear this out pretty quickly.
Oct 21st, 2019 - Jon from Starkweather
Mecan River caution: As of 20 Oct 2019, there’s a log blocking the exit of the culvert downstream from the Hwy. Y bridge. Mandatory portage (or put-in below the log if starting from Dakota). Many thanks to those who've been clearing the Upper Mecan!
Oct 13th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the feedback Gaila!
Oct 13th, 2019 - Gaila Olsen from Black Earth Creek
We three gals just did the Cumberland to Dakota section of the Mecan on October 8th, 2019. In the first 30 minutes we only encountered two easy trees to deal with...actually with wearing my knee high neoprene chota boots i just stayed in the water and dragged the boats over the low lying limbs. After that the three of us headed easily down to 11th. Took us 90 minutes total for that upper section and then continued for another 90 minutes (including a 15 minute lunch break) down to Dakota. Note that our 3 kayaks were 9.5'-10.5' in length. We were laughing that the curvy upper section below Cumberland made the section below 11th seem 'straight'. Might try using my 12' kestrel next time....but will wait till summer when it is warmer. Sure, there are a few other limbs to duck under in these two sections but the current is reasonably slow and the water is it is no big deal. Will maybe go even further upstream next summer to explore.
Sep 9th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's terrific news that the Mecan is navigable. I initially feared it would be in bad shape from July's derecho. Thanks for the update.
Sep 9th, 2019 - Cory from Hemlock Creek
Six of us made this trip from 11th Rd to 14th Ave. (6.8 mi, 2 1/2 hours, 14.5 cfs, 3.7' at Chaffee Creek). The flow was excellent and the clarity incredible. There were no portages required, though plenty of evidence of clean-up after the July 2019 wind storms. That was much appreciated!
Jul 19th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's a longer guess would be 5-6 hours.
Jul 19th, 2019 - Tyler from Rock River
Myself and my best friends are making the trip from 11th Rd. to Dover Ave. Any idea how long of a trip that is and how long it would take?
Oct 1st, 2017 - admin
Appreciate the tip about the kayak length. The upper Mecan can be be fast and tight for longer kayaks, but yeah good experience can help.
Oct 1st, 2017 - admin
Appreciate the comment Eric! Good to hear that the upper section is mostly clear.
Oct 1st, 2017 - Eric G. from Wingra Creek
Forgot to mention that we had 14' kayaks, and did not feel they were too big, some sites and books I saw recommended against anything bigger than 13', I don't know about the lower sections but this section is totally doable in a 14'if you have have level of boat control.
Oct 1st, 2017 - Eric G. from Wingra Creek
Just did this section yesterday, a few duck-unders, but otherwise it is clear all the way. The water was crystal clear and the fall colors were just starting to show. It should be spectacular in the coming weeks. We had bikes to do a bike shuttle but happened to stop in at Blader's Dakota Inn,and found someone who offered to give us a lift top the top for free (5-10 min drive). Blader's is just a few hundred feet from the JJ bridge, and is a good place to grab a burger and a beer and/or use the bathroom before or after a trip.
Aug 26th, 2017 - admin
Thanks Marsha for the comment!
Aug 25th, 2017 - Marsha from Yahara
I did this trip today from 11th St. to 14th Ave. with a bike shuttle. The paddle was about 7 miles and took me 2 1/2 hours. It was such a wonderful place! Thank you for your write up, it encouraged me to try this river. I was able to navigate the hairpin turns, riffles, and dead fall in my 10 foot kayak.
Jun 29th, 2015 - admin
11th Ave is a cool trick that most Mecan paddlers don't know about. I do want to try Cumberland to 11th...know it will look amazing, but am nervous about the jams. Then hopefully later this summer I'll the Germania Marsh dam to N (which Morrall films really liked).
Jun 29th, 2015 - Paul
Paddled from 11th Ave down to Dixie Ave yesterday. It was a great run with clear water and tight twisty turns. Trees were clear but there were a few limbo logs. Lots of wildlife, we paddled right by a small fawn with spots and got a good look at a 6pt velvet buck.
May 30th, 2015 - admin
Appreciate the info. Actually prefer shallow paddles if possible and might head down to Southwest Wisconsin (the only county it seems that hasn't been deluged in rain). We'll see...
May 30th, 2015 - Kayak Mike
Hi Aaron, If your going to be up in this area, you might like to try Neenah Creek. The water level is high right now which makes it paddlable. I put in on Co. Rd. CX and paddle down to the Fox. Then get out by the Co. Rd. CM bridge. Plus with the water level so high you can get around all dead falls.
May 30th, 2015 - admin
Thanks for the comment! I actually might be up there tomorrow... As for dates, they are posted on the front page, but yeah, I might post these on the trips themselves in the future.
May 30th, 2015 - Kayak Mike from Fox River
I love this part of the Mecan!It has a real "Up North" feeling. I'm glad to see someone cut a path at that downed tree. I had to portage over it with my wife and daughter. It was one of my daughters 1st time out kayaking and she wasn't happy. I really like your site. It has a lot of good info on some of the smaller rivers and creeks that I like to paddle. If I could make one suggestion, Date of the trip.
Oct 27th, 2014 - admin
Thanks Dave for the comment. I've updated the review with your observations.
Oct 27th, 2014 - Dave
The Mecan River is my favorite small stream and I've paddled it over a dozen times. For a capable canoeist it presents no problem, and I find it a great river to teach canoe strokes. I've paddled it in 16' & 17' tandem canoes and 14' - 16'+ solo canoes without having any trouble. It gets 5 stars in my book. Please do not recommend the upstream put-in at Hmy JJ in Dakota. This is private property and, although the owner doesn't object to responsible use, it's best to avoid the culvert. The downstream put-in works better because of the eddy on the left side. The rocks downstream are easy to avoid.

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

Be notified when future paddle reviews go live by subscribing!