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Mecan River

Put-in: Cty Hwy Y/JJ Put In
Take-out: Hwy 22
Distance: 10 Miles (Svob is wrong at 7)
Time: 5 Hours
Gradient: 2.5' per Mile

About a half hour north of Portage is a nice little river in the Mecan.  This is a popular kayaking river and it is easy to see why.  The water is very clean and the banks are largely undeveloped and wild.  The current is unexpectedly strong and there are  a few riffles you’ll get to go through.  The main put-in is on Hwy Y/JJ.  Great parking and grassy put-in. Unfortunately, none of the landings have bathrooms that I saw, so plan accordingly.  The river starts out with a strong riffle (you’ll see this in the picture).  Put in upstream of the bridge so you can go through it.  The current stays fast and there are a large number of hairpin turns.  In fact, the turns are so tight and frequent, I don’t know how somebody with a boat longer than 13 ft. would enjoy the river.This is a very scenic part of the river that I liked the best.  Lots of clean water, ferns, and greenery.  The trees never get that big up here (probably bad soil), so you won’t get your forest canopies, but it is nice never-the less.  There are also plenty of quaint bridges to paddle under.

For take-out there are two main options:  Dover Ave. and Hwy 22.  The former would have been preferred in hindsight, as the downstream section of the river isn’t nearly as nice as the upstream section (which tends to be a recurring theme with most Wisconsin rivers).  Dover Ave. definitely appeared to have a better take-out ramp…while we had to slosh around in the mud to get our boats out at Hwy 22 (good parking at both though).  Of interest….I believe Mike Svob, in his review of our section (the longer one to Hwy 22), says this is 7 miles…we measured this and it was 10 miles, so we think Mike was wrong…or he referenced the Dover Ave. take-out instead.

(Editors Update — A reader has informed me in the comments below that this river is plenty navigable for longer boats.  Also that the upstream put-in above JJ is private and he suggest the downstream side of JJ instead.)

Alternative Mecan River Trips:

Generally speaking, the further upstream on the Mecan you go the better.  Superior water clarity, better current and more woods (as a general rule).   For more trip ideas see my overview map here or use the below list:

  • Mecan Springs:  The river starts as a small lake fed by natural springs.  You can launch off the north shore near Chicago Road to explore this State Natural Area.
  • Mecan Springs to 9th Ave:  2.1 miles.  The river is an attractive creek with clear water.  Logjams shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  9th Ave is a tough access with small shoulders and being close to a home.
  • 9th Ave to Hwy 21:  2.2 miles.  Probably many portages.
  • Hwy 21 to Cumberland Road:  2.3 miles.  Probably many portages.
  • Cumberland Road to 11th Ave:  3.9 miles.  A great section with fast current, clear water and scenic white pines.  A few logjams to portage but not bad (reviewed Oct 2017).
  • 11th Ave to Hwy Y/JJ:  3.7 miles.  A fantastic section and my favorite on the entire river (reviewed Sep 2014).
  • Hwy Y/JJ to Hwy 22:  9.8 miles.  A very popular section (reviewed May 2012).
    • Hwy Y/JJ to 14th Ave:  2.8 miles.  One of the better and more popular sections on the river.
    • 14th Ave to Dixie Ave:  2.5 miles.  A very nice section that partly flows the “Mecan River Pine-Oak Forest State Natural Area”.
    • Dixie Ave to Dover Ave:  2.0 miles.  An ok section, but not as good as upstream sections.  More open and slower, with less pines.
    • Dover Ave to Hwy E:  1.8 miles.  An ok section, but not as good as upstream sections.  More open and slower, with less pines.
    • Hwy E to Hwy 22:  0.7 miles.  Nothing special about this section.  Open and somewhat simple.
  • Hwy 22 to Duck Creek Road/Electric Fence:  4.2 miles.  More open and not as interesting, but the river does flow through a state natural area.  Access to Duck Creek Road may be restricted.
  • Duck Creek Road/Electric Fence to Dam:  1.6 miles.  River turns into flowage pond and marsh.  Take-out is on a small access road off Hwy N.
  • Dam to Elk Road:  6.3 miles.  The most popular section on the Lower Mecan (reviewed Jul 2015).
    • Dam to Hwy N:  5.2 miles.  River turns into flowage pond and marsh.  Take-out is on a small access road off Hwy N.
    • Hwy N to Elk Road:  1.1 miles.  The river completely moved east creating a really cool corridor.
  • Elk Road to Hwy 23:  2.4 miles.  Traditionally a section with many log jams, this does get cleared out periodically by the local livery.  Hwy 23 is a poor access option.
  • Hwy 23 to Hwy C:  2.7 miles.  Again, usually logjams but often cleared by by the locals and Hwy 23 is a poor access option.
  • Hwy C to Mouth:  1.1 miles.  Simple open stretch leading to the Fox River.
  • Mouth to the Princeton Locks:  3.1 miles.  An uninteresting stretch on the Fox River.

For further information on the Fox River, see my Fox River review.


View Mecan River in a larger map



4 Comments to “Mecan River”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

How did your trip turn out? Questions? Comments? Or just say hi.

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