Montello River – 11th Road
The Montello River IS a nice river. It really is. But this section doesn’t have too much going for it. The weather was overcast and horrible for photography, so I didn’t want to use up a better prospect (hence the decision to do a “B Prospect”).
The best part of the trip was the start. The first two miles traverse though an attractive wooded section reminding me very much of the Lower Mecan. The trip starts on a good note at “three stars” for its clear water, nice sand and overhanging tree canopies. The shade encourages moss growth which was very nice. One clump of mosses had a seep running through it and into the river which was a neat spectacle.
The trip deteriorates to two stars as the flowage kicks in which slows the current and widens the river.
The Montello River is dammed at the city of Montello to create a sizable (for a small river) flowage called Lake Montello. To get to a landing will require at least a mile and a half of paddling which is always less interesting then river paddling. This last section gets only one star, hence the two star average derived from the three parts of this trip.
Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t a bad prospect and if you’re a local it is worth checking out. But for somebody living further away, there are better nearby prospects. Like the Mecan River, White River, the Montello stretch though the city, and the far upper reaches of the Montello River (cool!). I suspect the stretch from Ember Lane to 11th Road is very good. I also suspect the stretch from Harrisville to Emberlane would be fun (and have rapids if you launch correctly).
Bridge access at 11th Road. Not five star, but quite acceptable.
There is a public boat ramp located off Lake Street (west side of Lake Montello). Good landing, free, and a small area to park but no outhouse.
If you want to paddle 0.8 miles further on Lake Montello, there is a nice park “Wells Point Park” located by the graveyard off Barry Street. This is more secluded and peaceful (noteworthy if you’re leaving bikes and kayaks behind for a shuttle).
There actually is a livery service in Montello, but they primarily serve the Fox River. You can call Rendezvous Paddle & Sports at (608) 297-2444 to ask if they would service the Montello River.
Otherwise this is a super easy bike shuttle at only 1.93 miles. This is actually short enough to justify a walking shuttle if you’re not a biker.
Hazards and Log Jams:
There are no dangerous spots on this stretch. It is largely free of logjams, although there was one log I had to schooch over, but I thought this was easy.
Lake Montello can be very gusty, so pay heed to the forecast for Montello to avoid headwinds.
River Depth, Navigability and Current:
The river averages maybe 2-3′ deep and I doubt it ever gets too shallow to paddle. On the flip side I don’t think this river floods easily because of upstream wetlands and natural springs.
The current is average on the river section but non-existent on the flowage section.
Not much (it was a dreary, overcast day). Some geese, great blue herons, many turtles and a rare black squirrel. The highlights were really the nice mosses that were growing on the bankside and the large colony of skunk cabbage at the put-in.
Consider checking out “More Foods” after your trip which is a nice little natural foods grocery and cafe that has a good menu.
The fake waterfall in downtown Montello is worth checking out as is the historic lock on the Fox River and adjacent dam (which creates Buffalo Lake). More on these from my previous review of the Fox River at Montello.
- Headwaters to 1st Ave: 1.0 miles. In theory, there should be a spring located at the headwaters a mile upstream from 1st Ave. This might be more viable as a roundtrip.
- 1st Ave to Lawrence Lake (North Ramp): 3.0 miles. Technically Lawrence Creek, this is a small paddle with some logjams, but is really nice with stunning water clarity and virtually no mud. A very underrated paddle.
- Lawrence Lake (North Ramp) to Lawrence Lake Dam: 0.8 miles. A simple lake paddle.
- Lawrence Lake Dam to Pioneer Memorial Park: 5.6 miles.
- Lawrence Lake Dam to Westfield Veterans Park: 4.8 miles. A terrific paddle because of the incredible clarity and natural springs. Only downside are a few logjams, but they are easy portages.
- Westfield Veterans Park to Pioneer Memorial Park: 0.8 miles. The river here is faster, deeper, more wooded and less clear. It's a scenic stretch flanked by steep clay banks.
- Pioneer Memorial Park to Hwy E(by Charles St): 0.6 miles. A nice little prospect. Mostly within earshot of busy I39.
- Hwy E(by Charles St) to Hwy E/B(by Maynard Dr): 5.1 miles. Maybe 15-20 logjams.
- Hwy E/B(by Maynard Dr) to 10th Lane: 1.4 miles. This section should be mostly clear with I believe the only jam being the one you’ll see from the Hwy E bridge.
- 10th Lane to Hwy E: 0.7 miles. Nice open marsh paddle. Good access at both the put-in and take-out.
- Hwy E to Water Street Dam: 1.7 miles. A boring flowage.
- Water Street Dam to Hwy J: 600'. There are cool rapids between the two bridges in this short stretch.
- Hwy J to Ember Lane: 5.1 miles. A good prospect with clear water. There are some logjams (maybe 6), but I think you can squeak by most of them.
- Ember Lane to 11th Rd: 4.0 miles. A good prospect but some logjams to deal with (maybe 4). Good water clarity.
- 11th Rd to Lake Montello (park on south shore): 3.7 miles. A simple section with some lake paddling.
- Montello Dam to the Fox River: 0.6 miles. A nice little urban stretch.
Three of us kayaked the montello River on 5/5/19 starting out at Ember Lane. After 2 hours and 3 log jams that we had to get out of our kayaks and go over we met a couple who were taking a walk on their land that runs along the river. We we’re going to 11th drive , they stated that there are many more log jams since last year’s rain and high winds and we were not quite half way there. Seeing it was 2:30 and we had dogs at home we took up their offer to take us to our car so we could load up the kayaks. We had to walk 1/4 mile to where the car could pick them up. Had it been earlier we may have gone the rest of the way. I would like to hear from anyone that has been on the river since last year.
The river is beautiful! Seen a bald eagle in a tree that watched us paddle down the river. Kingfishers, geese, ducks , woodpeckers.
I wonder what Tim is up to? I’ll help you maintain it!
Sorry Jacqueline for the delay in approving your comment, as I just discovered it. The updates about the logjams are appreciated. If you discover anything anything feel free to share it. I might still risk a paddle on this very segment later this year.
We did the same section you reviewed on August 29, 2021. It was a beautiful day for a paddle. While it was not my favorite paddle it certainly was enjoyable. We had no issues with downed trees that we could not navigate around. The stretch of the lake was rather unexciting and lots of algae and lake weeds. Water clarity was good the first half to two thirds of the trip until you got to the deeper water. We saw turtles, various fish, a few vultures, a couple egrets and the guys saw a water snake! The smell by the boat ramp was awful but an easy take out!
Yeah, not a five star stretch but not awful. I think the Montello upstream from this put-in though is very good.