Otter Creek is a small farm creek west of Madison. While logjams plague some of its stretches, a few legs are surprisingly nice for paddling.
Union Valley Road to Plank Road
Date Paddled: October 31st, 2020
Distance: 2.9 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours
This was a combination trip that included parts of Upper Otter Creek and Blackhawk Lake. Honestly it was a bit disappointing because of shallow water and strong winds.Read More...
Hwy Q to Hwy II
Date Paddled: March 7th, 2020
Distance: 2.8 miles
Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
This was another "roll-of-the-dice" prospect that turned out better than expected. Otter Creek is a somewhat obscure stream that does attract occasional trout fishermen. As a paddling prospect it was surprisingly nice with clear water, light rapids and scenic bluffs.Read More...
For additional information on access options, see my overview map.
- Union Valley Rd (1) to Plank Rd: 2.9 miles.
- Union Valley Rd (1) to Union Valley Rd (2): 0.7 miles. Very tight, narrow and shallow section. Unless there is very high water, this likely isn't viable. There is one major logjam.
- Union Valley Rd (2) to Cave Hollow Rd: 0.6 miles. This is typically too low to be a viable paddle. There are 2 logjams on this stretch. Highlights include a beaver dam and some nice boulders.
- Cave Hollow Rd to Plank Rd: 1.6 miles. A flatwater paddle over Blackhawk Lake. This is a scenic quiet lake surrounded by steep wooded hills. Highlights include a rocky stretch in the northeast corner and a beaver dam in the northwest corner. To continue downstream, a portage over a 30′ high dam is required but is not too bad. There is an alternate access on the western shore.
- Plank Rd to Hwy Q: 2.4 miles. A neat creek prospect with attractive rocky sections, but very small. Maybe four logjams, but they should be easy portages.
- Hwy Q to Hwy II: 2.8 miles. Good section with many light rapids and boulders reminiscent of Snow Bottom. Bank erosion is an issue near the end. No logjams.
- Hwy II to Spring Valley Rd: 4.2 miles. Maybe 5 logjams, but a good prospect. Creek flows by a long bluff with the potential for multiple outcrops.
- Spring Valley Rd to Hwy I: 6.0 miles. Downed trees and tall mud banks start to become an issue. Maybe 16 logjams. If you can take out at Conway Road you may be able to avoid the worst of it.
- Hwy I to Hwy 130: 2.0 miles. More steep muddy banks. Maybe 6 logjams.
- Hwy 130 to Hwy C: 1.8 miles. Mostly open, but heavily eroded with maybe 3 logjams. Should be one nice outcrop. Perhaps one difficult fence to paddle under by Hwy C. Hwy C is a very difficult access because of the steep banks and farm fences.
- Hwy C to Wisconsin River/Otter Creek Boat Landing: 2.9 miles. A congested leg…maybe 7 logjams.
Thanks for the all info! I definitely want to explore some of those sections you just described.
So I actually live right next otter creek on Mill Road. I'm in highschool but I love being outdoors and kayaking especially. Me and my friends have kayaked a large portion of Otter Creek and I just got back from doing a new portion (Conway Road to Highway I). I've kayaked all the way from Highway Q down to Highway I now and the whole creek is beautiful. I love the natural spring you talked about, there's a little walking trail further up the hill if you get out and explore. The stretch from II to Spring Valley was gorgeous and I only had to get out 3 times. From Spring Valley to Conway there's two vet bad log jams, and one of them you cannot get out due to the banks being very steep. (The bridge on Conway is an excellent swimming hole, I recommend actually jumping off the bridge into the water). And the stretch from Conway to highway I is beautiful as well, it takes you past some sandy cliffs, fields, and a lot of woods. The first mile is clear of jams but the second mile is log jams after lot jam. Had to get out of my kayak quite a bit but it was a lot of fun none the less. Just look out for spiders!
Those flags were yours? I thought they looked really cool...especially when flapping in the wind. Kind of reminded me of Tibetan prayer flags.
The nautical flags across the Otter spelled “Wicked Pissah” when looked at from the north. I took them down this summer after a fisherman referred to the flags a “dirty laundry”. They probably shouldn’t be across the creek anyway. The flags may return on occasion to the OCYC.
Glad you liked it! I thought it was a neat creek myself and hope to explore more of it in the future.
Did this stretch of otter at 53 CFS...beautiful paddle, in my top 5. Definitely could have used a few more inches [I walked the stretch by the spring which was nice because I was able to check that out for a bit]. Water was crystal clear. Regardless of the scraping on rocks it was well worth it. I took out on the north? Side of the II bridge which was very easy.
Sure thing. Love your website, by the way. Thank you for what you do!
Thanks Lauren for the update.
Launched on Q and ran the creek to Spring Valley Road. There was one tree we were barely able to scoot over about a half to a mile down stream after II. A barbed wire fence spans the creek and all the way up the banks on both sides as you approach the first farm after II. We were able to pull the wire apart and float our boats through. One more tree about a mile after this but was an easy portage. I will also mention that there is a very cranky farmer in the area. He accused us of trespassing and scaring his cattle which was not true. He went on to tell us another paddler came through before us that he told off as well. The stretch from II to Spring Valley is a nice addition but beware of silly locals.
If you do Otter Creek, let us know how it turned out.
I’ve had my eye on Otter creek for years. Always wondered how the stretch from 130 to the Lone Rock landing was but your paddle sounds much better! Gotta check it out ASAP!
How did your trip turn out? Questions or comments? Feel free to leave your feedback.