Pecatonica River

This is one of the larger and muddier rivers of Southern Wisconsin.  While the downstream sections are somewhat uninteresting, the upstream legs can be quite scenic with exposed rock outcrops and fun rapids.

Trip Reports

Hwy G to Cty Road E


Date Paddled: April 21st, 2019
Distance: 3.4 miles
Time: 3 hours 59 minutes (100 minutes would be more typical)

How far upstream can you paddle the Pecatonica River?  Time to find out...

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Jones Branch Rd to Powell Rd


Date Paddled: May 16th, 2021
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: Expect 1-2 hours

Another exploratory trip on the Upper Pecatonica.  This was a nice, peaceful stretch with a few outcrops, two sets of light rapids, and one serious logjam.

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Powell Road to Oak Park Road


Date Paddled: September 16th, 2018
Distance: 8.0 miles
Time: 4 hours 12 minutes

An obscure section of the Pecatonica flowing through the heart of cow country.  Highlights include attractive rolling green hills, oak savannas, and one sandstone outcrop.  Unfortunately few will paddle this stretch because of four low fences.

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Hwy O to Hwy G


Date Paddled: March 19th, 2017
Distance: 6.0 Miles
Time: 2 hour 47 minutes

Some rock outcrops and scenic bridges highlight this section, but unfortunately mud and logjams are an issue.

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Roller Coaster Road to Wells Landing


Date Paddled: November 7th, 2020
Distance: 7.4 miles
Time: Expect 3 hours

While one of the nicer legs on the Lower Pecatonica, this stretch has been too badly damaged by floods and erosion to be considered a top prospect. 

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Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages

Videos

Comments

Sep 14th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks Matthew for the update. It sounds like the Darlington gauge is just too far downstream :( Otherwhise, yeah it is a really cool river.
Sep 14th, 2020 - Matthew M from Black Earth Creek
Thanks for the review/guide. Completed this on 9-13-20. It had rained the previous day but we still bottomed out in some of the rapids upriver of Livingston Branch. The PECATONICA RIVER AT DARLINGTON Gauge was over 600 CFS but it didn't seem to correlate to the upstream portion being deeper. Very pretty river. The rapids at this level were fun and still in the class 1 range. Finally we ran into two down'ed trees/logjams that we had to portage over - not too bad.
Sep 5th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's too bad to hear :( Thanks Jason for the update.
Sep 5th, 2020 - Jason from Nine Springs Creek
We thought we'd try the Pecatonica from Calamine to Darlington. River at 220 cfs. We assumed it would likely be free of obstruction from the work to clear the river for the annual canoe race. About 0.5 miles from put-in, we came across an impressive obstruction of large trees from both sides, crossing the entire river. Steep river banks made portaging challenging. Not sure if was passable (high risk of getting caught up in a strainer while zig-zagging thru) but we assumed the canoe race had been cancelled this year due to COVID (which I later confirmed it had been) and that there might be additional major barriers if no clean up had occurred since 2019. Thus, we called it a day and worked back to the put-in sight.
Jul 16th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I've been curious about the logjams on this and the previous stretch, and appreciate the info. A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal did the downstream leg one year ago and had a miserable experience for contrast: https://www.jsonline.com/story/travel/wisconsin/2018/05/24/kayaking-pecatonica-river-through-darlington/635032002/
Jul 16th, 2019 - Eric G from Wingra Creek
I did this trip today 7/16/19 The river was at about 320 CFS and 4.2 ft..a bit below optimal but totally doable. I put in about at the bridge a mile north on Hwy O near the intersection with Rock Rd. There were enough rocks directly under the bridge that I was able to get in without geting muddy. I chose that as a put in because I was doing a bike shuttle and the Cheese County trail meets Hwy O just 100 yds north of the bridge and runs straight to the take out at Calamine. The trail is not paved, but it is level and was in pretty good shape, but does get a lot of use by ATV's. There were only 2 major log jams, one just north of the Mineral Point branch come in and one where you have the first one marked, there were a couple of other small jams but nothing that required portaging or getting out of the boat, just had to push ,pull, slide, or duck under. A few good rock formations but too much foliage to see them all, but still a nice way to spend a 90 degree day
Jun 25th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Funny you should mention this stretch...I was going to paddle that very section on Saturday before I changed my mind last moment. IT's nice to hear this was enjoyable but tough to hear about those logjams. I'll update my overviews to reflect your update.
Jun 24th, 2019 - Martin from Waupaca River
I paddled with a group of 27 on the Pecatonica River on June 22, 2019. The Darlington River gauge was at 360 CFS, which I agree is at a marginal water level. We looked at the Hwy G crossing, but because of all the Wild Parsnip and the width of the River elected to put in at CTH E in Mifflin. Our take out was at CTH A, river left, which was reasonable. Ample parking along the wide shoulders of the road. The actual distance is 5.2 mile. This trip took us 3.5 hours. Water clarity was murky for our trip. We encountered 1 barb wire fence which we held down, thus allowing the others to paddle over. 1 very shallow rocky bottom which we dredge via tossing a few rocks out of the way which allowed the rest of the group to pass thru a little easier. The last mile of the trip presented several challenges. 1 logjam at which 2 of us, on standing on top of the tree, hoisted kayak and paddlers over as there was not an option to portage. Another logjam that we cleared river left to allow portaging the shore line and river right to allow a limbo spot. We also made an opening in a couple other deadfalls to allow passage. We had one very low limbo spot along the way. We took out on river left right at the CTH A bridge. The road shoulders allowed for ample and unobstructed parking. I would imagine that this trip could easily be done in 2.5 to 3 hours. Otherwise a very enjoyable trip, with riffles, chutes, twisting corners and scenery.

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

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