Platte River – Platte Road
Two years ago I paddled the Platte River from Airport Road to the Platte River Road bridge. This was a great trip that was given five stars for its riffles, rock outcroppings, unique plant life and scenic vistas of the driftless hills. With inclement weather (well, water levels) in central Wisconsin, I decided to revisit the Platte and continue where I last left off.
In some ways this was a very similar section and in some very different. The water was very turbid this go-around, which was unfortunate. If you wait to paddle until late summer, I’m sure the river would run much cleaner. Another difference was that we saw a lot of people on the river, which was a surprise (word must be getting out…). There were 3-4 groups of paddlers we came across in just a short five-mile stretch. Not to discourage you though, as this is still a pretty remote river.
The highlight of the trip was the many riffles. All of which are pretty safe even for beginners. There are a couple of instances where the current could push you into strainers, but this should be manageable for alert paddlers.
The second best part of the trip are the occasional limestone rock outcroppings. Is this like the Little Platte? No…not even close. But still pleasant, with the nicest section being just prior to Red Dog Road bridge. The rock outcroppings are not always easy to see as the banks are so overgrown, but this gives the Platte River an exotic feel.
Despite being a rural farm paddle, this is a scenic river with very green, lush hills and plant life sprawled over the rocks. Add to this the occasional angular boulders in the water, many little rapids, and the rocky substrate and it feels like the closest you’ll get to a tropical safari paddle in Wisconsin.
A pleasant trip that I’m giving 4 stars, but it just wasn’t as nice as the previous upstream section. This felt less intimate, more open and more beat up by agriculture.
Platte Road is a decent access with good shoulder parking. Steep, weedy and muddy banks just under the bridge, but most people put in 100′ downstream of the bridge which is much better. You’ll see a faint trail leading from the bridge to this preferred access. Be considerate of the local farmer and do not cut across his soybean field.
Very good bridge access off Big Platte Road (right by Blakely Creek) with plenty of parking. Limestone steps and a simple ramp made of old carpet have been set up for kayakers.
I’m not aware of any local liveries. The bike shuttle is 3.6 miles with moderate hills (climbing 135′ and dropping 187′). While not ideal, this is by far flatter than the bike shuttle on the previous upstream segment.
Hazards and Log Jams:
None, and this is a good introductory paddle for class 1 whitewater. Note, there used to be a low fence on this stretch, but it has been removed. Always be mindful of hoofed animals in the river though.
River Depth, Navigability and Current:
This was a good depth for the rapids as most were runnable without getting stuck. The Platte River is actually remarkably stable relative to other Wisconsin Rivers, and is not a bad option when other water trails are flooded or too shallow. It still can get too high or low though. My rough guestimate would be that you wouldn’t want to run this over 5′ on the Rockville gauge, nor below 4.2′.
The current was somewhat on and off in character, but generally pretty zippy at 8.4′ per miles
A pretty lively river… 5-6 blue herons, 2-3 muskrats (including one that swam under my kayak), an otter, kingfishers, a number of fish (probably panfish), many dragonflies, and many frogs including the distinct northern cricket frog.
The plant life was attractive but mostly “disturbed soil” species (nettles, wild parsnip, jewelweed, angelica and reed canary grass). The woods were mostly boxelder with some ash, oak and walnut.
Nature highlight #1 of the trip was seeing an eagle fishing (or at least trying to).
Nature highlight #2 of the trip was the cliff swallows. One bridge had about 120 nests in a row. They must have had young in the nests as they were hopping mad when we came close. It was quite the sight to see that many angry cliff swallows swarming around our kayaks.
- Upstream of Hwy E: Probably some good navigable sections still upstream, although the river is a creek up here and vulnerable to down trees.
- Hwy E to Sleepy Hollow Road Bridge 1: (1.8 miles) River grows from creek to small river with addition of two major tributaries. Might be a few down trees.
- Sleepy Hollow Road Bridge 1 to Sleepy Hollow Road Bridge 2: (1.6 miles) Good prospect that is mostly open. Probably a few limestone outcrops.
- Sleepy Hollow Road Bridge 2 to Coon Hollow Road: (1.8 miles) Good prospect with likely a few limestone outcrops.
- Coon Hollow Road to Hwy A: (3.9 miles) Very good prospect with likely multiple limestone outcrops. Coon Hollow is a decent bridge access, but the ditch is well mowed which typically means the local owner is territorial.
- Hwy A to Airport Road: (6.4 miles) A very good prospect with great limestone outcrops (reviewed Jul 2016).
- Airport Road to Platte Road: (5.0 miles) A very good prospect with fun riffly current (reviewed Aug 2013).
- Platte Road to Big Platte Road: (5.1 miles) A good prospect with fun riffles, limestone outcrops and nice valley vistas (reviewed Jun 2015).
- Big Platte Road Bridge #1 to Big Platte Road Bridge #2: (3.2 miles) Good prospect.
- Big Platte Road Bridge #2 to Hwy O: (1.3 miles) Good prospect.
- Hwy O to Indian Creek Road: (7.6 miles) Ok prospect.
- Indian Creek Road to Mouth at Mississippi: (1.56 miles) Ok prospect
- Mississippi Options: Tricky. The Grant River Recreational Area is 3.4 miles upstream of the mouth(that can be tough sledding especially in high water). Downstream you could take out at Eagle Point Lane (very scenic), but that is 5.5 miles on a very big Mississippi.