Launching at Hillcrest Drive

View downstream from the bridge

Good clarity

First of several snags

Rocks in the Rock River

Railroad Street

Last vestiges of fall color


First portage of the trip

Wild cucumber is such a cool plant

Nice stretch

Coming up on a very noisy grain elevator

Interesting chimney

Second logjam that required a portage

Riveredge Park and Hwy 33

This downed tree required some careful maneuvering

River starts to open up

Still good clarity

My third portage (logjam to left of photo)

Railroad bridge construction

New bridge being installed

I had to portage this low construction bridge

Much of the river parallels a busy railroad

One of three trains that passed me

Small beaver dam

More good clarity

Cool cattail corridors

A wood duck house amidst the cattails

Hwy DW

Kind of a long culvert

Good take-out area

Looking downstream from the bridge

Nice spot to end the trip

Milkweed that looks like hair


Rock River – East Branch – Allenton

October 22nd, 2022
Hillcrest Drive
Hwy DW
4.1 miles
Expect 2 hours
Water Level:
Rock River @ Horicon 70 CFS or 6.85'

The East Branch of the Rock River is one of the more underrated paddling rivers in Southeast Wisconsin.  Most kayakers just consider Horicon Marsh or the Rock River downstream from it.  But the East Branch, which is the marsh’s primary tributary, is often overlooked and contains many great paddling segments.  For my fourth trip on the East Branch, I wanted to explore a far far upstream leg to see if it was viable for kayaking.

I started the trip at Hillcrest Drive which is located just south of Allenton.  Here the creek was really nice with fantastic clarity and clean open banks.  This is mostly an open creek with a lot of wetgrass, but I did encounter a few logjams.  The majority I was able to squeak past, but two south of Allenton required full portages. 

Closer to the heart of Allenton, the banks became more developed with some industry appearing including a large metal-working plant and a noisy grain elevator.  Despite this, the creek stayed scenic and I was pleasantly surprised to see some late fall color.

Riveredge Park is located about one mile downstream from Hillcrest Drive and would be a good access option.  After the park, the creek changes quite a bit as most signs of human civilization disappear.  From this point forward I was mostly paddling through the Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area which is a state protected area.  Aside from one last major logjam, this second leg was remarkably flat and open with tall grasses and cattails along the banks.  Clarity was surprisingly good and the substrate wasn’t too muddy with a lot of very fine pebbles.

A fun highlight of this trip were the trains, as the creek closely parallels a busy railroad.  Expect to see at least 2-3 trains pass by if you do this trip.  One of the railroad bridges was in the process of being replaced, which did require an unexpected but easy portage.  It was cool to see a massive bridge replacement operation with a crane, telehandler and large prefabbed components being setup despite there being no road access to the area.

The trip ended at Hwy DW.  Despite noisy Hwy 41 being next door, it was a nice area with a long, cool tunnel and a scenic view of the river atop the tall embankment.

In summary this was a nice trip, but not as good as my other East Branch adventures.  If you’re new to the East Branch I advise first paddling by Theresa or Mayville which are much nicer.  This wasn’t a bad trip, but the logjams by Allenton were somewhat annoying.  Most of these could have been avoided by launching downstream from Riveredge Park.  There are still two more legs of the East Branch on my todo list (DW to D and D to North Pole Road).  I don’t know much about these last legs, but believe they should be good marsh paddles and I hope to get to them by next year.

Noteworthy Wildlife:

Sights included a great blue heron, two eagles, one beaver dam, many minnows, and several huge schools of medium sized fish. 


Hillcrest Drive:  This is a decent bridge access.

Alt Put-ins:

  • Riverside Park  (0.9 miles downstream from Hillcrest Drive):  Riverside Park is a very good access option.  I could see most paddlers launching here to avoid the logjams upstream (two major and several minor).


Hwy DW:  The bridge is atop a large embankment so you will have to do some dragging, but this is otherwise a good bridge access.   It’s scenic with a nice view of the river and not too weedy.

Alt Take-outs:

  • Hwy D (5.5 miles downstream from DW):  Hwy D is a good bridge access with a public parking lot.  The DW to D stretch is a decent prospect with more cattails and wetgrass.  It’s mostly open and free of logjams but there will be one cluster of downed trees to deal with.

Shuttle & Rental Information:

Bike Shuttle – Hwy DW to Hillcrest Drive:  3.3 miles with 187′ of ascent.  This is a short but hilly shuttle stretch with some heavy traffic to deal with.  Note, if you’re feeling sneaky you can shuttle most of this on Hwy 41 (a freeway) which would halve the route and eliminate most of the hills.  But note the Wisconsin DOT isn’t a fan of bikers on freeways (even though there is plenty of shoulder space) and you would need to hoist your bike over a fence separating DW from Hwy 41.

Hazards, Logjams and Current:

Logjams:  Upstream/south of Riveredge Park there are two major logjams that require serious portages and several minor logjams that I was able to squeak past.  Downstream/north of Riveredge Park the river is much more open, but I still had to portage one logjam.  Generally speaking, I don’t think paddlers will have an issue with the north leg, but will with the south leg.  The south leg though is nice though and I hope locals clear it out.

Current:  There are maybe 1-2 riffles, but this is mostly a pretty lazy creek.

Rapids/Dams:  None.  Well there is a beaver dam, but that was easy to hop over.

Low Bridges:  One of the railroad bridges is under construction and a temporary equipment bridge blocks the river.  This is an easy portage and I assume it will be removed when construction is completed.

River Depth and Navigability:

Nearest Gauge – Rock River @ Horicon:  Trip was done at 70 CFS or 6.85′.  This gauge is downstream from several dams so may not be perfectly representative. 

  • < 31 CFS:  Maybe too shallow.
  • 31-100 CFS:  Decent depth.
  • 101-200 CFS: Slightly above average, but a good depth.
  • 201-300 CFS:  A high depth with poor clarity, but likely fine for paddling.
  • 301-500 CFS:  A pretty high depth, but I believe the river should still be runnable.
  • 501-800 CFS:  Maybe only suitable for hardcore paddlers.
  • 801+ CFS:  Maybe too high for enjoyable paddling?

Detailed Overview

Trip Map

Overview Map



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

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