Putting in at the Furnace Mill Dam

Good access

With good parking

And free snacks

Part of the Rock RIver Water Trail

Did not want to go over that

Very scenic start to trip

Nice riffles and rocks

Not all are real though

Cool wooded section with the rocks and light rapids

Some gravel bars

Log jams were not an issue

One of many boulder gardens

One of countless riffles

My favorite boulder garden

Water was sometimes clear, but not top-notch

Hwy Y bridge

Cool rocky section

More fun rapids

Long walk if you take out here

Plus you miss more nice sections

Reminded me of a different East Branch…that of the Milwaukee

And the flowage starts to kick in

Massive embankment…wonder if it is natural?

Sign of things to come (eventually)


Weedy areas mark where the flowage is silting in

Avoid the dam on the left

Good take-out at the boat ramp

My kayak magically turns red

Looking back over the flowage

Time for Kayak’s big land adventure

A monument to a dam turbine (seriously!)

Dam history

Here is where I was stopped by the landowner

You can either rope down the wall/ladder or walk over the lawn

I did the latter but was able to double back to the dam

Fun class 2 rapids below the dam

You want to stay left

Reverse view

Not exactly a natural bank

Re-entering the woods after the flowage

This stretch isn’t too special

But still has some rocks and riffles

Dohman Road is an access option

For friends only

Now things are really starting to slow down and widen

A raccoon digging for clams

You might be able to use Dike Road as access but it seems private

River just gets bigger and wider

Washed out Northern Road bridge (now a DNR access)

FINALLY get good light

Only log jam of the trip

And it is an easy portage

Trees start to return

Beaver lodge

Take-out at Green Head Road

Good access

Was maybe 100 cars there that day!

Do you know your ducks?


Rock River – East Branch – Mayville

June 27th, 2015
North Main Street (Furnace Bridge Dam)
Green Head Road (main Horicon launch)
8.1 Miles
4 hours 13 minutes
Up to Hwy Y: 14.7' per mile. Flowage: negligible. Remaining section: 3.3' per mile.
Water Level:
Rock River @ Horicon 230 CFS or 6.34'

The East Branch is somewhat obscure, so I’ll try to orient you.  The Rock River is a major river that has three main forks to the north:  the South Branch, West Branch and East Branch.  The three branches come together to form Horicon Marsh.  Most paddlers are interested in the Rock River below Horicon, but I find the river here mostly too big and boring…and instead highly prefer the three upper branches.  I had already paddled the East Branch prior to the city of Mayville and for this trip wanted to pick up where I left off and then continue on until I got to Horicon Marsh.

This trip starts out on a great note below the dam, with light rapids and attractive rocks in the stream.  This was a wooded section, so I kept expecting a big log jam around each and every corner.  This never materialized.  The section from the put-in to the Hwy Y bridge (2 miles) was my absolute favorite part and got five stars in my book.  Terrific current (14′ per mile is fast), fun safe riffles, attractive wooded corridors and many cool little boulder gardens.  This might be the best section on the entire Rock River.

You could take out at Hwy Y, but that would be a short 2 mile trip (and steep bank to drag your boat up).  After Hwy Y, the river stays intimate and fast for maybe a half more mile…then the river changes dramatically as the Kekoskee flowage kicks in.  I do not think the dam operators in Kekoskee realize the treasure they buried in their lake.  No doubt in its native state the Rock would have continued fast, riffly and rocky up to the dam.  The flowage isn’t too bad as far as flowages go, with an interesting embankment to your left and a nice marsh to your east (a hint of things to come).  It’s still heavily silted in with the northwest section pretty much weed city.

There is a fine boat landing by the flowage dam and ending the trip here would make for a satisfying 4 mile trip. 

The Kekoskee dam is decently sized (probably the tallest of the East Branch dams) and is not runnable.  So you will have to portage it, which is easier said than done.  There is no marked portage path, although legally I think it is supposed to have one because of its size.  So you’ll have to drag your kayak across the road and either over somebody’s lawn or rope your boat down a ledge (the pictures show this better than I can explain). 

I was going to do the latter, when I was approached by the landowner who explained that this was private property and he asked me to wait.  He seemed uncomfortable with my being there, but seemed friendly enough and was willing to let me through, so I didn’t get all technical explaining how paddlers absolutely have the legal right to portage dams over private property whether he permitted it or not.  He insisted on helping me carry the kayak down over the lawn and into the water. 

I was horrified though as I had wanted to run the immediate post-dam rapids, which he was taking me past, but was appreciative of him not making a scene, so bit my tongue.  As soon as I was back in the water though, I snuck back upstream behind the retaining walls to get as close to the dam as possible and was then able to run the fun class 2 rapids.  Again, I’m appreciative of his cooperation, but it would be nice to see a more permanent and established portage path so this doesn’t have to be an issue.  Is the west bank an option?  Not really…it has a bigger lawn and steeper bank.

So after the Kekoskee dam, things really change.  You get the woods back and some random rocks in the channel, but the current dies and there aren’t many riffles left.  The water also gets much milkier and dirtier (a far cry from my trip last year which had terrifically clean water at times).  Still a pleasant section but felt more like a ho-hum average river.  From Kekoskee to Dohman Road is 1.5 miles.

You can take out at Dohman (I believe).  There is a nice pull-off by the bridge to the water with a sign that says “Friends Only”, which I presume means low impact activities like kayaking are ok…but can’t be certain.  You could take out at Dike Road a bit later, but that is very exposed, close to houses and the banks are extensively mowed (which gives it a private vibe).

From Dohman to the take-out, the river is nothing special.  Not many trees, somewhat dirty water, and slow current.

A bit after the the DNR landing at Northern Road (which I didn’t use because of its gravel roads), I came across my only log jam, which was very easy to portage.  The trees come back at last (a bit) which is a nice touch for the final stretch.  After one of the few private houses I saw on the trip, the main DNR landing appears on the left, which you can’t miss.


Good access at the Furnace Bridge Dam (N. Main Street bridge in Mayville).  No outhouse, but good parking and ok launch area across the jagged rocks.  As a bonus, this “fishing access” has a terrific mulberry tree with some of the best tasting mulberries I’ve ever had.


Green Head Road (it’s the main Horicon Marsh boat ramp).  Five star landing with great launch, places to lock your gear and an outhouse.  Coincidentally, I did this trip during the “Paddle the Marsh” event sponsored by the DNR.  There must have been 100 cars at least parked in three different areas, plus buses.  Wow…Horicon Marsh was getting invaded by a kayak armada!  It was quite the contrast to see so many paddlers putting in where I was getting out.  I like Horicon for its waterfowl….but have to say my trip was better than theirs!  Despite all the cars…I was the second to last to leave at the end of the day (must mean I’m slow).

Shuttle Information:

A moderate bike shuttle at 4.3 miles with some decent hills plus a small gravel section on Green Head Road, but this should be manageable for most. 

Hazards and Log Jams:

Just one log jam and that is close to the take-out (marked on the map).  Otherwise, the rapids are all safe.  There are open sections in the last third of the trip, so watch wind direction and speed (avoid headwinds over 10 mph).

River Depth, Navigability and Current:

This section has rapids which are always very flow-rate sensitive.  Too high could be rough and too low could be too bumpy (although with rapids you’re always going to hit rocks regardless so don’t let this deter you too much).  I paddled this at 230 CFS which was nice with not too many crashes.  I think 200-300 is a good target range for water quality, boulder gardens and padding.  If you’re adverse to rock collisions maybe aim for 250 to 350 CFS, but this won’t be as scenic.  These are all pseudo-scientific guestimates.


Many familiar faces:  two eagles, many blue herons, a green heron, many many carp (friendly too!), I believe an otter, a muskrat, deer/fawns and dragonflies.  The highlight would be the two wet raccoons who were in the water digging for I believe clams2:03 in the video

Detailed Overview

Trip Map

Overview Map



6 Comments to “Rock River – East Branch – Mayville”

  1. 7/5/2020 Just paddled from Mayville millpond dam to Kekoskee dam. 250-300 CFPS. Great trip, 2.5hrs approx. Beautiful paddle no logjams bumped a few rocks, no big deal. Cooper Shop bar was closed at takeout. Have eaten there in the past and it was good. This section of the Rock is definitely under-appreciated. I thank this site for directing us to it.

  2. We took a trip from the lower dam in Mayville in kayaks to horicon through the marsh it was a nine-hour trip but we seen lots of wildlife even a couple of eagles once you enter the marsh there is nowhere to get out of your kayak or at least 6 hours

  3. Rock river is very under appreciated. The dam in kekoskee is run by my fathers uncles family. The area where u went down the ladder was my grandmas house. My family still owns the land by the old ball diamond in kekoskee. I often put in there and paddle to the green head. Only one small log jam, but I will be clearing it out soon.

    1. I agree the Rock River is underrated. If/when that logjam gets cleared out, definitely let me know!

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