Seeley Creek – Part 2
Seeley Creek is one of the larger tributaries of the Baraboo River and is located a little southeast of North Freedom. Previously on this blog I reviewed a section on Lake Seeley (a small lake created by a dam) which was ok, but nothing special. This trip (roughly) picks up where the last ended and continues to the mouth on the Baraboo River.
The highlight was three really nice sandstone outcroppings along the banks–one really fine one before Hwy W and a pair right after that. Once you get out onto the Baraboo River there is a fourth “Kickapoo-ish” outcrop that was quite scenic to boot (all four are marked on the map and pictured).
However, until the creek gets cleared out, I cannot recommend it for the average paddler (unless you are a local, love the Baraboo Hills or don’t mind some log jams). You will probably face 10+ portages. Although if you go during high water, you may be able to float over a significant portion of the down trees.
What I liked about the creek was its unusual character. It starts as a hardwood tangle for maybe the first quarter mile, but after that opens up into mostly grassland. Most grassland paddles tend to be very flat and open, but this was unique in that the flanking hills did not have trees. Hard to explain, but it gave a cool feel to the creek. The topography changes again close to the mouth, with larger hills and more pines.
After Seeley empties into the Baraboo you’ll have a couple of take-out options. You could paddle 1.3 miles upstream to North Freedom, which is not a bad option during low water, but still is upstream paddling. You could also paddle 5.83 miles downstream to the next proper take-out at Hatchery Road. For lazy paddlers who don’t mind unimproved bridge accesses, you can disembark at Kohlmeyer Road (2.75 miles downstream). I went with the lazy paddler option.
This “post-North Freedom” stretch of the Baraboo I actually want to properly redo when the leaves are out and eventually give a more thorough write-up too. Basically it is a nice leg, but not as scenic as Seeley Creek. Very slow and wide. The banks are steep with a thin “fence of trees” separating the river from the farmland. I suspect much of this has been straightened and channelized (like other sections of the Baraboo). This is tragic, as straightening rivers tends to kill their current and character.
It’s still a pleasant, peaceful section of the Baraboo though, with the highlight being a really nice sandstone outcropping a half mile past the Seeley Creek mouth. The other highlight is a historic railroad bridge constructed in 1898.
Then, for a bit of serendipity… Few people paddle in November. And very, very few paddle Seeley Creek below the dam. So it was to my great surprise to bump into another paddler! And not any paddler, but a fellow paddle blogger by the name of Timothy Bauer. Tim is a regular contributor to Miles Paddled and specializes in finding out-of-the way and overlooked water trails in the Wisconsin area.
Ok access at Freedom Road. Note, the embankment is a bit steep and I do suggest leading your boat down with rope. The shoulders are also on the steep side for parking but should suffice. There is a proper public parking lot at Seeley Lake if you are willing to walk a half-mile back to the bridge.
Meh access at Kohlmeyer Road. Steep (but doable) shoulder parking within eyesight of a house, and a very steep embankment to drag your boat up. I suspect most paddlers would prefer to paddle the extra 4-5 miles and take out at the public launch at Hatchery Road.
There is no livery service for this stretch. For bike shuttlers, it is only 4.2 miles. Just mild hills (52′ up and 43′ down). Bikers should cut through North Freedom though as Hwy W (the south route) has a very evil hill.
Hazards and Log Jams:
No hazards per say, although the Baraboo River can be a dangerous conveyor belt when high.
Log jams were a different matter though. While I only had to portage once (within a stone’s throw of Freedom Road), I did have to hop/duck/wiggle through many more additional jams that I was only able to get through because my boat is so small. Most paddlers will probably have to portage at least 10 times, which means this trip is only for the adventurous. That said, most portages are practical, as the banks aren’t too steep. I have marked the jams on the map in case an interested local has the gumption to clean up the creek. Basically, there are 10 jams above Hwy W and 5 below, so by putting in at Hwy W you could significantly reduce your chances of portaging.
River Depth, Navigability and Current:
Both Seeley Creek and the Baraboo River were quite shallow, which was typical for fall. The nearest gauge on the Baraboo read 325 CFS. I’m honestly not sure what to recommend for a depth though… With more water you might be able to go over more log jams, but the creek might lose its nice character. The Baraboo on the other hand can be a bully at high flow rates and I suggest most casual paddlers stay off it at 500 CFS and above (guestimate).
I doubt neither Seeley Creek nor the Baraboo ever get too low to run (definitely not the Baraboo). It should also be noted that while there were serious low spots in Seeley Creek, I was always able to hop through without getting out. Some paddlers may prefer more water though.
Some ducks and clams. There were several minnow schools that would actually spook and jump out of the water ahead of my kayak. Must have thought I was a big predator…
Alternate Seeley Creek Trips:
- Upstream of Hwy W: Looks too small to run.
- Hwy W to Klein Road: 2.5 miles. Mostly open, but the creek is very, very small. Might try after a heavy rain.
- Klein Road to Kosin Drive: 3.7 miles. First 3/4ths is open, then it is very wooded with a high chance of jams after that.
- Kosin Drive to Diamond Hill Road: 2.7 miles. Ridiculously filled with log jams.
- Diamond Hill Road to Hwy PF: 0.7 miles. Scenic stretch that runs under the historic North Freedom railroad. Log jams are a serious issue though.
- Hwy PF to Seeley Lake landing: 3.3 miles.
- Hwy PF to Cox Road: 2.0 miles. Nice stretch but with a few log jams.
- Cox Road to Seeley Lake landing: 1.3 miles. Slow flowage paddling but with scenic vistas of the Baraboo Hills.
- Seeley Lake Landing to Freedom Road: 1.5 miles. Really nice stretch with cool rock outcrops, but log jams are a major problem.
- Freedom Road to Mouth: 2.3 miles.
- Freedom Road to Hwy W: 1.0 miles. Nice, with a great rock outcrop, but accounts for 10 of the 15 jams.
- Hwy W to Mouth: 1.3 miles. Great little stretch. Some logjams, but not as many compared to the upstream part.
- Take-out Options on Baraboo River:
- Mouth to North Freedom Park: 1.5 miles. A paddle upstream to reach a nice public landing. During high water the current can be quite strong.
- Mouth to Kohlmeyer Road: 2.7 miles. A downstream paddle that is pleasant with a few outcrops. Kohlmeyer Road is a weak access.
- Kohlmeyer to Giese Park: 3.0 miles. A downstream paddle on a uneventful section of the Baraboo River. Giese Park is an excellent access.