Pause Slideshow

Wisconsin River – Lower Dells

Put-in: East of Mexicali-Rose
Take-out: Indian Trail Landing
Distance: 6.4 miles
Gradient: 1.3' per Mile

The best place to start a trip on the Lower Dells IMO is to just put in below the Kilbourn dam on the west bank. Here is where Rivers Edge Resort drops off kayakers/canoers/tubers (they do rentals/shuttles). It’s not a proper boat landing but rather a specialized tour-boat landing with a rail system…so probably won’t work for big boats, but is perfect for kayaks. Parking is free. The next three miles will be pretty scenic as you go through the cool areas of the lower Dells. Word of caution…this area can be busy in the summer. To avoid the power-boats, megaphones, and wake issues…consider travelling this section very early in the morning, on a weekday, or in the spring or fall. The tour jetboats are quite dangerous, as the wake they kick up is enormous and will flip you if you don’t take their wake head on (the boats can travel up to 50 mph and the boats are huge). Some jetboats will slow down for you (one driver announced on his speaker that kayaks were their kryptonite. So I suspect their may be some internal rules or even regulations determining how fast these monsters can buzz kayaks, but if there are, most ignore such rules. There boats are also serious hazards on the upper Dells as well. And because they are so fast, they can finish their trips/loops very quickly and you’ll end up seeing the same jetboat numerous times. After you pass the breach on your right you’ll come up on your first landing options. The new Newport landing will be just after Dell Creek and should be done by 2012. Should be very nice but costs the same.  (RIGHT next door is the private Rivers Edge Resort landing. They do shuttles and rentals…although they do charge money to use their landing.)

Taking out after Dell Creek shortens the trip too much IMO and you miss the Rocky Island Region (must-see). Keep floating around the big bend and then you’ll encounter the Rocky Island section. Very cool…there are little caves and coves you can kayak in. Make sure to check out all the little islands in the area. Again, tour boats can be a problem…so be vigilant. There is a sneaky private landing on the right shore (west shore) but this is completely private and I haven’t even included it on the below map. About a half-more mile and the lower Dells unofficially ends. River traffic calms down considerably as there are some shallow areas (minor-minor riffles in low water) that scare away the big boats and make this pleasant for kayaks. While nothing special, this section has nice sandbars and woods. You’ll come to a big bend where the river arches sharply to the right and here you can see evidence of the homes caught in the 2008 flood. Keep traveling a couple of miles to take out at the Indian Trail landing. This is difficult to spot, as it is blocked by an island and has to be accessed from the downstream side, but this isn’t too bad. Right across from the Indian Trail public landing is a public landing (more full boat ramp) on the east shore that I suppose you could use, although I think the shuttle route on the Sauk County side is more direct.

Wisconsin River – Alternate Trips:

There are plenty of other good trips on the Wisconsin River.  Here is a map of all possible water trails and landings from Castle Rock Lake to Wyalusing.

Below is the same information but in bullet list format:

  • Castle Rock Lake to the Lemonweir River:  10 miles.  An ok section reviewed Aug 12th 2012.
  • Lemonweir River Mouth to the Two Rivers Landing:  7 miles.  The first half of the classic Upper Dells.  Reviewed Aug 19th 2012.
  • Two Rivers Landing to Blackhawk Island:  6.5 miles. Note, the Blackhawk Island landing might be inaccessible now.  Second half of the classic Upper Dells.  Reviewed Sep 2013.
  • Black Hawk Island to Wisconsin Dells Dam:  2.0 miles.  More nice sandstone outcrops.  You can take out at a public ramp off Indiana Ave or portage the dam and take out SW of the dam by a launch off Wisconsin Dells Pkwy/Hwy 12 .
  • Dells Dam to Two River Landing/Indian Trail Pkwy:  6.4 miles.  Classic Lower Dells section.  Reviewed Jul 2011.
  • Two Rivers Landing to Levee Road Landing:  10.3 miles. Not as popular with nothing exotic, but an ok paddle.  Nice sandbars at the end.
  • Levee Road Landing to Portage/Hwy 23 Access:  6.1 miles. Less popular simple section, but more nice sandbars.
  • Portage to Baraboo River/Thunderbird Road:  5.2 miles.  A good section with great sandbars, but can be crowded in the summer.
  • Baraboo River to Dekorra Park:  2.5 miles.  River splits into several channels which can be fun to explore.
  • Dekorra Park to Tipperary Road/Washington Street Landing:  4.7 miles.  A near section with rock outcrops, large island deltas and sandbars.  Unfortunately this part of the river is INSANELY congested and overun by motorboats on summer weekends.  Many alternate access options.  Partly reviewed Jun 2013.
  • Tipperary Road to Prairie du Sac Dam:  13.2 miles.  The river turns into “Lake Wisconsin” here.  An inadvisable section due to the amount of open water paddling required.
  • Prairie du Sac to Mazomanie:  8 miles.  An ok section of the Wisconsin but lacking in sandbars.  Reviewed Aug 2013.
  • Mazomanie to Arena:  9.7 miles. A great section with nice sandbars and scenic bluffs.  Reviewed Aug 2015.
  • Arena to Hwy 14:  8.0 miles.  Classic stretch for camping with great sandbars and bluffs.
  • Hwy 14 to Hwy 23/Spring Green:  2.2 miles.  Neat mini section with sandstone outcrops.  Very popular in the summer.
  • Spring Green to Lone Rock:  7.4 miles.  Another fine sand/bluff section with some nice rock outcrops too.
  • Lone Rock to Gotham:  8 miles.  This stretch has super impressive rock outcrops and sand banks.  Reviewed Aug 2017.
  • Gotham to Muscoda:  7 mile.  Cool limestone rock outcroppings.
  • Muscoda to Port Andrew:  7 miles.
  • Port Andrew to Boscobel:  9 miles.  Wooded islands start to get massive.
  • Boscobel to Woodman/Big Green River:  9 miles and start of the less paddled stretch of the Lower Wisconsin.  Far fewer sandbars from here to the mouth, but good bluffs and side sloughs to explore.
  • Woodman to Adiantum Woods State Natural Area:  3.9 miles.
  • Adiantum Woods State Natural Area to Millville:  3.8 miles.
  • Millville to Bridgeport:  5.3 miles.
  • Bridgeport to Wyalusing (the mouth):  9 miles.  Partly reviewed Jun 2017.


For an expanded list of liveries for the Lower Wisconsin, see my livery map here.


View Wisconsin River in a larger map



2 Comments to “Wisconsin River – Lower Dells”

  1. Do you ever use the public boat launch at Dekorra? There’s a parking lot across the street, Just curious if it’s available for overnight parking on a multiday excursion

  2. Hi James,

    Are you referring to Dekorra Park by the Baraboo River? If so, that is a long trip from the Dells! I have used that landing but can’t recall if there are overnight restrictions.

    You might consider contacting the Wisconsin DNR to ask about this landing’s rules. Hooker’s resort is a competing privatizing landing next door that you could contact and they might be able to answer your questions. (608) 635-7867. Plenty of other take-out options in the area (two by the Baraboo River and numerous landings by Lake Wisconsin outlet).

    Let me know if you have any other questions,

How did your trip turn out? Questions? Comments? Or just say hi.

Be notified when future paddle reviews go live by subscribing!