WISCONSIN RIVER, WISCONSIN
(click here for canoe rental information)
The WISCONSIN RIVER is a great for canoeing; wide, slow moving current, with great sand banks, sand bars, and islands for camping, plus convenient canoe launches. Takeouts are maintained by the state of Wisconsin and have parking lots and porta-potties. If wilderness camping is not for you, there are several campgrounds operated along the river. You can spend a day, a weekend, or a week canoeing on the lower Wisconsin River. The following sections range from County Highway Z north of Wisconsin Dells all the way to the Mississippi river, 168 miles of paddling enjoyment.
County Z to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin -- 15 miles
There is a canoe rental and campground north of the bridge. Plenty of islands early on. As you go farther south beware of the large tour boats that can swamp you with their wake. It's fun to explore the small side canyons, but remember the tour boats often explore them too.
Wisconsin Dells to Portage, Wisconsin -- 21 miles
Early on you encounter ducks (large military types--not feathered) and also many pontoon and small pleasure craft. As you get nearer to Portage the tourist horde are left behind.
Portage to Sauk City, Wisconsin -- 27 miles
You cross a major lake area on this section, I avoid canoeing it. Watch for strong winds and boat traffic.
Sauk City to Spring Green, Wisconsin -- 22 miles
This is one of the most popular stetches for canoeing so obviously it's also the most crowded. If you're looking for wilderness solitude, bypass this stretch. This part of the river is crowded with canoes, major partying, a nudist beach, with reports of a nearby island sometimes inhabited by nudists. This can be embarassing if you canoe with young children or Scouts.
You can avoid the nudist beach by putting in at the town of Arena, which is downstream of the nudist beach. From Arena to Spring Green is about 10 miles.
Spring Green to Muscoda Wisconsin -- 22 miles
This is less crowded and a very beautiful stretch of river. If you don't want to canoe the full 22 miles, you can take out early at Lone Rock.
Muscoda to Boscobel, Wisconsin -- 15 miles
Another wonderful section of river for camping along generous sand banks. The river is wide and slow. Just blocks from the take out in Boscobel is an A&W Restaurant with frosted mugs waiting to be filled with root beer. It always tastes great at the end of a long days paddle.
Boscobel to Wauzeka, Wisconsin -- 11 miles
This is a nice day trip. We usually make a weekend trip from Boscobel to Wyalusing, Wisconsin. The river is less sandy here than upstream. There are less sand bars and sandy banks to camp on.
Wauzeka to Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin -- 25 miles
The banks become less sandy as you get closer to the Mississippi river, so good campsites along the river are more scarce.
Prairie du Chein to Wyalusing, Wisconsin -- 8 miles
If you want to brave the mighty Mississippi, you can continue south for another 8 miles to a public beach near the small town of Wyalusing, Wisconsin. (It makes for a great take-out because you can swim in the Mississipppi river) Remember you are paddling on a powerful river with a great deal of recreational and commercial traffic. The barges aren't too bad, though they are huge and intimidating, just keep a safe distance away and you'll be fine. It's the pleasure craft you must watch out for, they are not always observant, and beware their wakes. Also beware of the wing dams below the surface, they can create some interesting currents depending on the water level of the river.
Click Here for more information on the Wisconsin River.